Being visually impaired is no barrier for one determined Inverness woman who has opted for boxing training to boost her confidence and fitness.
Disheartened by lockdown, Clare McIntosh, who has no peripheral vision, sought a lift to her mood and well-being and took the decision to call Inverness City Amateur Boxing Club to ask whether there would be a place for her. There was.
The 29-year-old explained why the boxing club seemed the best option for her to shape up after the pandemic kept her at home.
She said: “Improving my general fitness is what I wanted to do. I had been furloughed since January, a bit lethargic and fed up, so this worked well for me.
“I don’t really enjoy going to the gym because I can’t read the screens and keep track of how long I’m going, so I have my dad come along and he returns every 10 or 20 minutes to get me on another machine.
“That’s not really dignified, so I thought the boxing club would be worth looking at if one-to-one sessions were an option. I wanted to give that a crack. It has been brilliant and the best decision for me to go along.
“I have been going since August and I’m really enjoying it. It began just with a Google search and I gave Laurie Redfern (Inverness BC head coach) a phone to get the ball rolling.”
‘Social aspect has been great for me’
Clare said having the knowledge of Laurie and the club members by her side has been terrific.
She added: “Laurie has been brilliant with me. At first, he said he didn’t do one-to-ones, he hadn’t done that for a long time. However, I explained about my sight and he was more than willing to get me down on a Saturday and talk me through what they would do.
“He had me on the pads and the bags and that gave me an overview of what it was all about.
“I go three times a week. It’s ladies’ nights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“When I first met Laurie, he said I’d be more than welcome at the ladies’ classes. Initially, I was a bit hesitant and wanted to do some one-to-ones first, but, as it happened, it was fine.
“They are all a lovely bunch and they have been so welcoming. That social aspect has been great for me. The fitness element of the club is brilliant. It’s non-stop.
“Living with sight loss can be extremely frustrating and challenging at times, but it’s liberating to have a place to go to vent in a healthy way. Boxing has been a great therapy for me.”
New challenge welcomed by coach
Laurie, who has coached the sport for more than five decades, said: “I got a call from Clare, asking whether I do one-to-one training. It’s not something I have time for given all the classes I run.
“I asked her if she would consider joining the women’s classes we have and that’s when she said she’d be frightened of bumping into people. When I asked what she meant, she said she was visually impaired.
“This was a first for me. I really wanted to help, so I thought we would try with an hour. On Saturday, I do sparring in the morning and invited her along, and she told me her dad would bring her along.
“I guided her towards the punchbag, and she listened and did everything I asked.
“Then I took her into the ring and she moved around the ring and we did some pads. She might have hit me once by mistake and I joked next time I would need a headguard. But she took it all in her stride.
“She then did some circuit training, with star jumps and the like and got through the initial work no bother.”
Group welcome was benefit to Clare
And the assistance from the female members has also helped Clare, although Laurie reckons she’s a credit to herself by the way she excels.
He added: “I said she could come in and be with the girls and I would do the training with her.
“After a while, I got one of the girls who had been alongside to work with her, and do what I was doing with her on the bag. She helped Clare and it just got better and better. You would find it really hard to realise she has any sight issues.
“If she has any questions during a session, she just asks the girl next to her and they help her, but she’s getting through it all without any problems.
“For example, I use the medicine ball. The girls are sitting back-to-back and they pass it around in a circle before changing direction. They go between the legs, over the head – it’s a great workout. Clare has it down to a fine art, probably better than me.
“What Clare has proved is that any person with sight problems, no matter how severe, shouldn’t be worried about coming along to the club as they can really get the benefit from it.”
Teen with cerebral palsy excelling
Another member who is feeling the benefits of the Inverness Boxing Club sessions is Danny Reid, who is 13 and has cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition that affects movement and co-ordination.
The teenager has been going to Inverness Boxing Club for more than four years.
Laurie said: “Danny is a really popular lad, who has progressed really well. He couldn’t skip because one of his legs has been affected by his condition, but he can skip now.
“I taught him gradually to use one leg after another, as if you were running, and he’s better than most.
“At one point, he was due injections, but the doctor was so impressed by his movement he said he didn’t need the jab. He was delighted. He might need the jabs still, but that gave him a real lift.
“Danny comes every night and loves it here.”