This photo was taken not long after I met Paula, always smiling and positive, it’s infectious!

I met Paula McCormack in 2019, she arrived to the gym I was working in and enquired about personal training. I wasn’t there at the time, one of my colleagues told Paula that I might be the right person for her to work with, and that she should contact me.

Sure enough a couple of hours later an email arrived in my inbox.

The Personal Training Challenge

“You were recommended to me as a personal trainer by one of your colleagues.

I am up for a challenge, the question is are you?

The reason I’m a challenge is that I have a spinal injury. In November 2017 I had to have a disc removed from L4/L5 because it was pinching my spinal cord. Unfortunately this left me with Cauda Equina syndrome and paralyzed my left leg.

I was weeks in Tallaght hospital and then months in the NRC I did all the physio that was thrown at me. Because of our wonderful health system I have had one eight week (1 hour a week) physio course for stroke victims and one course of hydrotherapy since.

I am willing to waiver any responsibility for you if you take me on, hopefully you will and we can enjoy the challenge.”

My initial feeling was nervous and intrigued in equal measures! I told Paula I would need to do some research but we could meet for a chat once I had.

We met about a week later and as soon as we talked I knew that saying no wasn’t an option. Paula’s personality came through immediately, she was bubbly, funny and relentlessly positive about her injury.

If she wanted it this badly how could I be the one to stand in her way!

Training Progress

We started training the following week, we would use the machines for upper body strength, do some floor based core work and then I would help Paula into the recumbent bike and strap her feet in. Once she got momentum with the other leg she could cycle fine, she would do 20 or 30 mins cycling after we had finished.

Within a couple of weeks Paula was almost a celebrity in the gym, she smiled at everyone and everyone smiled back. If I thought her personality was big before, it was beaming now!

We were making progress on the training front too, she was getting steadily stronger, and her core strength was flying. We worked on some exercises to improve her hip strength, to help her get around the house easier. They were flying too., she was having less stumbles and everything was going really well.

I wasn’t surprised when Paula started to gain more control of the leg. She was moving it from the hip and that’s what we were working on.

But then it started to continue down the leg, she started getting nerve sensation the odd time. Then she was able to kind of twitch the knee into a little movement.

We were both excited but I tried to contain it, I didn’t know if it would keep progressing.

Sure enough it did, within another couple of weeks she was starting to move the leg more fluidly.

Paula using the recumbent bike after our personal training.

The Magic Moment

Then one day, Paula was sitting on the leg extension machine (we would use it empty for any movement we could get). She had her eyes closed and I knew she was just willing the leg to move. Slowly but surely her leg moved up and up until it was fully extended, I couldn’t believe it!

I tapped her on the arm and said “look”.

She opened her eyes and there it was, her leg fully extended on its own for the first time in years. She start smiling and her eyes filled up, I wasn’t far behind being honest!

Sustainable Progress

We continued working on it and all of a sudden Paula was leaving the wheelchair at the entrance to the gym. I would give her an arm to help get around. Then she didn’t need my arm anymore, she started walking half way to the gym and getting the luas the rest. Before long she was walking to the gym, doing her training session and walking home.

Being able to walk meant being able to burn more calories. Paula was losing weight every week and well on her way to her latest goal. Going to a family wedding with no wheelchair, and looking amazing. She achieved that goal too!

Since then Paula has gotten engaged and moved to Tipperary with her fiancé John and dog Oscar. She continues to follow a program with me, as committed as ever.


I am privileged to have had to opportunity to help Paula achieve such amazing progress and goals. I am proud to say I have made a lifelong friend. I’m glad that she recently got well deserved recognition with her story being published in the Spinal Injuries Ireland magazine.

That’s my version of Paula’s personal training journey, but she had a whole journey before she even met me. Have a read of her story below, its truly amazing!

If you are interested in personal training or would like to know how we can help you achieve your goals. Book a consultation with us today!


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