Know Your Body: The Importance of Modifications in Fitness

To any of you that know me on any personal level it may seem absolutely crazy that I, of all people, would write a blog post about knowing your body. I thought it was crazy too. Until I started picking up my workouts this past week.  

I come into the gym every day knowing that it’s going to be a mental and physical battle, just like everyone else.  But unlike many gym-goers, I live for that battle.  Most of the time this is a good thing, but sometimes it can get the better of me, when I unknowingly push myself to the point of injury as I did a few months ago.  Once I recovered and came back, I really had to be mindful of how I was moving my body so that I could avoid re-injury.  This not only includes constantly checking my form, but also knowing my body and how to modify for whatever it’s feeling at that moment.

In no way am I suggesting that every person become an Anatomy and Physiology expert. I definitely am not…I’ve just barely learned the basics AFAA is requiring of me! But you don’t have to be a psychic either.  We all know what are bodies feel like when they are functioning at 100%, and we know what they feel like when they’re not. That’s where it all begins.  It took me while to know for myself when a muscle group was screaming at me because it was burning in soreness and when it was in pain, but I’ve definitely gotten better at discerning that–and everyone can in time! 

Another hugely important factor in fitness is knowing modifications for yourself! This is particularly true for me because I usually have to modify about 25-50% of any Group Ex class I take (with the exception of spin). Any good instructor will show their class participants one or two modifications of a movement, but if those are also too advanced, knowing your body comes in vey handy. Having an idea of the muscles you are trying to target will help you to come up with an appropriate modification.  For example: a skater’s lunge (think Apollo Ohno’s speed skating move); this is a movement I cannot yet complete. Instead, I do a side-to-side steps with arm movement.  This is still keeping the exercise in the cardio range, and working my arms and legs just like my fellow classmates.  If all else fails and you can’t think of an appropriate modification, just keep moving in any way, and ask your instructor after class. That’s what they’re there for and love to help people find ways to get the best benefit.

The traditional saying goes: “Know your limitations.” but I’d like to propose it be changed to “Know your modifications.” There are no limits.

Until next time, thanks for reading and keep on living. 🙂  

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Attitude

Tomorrow starts week two of being back at the gym after 16 days off because of my muscle strain.
This week was really tough, almost more mentally than physically. It is always hard to come back from any injury, and it broke me down a little bit to see how much ground I’ve lost in such a short time (especially because it’s taken three months to build up).
The Molly of a few years ago would have used this as an excuse to call it quits. To say I did all I could do and I got injured, better luck next time.
But tonight, I sit here saying bring it on week two! It will come back quicker this time. The immense hard work will make the reward even sweeter when I surpass where I was two weeks ago.
Because it’s all about the attitude.

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Fitness Friday: How Group Fitness Gave Me Life.

Happy Fitness Friday! Not sure if this is the only one I’ll ever write, but the topic fit for tonight, so I have to go with the nice little title!

So much has evolved for me in the past few months. I’ve mentioned in a few posts before how I hit an almost two-year long rut after graduating college and leaving the comfort and support of my amazing gym where I spent so much time for four years. Moving on for me when I joined a new gym meant opening up again; letting people know my story, my strengths, my limitations; and being more self-motivated than I’ve ever had to be before.  In 3 months, I can proudly say that I’d almost consider myself back to where I was 2 years ago physically and in an even better place than I ever was emotionally. I’ve also added 2 additional classes to my weekly workouts and tried a bunch more. I was away from the gym for 2 weeks due to a pretty serious abdominal strain, but I’ve been working my way back up since Monday. Tonight I tried a new class, Piloxing-a fusion of Pilates and Boxing, and while it wasn’t my favorite, I was so proud of myself for trying something new.

On my way home, I got to thinking how much Group Fitness (and those that I’ve created lifelong friendships with through it) has changed my life. Because of Group Fitness:

-I spend more time in the gym than I do doing anything else (with the exception of homework). Damn Graduate School.

-I get to have the amazing experience of riding a bike, even though my balance prevents me from riding one on the road.

-I have met some of my best friends (and grown closer with some family members. Love you Claud!).

-I have competed in 5 5k road races and finished every one.

-Physical therapy became fun.

-I feel like a dancer.

-I look at myself as a person-a mind, a body, and a soul-instead of Cerebral Palsy.

-I’ve learned how to modify movements and classes to make them work for me.

-I’m virtually pain-free (if you don’t count soreness and abdominal strains).

-I can look in a mirror (both during a class and elsewhere) and be okay with what I see.

-I’m actually starting to love what I see.

-I am stronger and more physically successful than any doctor ever believed I would be.

-I AM AN ATHLETE.

–I have developed a confidence in myself that I never thought I’d be able to uncover…

The strongest marker of this confidence for me is knowing that, on September 15, 2012, I will be taking a huge leap of faith when I take Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Primary Group Fitness Certification. I know this is going to be difficult for me. I’ve got the academics/studying down no problem, but the practical component is going to require continuous hard work this summer. My movements aren’t the same as everyone else’s and it sometimes takes me longer to coordinate them. I know all of this, and I’m doing it anyway. There will be hundreds of people getting certified on that day with me, most of whom will not understand how or why I’d want to put myself through the rigors of certification. I know all of this and I’m doing it anyway. 

Why? Because Group Fitness gave me something I did not yet have: passion, purpose, hope. If I can get certified and help one person-with disability, injury, or just starting out at the gym for the first time-to find that too, it will all be worth it.

Make A Difference Monday: The World Needs More of This

This morning I got a text message from a family member telling me to check out an article on the front page of the Hartford Courant.  I don’t get the paper at my house and just got the chance to check out the article, but as soon as I did, I knew I needed to get on here and tell everyone about this amazing and inspiring story.

In case you’re not the reading type (except for my blog of course!) here’s the gist: At age 15, CT resident Micaela Connery didn’t get picked for a part in her school play.  She wasn’t sure why, but decided she would instead start her own independent production at her school.  She also noticed that there were never any students with disabilities involved in school plays or activities, and decided she was going to do something about it! And so Unified Theater was born. The program is a truly inclusive theater program in the Hartford, CT area, which brings together children and young adults with and without disabilities to put on productions.

Micaela’s program is expanding all over the country from CT and CA. Amazing, right?! I thought so too! If you are a parent of a child with special needs, check to see if there is a program in your area. They also offer program training to anyone interested in bringing Unified Theater to their neck of the woods–I’m definitely thinking about it. 

And all of this start when a 15-year-old girl, now 25, turned one road block in her high-school years into an inspiring and life changing program for kids. The world needs more people like Micaela. So to all my 20 something friends reading this: don’t doubt that we can, and we will, do our part to make a change too. 🙂