Collective stories of exercise: making sense of gym experiences with disabled peers

Using a dialogical narrative approach, we explored how disabled people made sense of their gym experiences as part of a peer group. Interviews were conducted with 18 disabled people (10 men and 8 women, aged 23-60) who had experience exercising in the gym as part of a group. Data were rigorously analysed using a dialogical narrative analysis. Within their peer group, participants crafted a collective story which they used to resist disablism in the gym. The dialogical components of the collective story functioned to a) validate participants experiences of oppression in the gym, b) forge an unspoken understanding with peers, c) craft a more affirmative identity and d) instil a sense of empowerment to tell their own story. This study extends knowledge in the field of exercise and disability by showing that despite the oppression they experienced in the gym, disabled people can create a collective story which is useful for helping to promote and sustain exercise in this space.