FEATURE: The incredible story of the UK’s first blind fitness trainer - who now lives in Aylesbury

James O'Driscoll, who has recently moved to Aylesbury, is the UK's first blind personal fitness trainer. He is pictured here with a client teaching her boxing and bottom right, analysing as she does some fitness drills
James O'Driscoll, who has recently moved to Aylesbury, is the UK's first blind personal fitness trainer. He is pictured here with a client teaching her boxing and bottom right, analysing as she does some fitness drills

If you need an inspirational story to kick start your New Year’s health resolutions, look no further than the amazing story of James O’Driscoll.

One morning, construction worker James woke to discover he couldn’t see from his left eye.

James O'Driscoll puts a client through her paces

James O'Driscoll puts a client through her paces

Over the next few weeks, the sight in his right eye deteriorated, too, leaving him completely blind.

After months of testing and extended stays in hospital, the 26-year-old who recently moved to Aylesbury, was diagnosed with Leber’s Optic Neuropathy, a rare genetic condition that affects one in 20 million people.

James said: “It literally happened overnight, without warning.

“The doctors were baffled – at first they thought it was a detached retina, and then they suspected a brain tumour was putting pressure on the optic nerve.

“Some of the tests were very unpleasant and made me quite ill.

“When they removed fluid from my spine, it was like sitting on a Power-Plate [a machine that gives the body’s muscles a high-speed workout by using vibrations] with the worst hangover imaginable.”

He said: “It was tough.

“I used to enjoy keeping fit, but after going blind I began eating, drinking and smoking excessively.

“I woke up one morning, on my sofa put my hand on the floor stuck into a cold pizza and cigarette butts and beer cans, and I just thought ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

“I saved up some money and bought a rowing machine, and then started doing press-ups and body squats at home every day.

“My fitness soon returned and so did my confidence.

“I even assembled the rowing machine myself, which I’m really proud of to this day.”

He turned his life around through exercise, which inspired him to become the UK’s first blind personal trainer.

James had always had a passion for exercise – helping his friends with their diet plans and reading fitness magazines and health books.

When James moved from Bromley in Kent to Aylesbury, he also left his clients at Virgin Active where he worked.

So he decided to go it alone (well, with his dog, Disney) starting up Simply FITT, converting his garage into a gym/studio.

He said: “My only real problem is with balance.

“I have no sense of horizon so I struggle with things like lunges, and teaching clients to stand on the Bosu ball [a gym balancing gadget] can be a little awkward!

“I’ve gained in confidence no end – for instance I’m now a qualified wall climber.

“Now when people say ‘you can’t do that’, instead I say ‘why not?’

James has a message for anybody who has suffered a setback: “Don’t give up, there’s something in us, however small it might feel at the moment.

“It is there, you wake up, you get there and you just need to move.

“Once you start moving, anything is possible.

“Just don’t limit yourself. Ever!”

James is offering Bucks Herald readers a free 30-minute complimentary session.

To find out more contact James on 07881 100746 or email him at james@simplyfitt.co.uk.