'It Takes 80% of My Energy to Walk as a Bilateral Amputee, so I Focused on One Thing at a Time' - Women's Health

‘It Takes 80% of My Energy to Walk as a Bilateral Amputee, so I Focused on One Thing at a Time’

A meningococcal survivor's fitness journey.

by | Sep 27, 2021

Penny Taylor is 47 years old and a meningococcal survivor. She had both of her legs amputated from the knee down and was told by doctors that she wouldn’t walk again, but she proved them wrong – in 6 months she had started to walk. She has had osseointegration surgery on both legs (where a titanium rod is implanted into the tibia and over time they integrate to become part of you). Move With Us helped fund part of Penny’s surgery and she says that she is now the fittest and healthiest she has ever been – she can also adjust exercises in the app to cater for her ability and mobility. Penny works out from home 6 days a week, works full-time and is an active mum. Read Penny’s story below.

My name is Penny Taylor and I’m 48 years old. I work as a Tour Manager for Unique Holiday Tours, and I live in Napier, New Zealand

I was a busy working full-time mum, my children were 7 years & 3 years when I contracted meningococcal. I would walk every day for an hour, spin classes two to three times a week. The doctors thought that because I was reasonably fit, it helped to pull me through. My relationship with food was good I thought, but I have learnt so much more about food and what your body needs to be fuelled with since meningococcal and since the beginning of my strength rebuild-style training.

I now exercise 6 days a week plus around 5,000 steps a day. It’s always been about regaining my strength and probably the best Move With Us programs I have done where I have gained the most strength and so many highs within the challenges were Bikini Build 1.0 & 2.0, Move With Emma Home Transformation challenge & currently doing Bikini 4.0. To sum up these challenges, the splits are generally 3 x lower body, 1 x upper body, 2 x core circuits, and for cardio, I walk or ride my exercise bike.

My diet is high in protein to help with bone growth and protein feeds the wellbeing of my legs. I go through stages of eating the same thing all the time but generally, it consists of:

  • Breakfast

Currently, loving protein pancakes with fruit, or I have protein oats

  • Lunch

Salad with protein mainly chicken or eggs on an English muffin or I make my own version of a McMuffin 

  • Snack 

Cottage cheese on rice crackers or fruit

  • Dinner

I mix this up as need to cook for a family as well. 

  • Always protein and salad or vegs

I use the Move With Us recipes mostly for dinner ideas

  • Snack

Mini chocolate bar, I buy the 12 packs and allow myself 1 each night.

When I look back, I see the first 6 years were about surviving what had happened and adjusting to my new way of life. I poured myself into anything that I classed as ‘normal’ like working, running a house, being a parent, and adjusting the kids into what I could do and what I couldn’t.

It was a huge adjustment for everyone. 5 years ago, I went to Australia for osseointegration surgery which is ground-breaking technology and giving amputees incredible amounts of freedom and mobility. New Zealand doesn’t do the surgery for below-knee amputees.

I loved what I saw and couldn’t wait to get the surgery. I knew it would be two years of rehabilitation after the surgery, where I had to learn to walk all over again, and I basically had to go back to the start. It was a case of going back to the wheelchair in order to get to where I am today.

After the rehab, my mobility was mind-blowing and I was feeling so alive. As my mobility kept getting better, the more I did. But with osseointegration, jumping and running or anything that could impact the implant is advised against doing.

I looked at joining a gym, I went and looked at five different gyms where I lived and all of them said they couldn’t cater for me. I wasn’t asking for help, just to join up. I was so disheartened and one of my friends who is also an amputee introduced me to Move With Us. I signed up for home workouts and have never left.

The strength-based training was what I needed, and now it’s what I love and train 6 days a week all from home.

During my first transformation challenge I would do4 to 5 days of exercise per week but was very hit and miss on the nutrition.

It takes 80% of my energy to walk as a bilateral amputee, so to do normal daily activity and 4 to 5 workouts a week I was exhausted, to begin with. It was a matter of focussing on one thing at a time. I knew my journey wasn’t going to be a quick fix, I was prepared to chip away at my long-term goal.

I mixed it up with short-term goals. Once I got my energy levels up and could manage more and more, I started to focus on nutrition. Needing to have a high protein diet to fuel my legs and bone growth, I balanced the protein with around a 1500 calories per day diet.

Over the last two years, I have had diet breaks and higher calorie intake for periods of time and the Move With Us team has taught me so much about flexible eating which is based on 80% whole foods and 20% soul foods. I love this approach, it works, and you never feel like you are on a diet. I do weigh most things, otherwise, I am a bit heavy-handed and so it’s easy to overeat. I see it as a good habit, and it works for me.

Initially, I couldn’t do some of the exercises but the Move With Us app has a lot of exercise swaps or I learnt to break the exercise down to what I could manage. After I had completed a few challenges, I was understanding more about exercise swaps. It is only as hard as you want it to be.

I am 100% a much more balanced person, the endorphins you release from working out helps with everything. I feel the healthiest I have felt for years.

My advice for women who want to start but can’t find the motivation?

Create a routine and make it a non-negotiable commitment. Consistency is key, life can get busy but find the time and do it for you. Make a list of your goals and then break them into a smaller list and tick them off. I had a 2-year commitment to myself, and I am about to reset my goals with nearly having ticked off all of my goals. Celebrate your wins.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the new web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she has a mean punch inside and out of the ring. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.

Recommended to you

8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 


Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.defineSlot(gamData.adUnit, [300, 250], 'gam_midarticle_pos2_2') .defineSizeMapping(gamData.sizeMap.midarticle) .setTargeting('pos', '2') .addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.display('gam_midarticle_pos2_2'); });

New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 


Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 


Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 


Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?