From Exercise Referral Patient to Fitness Specialist

Meet Michelle Felix, InstructAbility graduate and Founder of the Michelle Felix Group.


As a child I had low vision. Over the years I experienced more sight loss and was registered blind in 1993. I am grateful for the residual vision that I have which is useful.

Around 2010 I experienced upper limb disorder which is a form of repetitive strain injury along with myalgia. I lived with pain and weakness on the right side of my body and cramp and pins and needles on the left side of my body. I lost most of my sense of touch in my fingers and barely had strength to hold a cup and saucer. At that time I had physio therapy from Occupational Health at work and I was later referred to my local Exercise Referral scheme.

The exercise referral gym program complimented my physio exercise. My pain was alleviated through exercise and I found new joy in going to the gym.


In 2014 I discovered the InstructAbility program, set up by spinal injury charity, Aspire, to train disabled people to become positive role models in the fitness industry.  So I attained Level 2 Gym Instructor training along with Level 3 Programing and Supervising Exercise with Disabled clients through Instructability.


Engaging in the InstructAbility program was a rich experience of getting to understand fellow students with different disabilities and I came to appreciate how individuals worked around their physical or sensory conditions. We as class mates shared our experiences of situations which could have been disabling and got on with not just coping but endeavouring to make the most of life and contributing to society.


The YMCAfit tutors who delivered the training on the InstructAbility programme were down to earth and attentive to our individual accessibility needs. I particularly appreciated having the course material in electronic format for use with my screen reading assistive technology software which converts text to an audible output to listen to. Being able to touch the life size model of a skeleton that was used during classroom sessions was particularly helpful for understanding the anatomy and physiology aspect of the training.


After InstructAbility, I have continued my professional development to include Teen Gym, Exercise to Music, Exercise for Over 60s, Dementia Training and The Diploma in Exercise Referral.  




My company is Michelle Felix Group which was founded with a key focus to make exercise to music accessible to people with sight loss by audio description. I have widened our portfolio which now includes the following:

  • Dance Fitness for Schools and Colleges

Dancing is a wonderful way of having fun whilst getting fit and it has been great to see improvements to young people’s coordination and confidence; particularly young people who dislike other forms of physical activity


  • Ladies Only Teen Gym for Age 16 – 18

Making friends with the gym equipment for new gym users is the first step to feeling relax in preparation for a good workout. It’s wonderful to see the transformation from being equipment shy to a keen readiness to workout on a regular basis. My circuit training is popular and offers a full body workout alternative to the cardio and resistance machines. I really enjoy creating MSE (muscular Strength and endurance) to Music sessions using a combination of free weights and body weight exercises. These sessions go down a treat with student’s favourite music tracks!


  • Group Exercise to Music for residential homes

Personalised group exercise sessions for a full body workout. Programs are tailored to suit maintaining or improving fitness with adaptations when necessary for managing a range of medical conditions to meet the needs of each member of your group. Regular fitness reviews are in place to chart progress of attaining individual’s goals. As usual the environment is set to get fit, have fun and feel great!


  • Dance fitness for people with sight loss

We create a journey of spatial and self-discovery as part of a  fun filled full body workout; providing rich audio description for your blind clients, visual enhancements for your clients with low vision and the kinaesthetic feel good factor for all ages and abilities.


  • Inclusive dance fitness for people with a range of disabilities

Specialist, upbeat, friendly, fun fitness tailored to your clients / service user’s needs. Sessions can be seated, supported or standing for Teens, seniors or mixed age groups. Participants are pleasantly surprised to experience the fun factor built into our sessions.  


  • Dance fitness and Exercise to Music for people with dementia

Sensational movement and dance which brings out the feel great factor for clients and participants. Meeting the fitness needs of people with dementia is very close to my heart as a very dear family member lived with dementia for the last few years of her life. It is always wonderful to see the joy that my dance fitness sessions brings to this client group which I’ve found to be very appreciative of our sessions together.


  • At Home Exercise Service

For people who are unable to easily leave their home or simply prefer the comfort of exercising at home. 12 week program options for people with specific medical conditions. Ideal for post exercise referral clients and people returning to exercise after many years. I truly believe that whilst there is life, there is hope. Clients can rest assured that our patient supportive approach to maintaining, improving and managing medical conditions will aid longevity and assist in enjoying a better quality of life as fitness improves. It has been a joy to see daily living tasks such as getting dressed, climbing stairs and gardening made possible again after my 12 week program.



As product and service providers wanting to be inclusive and reach a wider audience, we need to keep the social model of inclusion a high priority when creating and developing our products and services. I believe that the key to accessible design is consulting with existing and/or potential users of our product or services.  

Clubbercise is dance fitness to club anthems from the 90s to present with disco lights and glow-sticks. It was a pleasure adapting Clubbercise Dance Fitness to a seated format and showcasing seated Clubbercise at Leisure Industry Week at Birmingham National Exhibition Centre in 2015. In 2016 it was also a pleasure spending time with the Clubbercise choreography team to observe the creation of choreography and to make recommendations for the design and delivery of dance fitness routines for delivery to visually impaired participants.


SOSA Dance Fitness is International dance styles with authentic steps and body styling. SOSA Dance Fitness is in the process of further developing Seated SOSA for people who require seated exercise and I have been honoured to be part of the consultation process.  I’m looking forward to checking out the Seated SOSA research case study data which will be available soon. I thoroughly enjoyed presenting Seated SOSA alongside Katy Barrow, Founder of SOSA and the SOSA Pro Team at The Mayor of London SOSA in the City event in January 2018. It was wonderful to see mobility impaired seated participants enjoying dance fitness alongside standing participants.


I was involved with RICA (now known as Research Institute for Disabled Consumers), research into the accessibility of gym cardio machines such as treadmills, cross-trainers and rowing machines in 2017. This project was initiated by Metro Blind Sport. Manufactures of gym equipment agreed that there exists the technology to make cardio machines accessible to people who are blind or partially sighted.  Our research findings can be found here:

Following Rica’s research, we look forward to manufactures implementing best practice which will give visually impaired clients the accessibility we all deserve. In the meantime,

 Gym Instructors can make the gym experience easier for visually impaired clients by:

  1. Where possible select the use of existing machines with tactile buttons rather than the touch screen counterparts.
  2. Provide a tactile tour of the machine to enable the user to learn where to locate the basic operational buttons and use the equipment independently as far as possible.
  3. In situations where only touch screen machines are available – program and adjust the machine on behalf of the client
  4. Promote the use of the safety clip on treadmills and highlight the location of the brakes on bikes

My motto is Get Fit, Have Fun, and Feel Great!


Hilary Farmiloe, Manager of the InstructAbility programme at Aspire, applauds Michelle’s continuing professional development and says,

“This story is a great example of how a small amount of support and encouragement can be all a disabled person needs to get started and flourish in the fitness industry. It is incredibly important that sector training and jobs appear inclusive to disabled people to attract them into the workforce. Just looking at what Michelle has already achieved and the contribution she is making to inclusive exercise, demonstrates the added value disabled people can bring to such roles”.

Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO added:


“Michelle’s journey to become a fitness professional is both inspiring and important. Having disabled people on the gym floor as instructors is hugely important to ensuring that our workforce truly represents the communities we serve, and can only help encourage other disabled people to become more active.

“It’s also very positive to see so many CIMSPA partners namechecked in Michelle’s story – Aspire, YMCAfit and SOSA Dance Fitness should be proud of their commitment to inclusivity.”


Anyone interested in dance fitness and exercise bookings or working as an instructor with the Michelle Felix Group can contact Michelle at [email protected]