Sight loss doesn’t have to be a barrier to keeping fit, says army veteran Tommy, who has glaucoma and cataracts and receives support from Sight Scotland Veterans.
To prove his point, the 69-year-old Hamilton resident set himself an insane challenge: to lift 500 tonnes of weight over 7 days.
Yes, 500 tonnes. That’s 500,000 kilograms of weight – equivalent to lifting a 1,000 kg Vauxhall Corsa hatchback 500 times! Or 83 lifts of a 6,000 kg African Elephant.
Tommy says: “For my ability, that was achievable, with not too much bother. I started on Monday at my local gym, Maximum Strength gym in Hamilton, and did 2,000 kilos worth of leg presses to start.
“Using the standing press machine added the most weight to my total because I was pushing 300 kilograms each time. I am very, very tired from that,” he says.
"My eyesight’s not too bad, but it does get a bit fuzzy.
"I have daylight lamps from Sight Scotland Veterans in my house now. Because they make it so much brighter, I can see much more around the house.”
Tommy has diabetes-related sight loss, plus glaucoma and cataracts, and receives support from Sight Scotland Veterans to help him live independently.
Sight Scotland Veterans provides information, advice, face-to-face emotional support to veterans in Scotland who are impacted by vision loss – as well as their families and friends – to help will help veterans stay connected to the things that matter to them.
Tommy says: “My eyesight’s not too bad, but it does get a bit fuzzy. I have daylight lamps from Sight Scotland Veterans in my house now. Because they make it so much brighter, I can see much more around the house.”
Tommy hit his 500-tone weight target on Sunday, the seventh day of lifting.
“I had 200 kilograms on the leg press machine, and I just kept pumping them out on Sunday,” Tommy says.
“I went over the target by 2 tonnes and reached 502 tonnes, just because I hadn’t added the tickets to my total and I wanted to make sure I reached the target.
"I’m recovering now. The last two days were really tough."
Tommy encourages other people impacted by sight loss to try visiting their local gym.
“You don’t need good eyesight to be in the gym. You just adapt. You adapt to the surroundings and there’s always someone to help you in there.”
“The health benefits of going to the gym are overwhelming. I say, get ‘oot the house with your cane or whatever you’re using. Get into the gym and do some exercise, and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself.”
Tommy says gym equipment can be easy to use, and doesn’t have to involve dumbbells or loose weights.
“I use the peg system where you put a peg in at the required weight, and away you go.
“I would encourage everyone to go. It’s very social. You can speak to people and enjoy yourself. Whether it’s heavy or light weights, it doesn’t matter. It’s you participating that’s the benefit.”
Exercising when you're impacted by sight loss can be difficult, with veterans having to find new ways to continue their favourite activities. It's wonderful that Tommy is so dedicated to continuing his hobby. Our Independent Living team at Sight Scotland Veterans can find ways to minimise the obstacles that make exercise more difficult for people with vision loss, which you can learn more about here.
Tommy is quick to recommend Sight Scotland Veterans to veterans experiencing changes to their sight.
“I have an accessible cell phone from Sight Scotland Veterans, which is adapted for me and my sight. It works for me because I can’t see small text.
"It’s more manageable with larger buttons and a brighter screen, and it has an all-important tracking system in it too, so my family know where I am.”
Tommy says: “In my opinion, it’s invaluable the service you get from Sight Scotland Veterans.
“I think, it’s no’ put in a way that you rely on it, but it’s there if you need assistance. Everybody needs a wee bit of help.”
You can contact us if you know someone experiencing changes to their sight, who may have done military service.
You may also be interested in
Stephen says Sight Scotland Veterans is helping him "reclaim himself" after a stroke left him visually impaired.