Annika is 19 years old. She lives with cerebral palsy and she uses a power wheelchair to get around. She cannot walk, but with a Frame Runner, she can definitely run!
Annika’s physiotherapist introduced her to frame running two years ago. A Frame Runner is a custom-built tricycle without pedals that allows people with balance and mobility needs to run independently. The runner is fully supported in the chest and saddle, and users propel themselves forward with their feet while using their upper limbs to steer. It’s a full-body workout, and as with any exercise, it takes a while to build up strength and stamina.
“At first, she was puffed!” Annika’s Mum says, but after two years of weekly training with her exercise physiologist, her stamina has increased. “She’s really fit now!”
While Annika found it tough at first, she kept at it, and she found the benefits went beyond what she could do on the running track.
“Annika paints, in a sit-to-stand wheelchair,” her Mum says. “Frame running has made that easier for her. Even her breathing and speech has improved, with the fitness she’s built up from running. It’s made a huge difference.”
Annika started out competing in short races with her Frame Runner, but she’s discovered her true love is long-distance running. She even participated in the online Gold Coast Marathon event last year. She plans to keep competing–maybe even at the Paralympics in Paris 2024, where frame running is expected to be introduced as an official event.
“For someone who couldn’t walk, it’s amazing to see Annika running,” her Mum says.
But it’s not just about the gold and glory: training with a Frame Runner has improved Annika’s mental health, too. Running helps her feel that she fits in with her peers, and makes her feel more confident in all areas of her life. Annika and her Mum also love the community connection that the frame runner invites. Seeing Annika out and about with it encourages others to stop and chat, interactions that help Annika grow her confidence and social skills.
Steve Andrew is the spokesperson for Dejay, an Australian-owned family business and the only stockist of Frame Runners in Australia. Steve is proud to be involved with a sport that combines fun and freedom, and improves every participant’s overall health and wellbeing.
“We are working together to grow the sport in Australia, and we are also working with partners in New Zealand to kick off the sport there,” Steve says. “We want to help people improve their lives through building strength and fitness.”
The Dejay team offer “come and try” days, or home-visits with your regular therapist, to show you what a Frame Runner can do and ensure you get the most out of your bike. There are a range of sizes and support types available, so everyone who wants to give it a go can find a Frame Runner that suits their needs.
Once you’ve found the right Frame Runner, all you need is persistence and patience. You might be surprised at what a difference it can make. What started as a suggestion by Annika’s physiotherapist as a “fun thing to try” has become a big part of Annika’s life, one that she loves and gives her a sense of independence and the satisfaction that comes with that.
“Annika loves to run on public tracks, she’s proud to show others what she can do,” her Mum says. “Frame running is ‘her thing’, now. She relies on others for a lot, but this is something Annika does for herself.”
This feature first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.