Source: Sunday Star Times
Rheumatoid arthritis has not stopped Cate Grace from becoming a top personal trainer and inspirational business leader.
For many people, a lifetime using crutches would be a huge handicap.
But Christchurch woman Cate Grace has used her disability to power her own brand of positive leadership and entrepreneurial success.
Her business, Leap Fitness and Motivation, was set up five years ago for people with chronic health issues. Now it has grown to cater for many more groups, including busy mums and shift workers.
Christchurch business leader and personal trainer Cate Grace says using crutches is not a disability but enables her to do more.
Grace was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her 20s – a painful inflammatory illness affecting the joints.
From an active lifestyle that revolved around travel, netball, softball and touch rugby, Grace ended up overweight and bedridden, relying on her partner – now husband – to look after her.
She resolved and succeeded in losing the weight and getting her life back on track, despite “normal” gyms refusing to take her on, often telling her she was too unwell to train.
Up until about five years ago, she was still largely mobile without crutches, but she now uses them regularly as the condition of her knees and spine have deteriorated.
From her own experiences, she decided there must be others out there with similar experiences and committed herself to helping those people.
She studied for her health science degree at Massey University and personal training qualification at the Max International College of Fitness Professionals while working full time.
As well as living with the effects of her medical conditions, Grace has battled through the aftermath of both Christchurch earthquakes and felt like “a round peg in a square hole” when she first started her business,
“The idea was to make exercise accessible for all,” Grace said.
“The essence is to inspire – to inspire people that exercise isn’t the devil, to empower people to look holistically at their whole lifestyle.”
She had no fancy marketing ploys to promote her business. Instead, she gave free talks, went out into the community, offered trials for families for a gold coin donation and organised a community fitness group, Shake Your Boomers, targeting baby boomers.
Her vision and passion have not gone unnoticed. In 2013 Grace was a top 10 finalist in the Life Fitness Personal Trainers to Watch competition, which was no mean feat when considering there were more than 1500 entries from 43 countries.
In 2014, she was a finalist in the Women of Influence Awards, presented by Westpac and Fairfax Media, in the business entrepreneur category.
Last year she upped her inspirational influence by joining a leadership programme run by Be. Accessible, a social change agency that aims to make New Zealand a truly accessible place.
The Be. Leadership programme gathers participants from around the country each year to develop leadership skills and new frameworks of thinking around leadership.
Grace said she is grateful to have been accepted onto the programme.
“I just do what I do and I love what I do. I think I’m only coming into that leadership role thanks to Be. Accessible,” she said.
It is the sort of leadership shown by Grace that will be celebrated during Sir Peter Blake Leadership Week from June 26 to July 3.
The week will kick off with the Sir Peter Blake Leadership awards and end with the 20th annual Red Socks Day.
Events including business conferences, leadership panels, school workshops and Shadow a Leader, which involves the AUT university business school hosting 50 teams of year 13 students and leaders.
Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell said they use this week to acknowledge all the great things that New Zealand leaders from all industries and sectors do.
“When we celebrate leadership it reinforces that success and that’s a really good thing for our country.”
Campbell is also part of Be. Accessible’s Fab 50 network, which gathers some of the country’s top leaders who support Be. Accessible’s vision of creating a model accessible nation.
“The Be. Accessible team are developing their own great leaders of the future as well as playing a big role in helping to shape national thinking about the kind of country we want to live in in the future.”