Get Inspired: 'My allergy to exercise won't stop me'

Tasha Coates

Every day, amazing people across the UK are unwilling to let significant hurdles stop them from enjoying physical activity.

Tasha Coates got in touch with Get Inspired to tell us about her challenging illness - and her love for gymnastics. This is her story.

"Your disability does not define you. You have to focus on what you can do, and don't let others stand in your way.

In May 2013 I developed a rare condition which affects the cells in my body called mast cells. As well as many different daily symptoms, this in effect makes me 'allergic to exercise'.

Why? Because exercise promotes mast cell degranulation, which can throw me into a life-threatening allergic reaction if I do not stop at first sign of any symptoms.

I lost all of my hair in July last year due to the physical stress of going into anaphylatic shock so many times in a short space of time. My hair was falling out in clumps so, before I lost it all, I gave it to charity.

I'm 20 now. Having already been a gymnast for 10 years, I was not willing to let my diagnosis define me and stop me from enjoying the sport I love, so I made the switch to disability gymnastics.

This allows me to train and compete just like anyone else, while keeping my health a priority throughout and allowing for adaptations.

So, I'm an artistic gymnast training at Hartford School of Gymnastics in Northwich and I compete in the physical disability category (there is also an 'intellectual' disability category).

In April 2014, I suffered a respiratory arrest. I thought my time as a gymnast was over.

It took what felt like a very long time to get well enough to be able to complete a full routine on each piece of equipment, and I was thrilled just to be well enough to be able to compete properly again.

Before my diagnosis, I wanted to be a paramedic. Unfortunately, I am not well enough. But I try not to be scared of the past, or anxious of the future. I focus on taking things a day at a time!

I made a big comeback in November 2014 at the Disability British Championships, where I won five gold medals and two trophies.

I'm now the current senior women's National Champion on all four pieces of apparatus (beam, bars, floor and vault), and I also hold the all-around title and the highest-scoring female of the whole competition!

But what really matters to me is getting more people into disability gymnastics.

It truly is a fantastic sport with many opportunities, but not many people know it exists as it isn't a 'Paralympic' sport.

Tasha Coates
Tasha has been in and out of hospital on a regular basis since developing her rare condition

My coach, Charlie Oaks, trained Beth Tweddle when she was young, so he is a very experienced coach and now specialises with disabled athletes.

The gym I currently train at is full of gymnasts of all ages and abilities; however, I am the only competitive disabled gymnast.

The full name of my condition is Spontaneous Urticaria and Spontaneous Angioedema leading to Idiopathic Anaphylaxis. Alongside this I also suffer from asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis and Oral Allergy Syndrome.

If it wasn't for gymnastics, I would be dwelling all on this - and I would have given up everything I love.

Yet even when I was in hospital I was planning my first session back to build up my strength, searching for new floor music and shopping online for leotards.

Sport is a massive stress relief as well: when I'm in the gym I just focus on that, and not worry about everything else that's going on in my life.

What inspires me is the present.

I want to promote the sport of disability gymnastics and, also, participate in more competitions. I would love to go to schools and do talks and motivate people to get into sport, regardless of age or ability.

It really can make all the difference to your life."

Tasha Coates
Tasha - who lives in Appleton, Warrington - passed her driving test in November

Whether you are looking for information on disability gymnastics, adult options or classes for children, see our guide to getting into gymnastics to find a style suited to you.