An Open Letter to New Year’s Resolutioners

It’s January 2nd, which pretty much only means one thing in the fitness world: time to start making sure to use the sign-up system that is pretty non-existent for the rest of the year to sign up for classes because things are about to get crazy. And crowded. I knew what I was walking into tonight when I decided to head to the gym after work. Kickboxing was going to have a few more not-yet-familiar faces, be a bit more crowded. Or at least that’s what I though…what I really witnessed was a packed floor of 36 people!! 36!! And probably only 8 or so of us were Wednesday night regulars.  Statistics tell us that many of these fitness “newbies” were New Years Resolutioners–those resolving to lose weight, get fit/healthy, do something active, etc. in 2013. I got fired up and I got to thinking…

Dear Resolutioners,

I applaud you. Whether you call it a resolution, a goal, or a plan; whether it begins on the first of the new year, your birthday, or the third tuesday after the first friday; we have all been there. We know what it’s like to come into a gym, let alone a group exercise class for the first time. To have no idea what the heck you’re doing. To get stuck next to the girl who thinks she’s seriously in a combat situation right now the way she’s throwing those punches. But you’re here. And that ‘s everything.

Now, please do me one favor. Just one I swear. Stick with it. Come back next week. Better yet, come back the next few weeks. Research shows that it takes three weeks, yes 21 days, to make or break a habit.  That doesn’t mean you have to work at some unrealistic level for the next 21 days, pretending you’re a seasoned group ex’r. That means you work at your pace, at your 100%, for three weeks. Some days will be better than others, as they are everyone.  But at the end of those three weeks, I can promise you that you’ll start to see results.  They might not be the results you expect. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee they won’t be, because life is funny that way. But I can tell you that they will be worthwhile. Happiness, less stress, physical strength, emotional strength, increased energy levels, the  list could go on for days.

If you need a little bigger push to convince you, you should know that in the first group exercise class I ever took (spinning), I barely lasted the entire class, never got out of the saddle, and both of my legs were bleeding when I got off the bike. Had I never gone back, I literally wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be writing this blog, I wouldn’t be strong enough to do anything I do on a daily basis, I wouldn’t have learned to love myself and my body, and a certified instructor? Ha! That wouldn’t even be on my radar.

So stick with it. You just never know where it will take you. 

Molly

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You Are Stronger Than You Think

It seems that many of my posts have focused on the gym and fitness as of late.  I would apologize for this, except I really can’t because it would not be remotely close to sincere. The truth is, this is me. I live fitness. I live health. I live trials and triumphs, moments of weakness and feats of strength, and everything in between. This is my new found love and life force, and I would not trade it for anything.

That said, please come with me on another journey.

Late last night, I finished reading an amazing memoir Waking by Matthew Sanford.  Matthew is a man who, at age 13, was in a car accident that left him with a T4 spinal cord injury.  Matthew writes of learning to navigate life in his now “silent” body, and how his discovery of mind-body relationship led him to physical and emotional healing and his eventual practice as an adaptive yoga instructor in Minnesota.  Fitness friends, family, and all other readers: do yourself a favor, whatever your beliefs and practices, and pick up a copy of this book.

I went to bed feeling deeply touched and satisfied, but more than anything else I felt hopeful.

My alarm went off at 7:15 this morning for Saturday morning gym session. I could have rolled over and gotten a few more hours of sleep. I could have said I’d be going Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday next week because I’m off work. I could have said it was the holidays. I had 1, 000 excuses to choose from. I chose hope.

Today’s class was a challenge from go since I have been dragging it after being sick and making a slow comeback. Interval training followed by TRX training.  For those unfamiliar with TRX, it is a Suspension Training, full body workout system that uses gravity and your bodyweight to perform a variety of exercises.  You are in complete control of the difficulty of your workout simply by changing your body position. This is a confusing explanation, so check out this quick video. 

The class was instructed to do one specific move, that started out holding on to the ropes to do a low row (think pulling your chest up to an imaginary bar from a slightly slanted standing position…or don’t imagine it, I’m doing a horrible job explaining things in this post….just take my word for it!), then drop down into a squat, and pull themselves back up.  I did not have the balance to be able to drop myself into a squat without falling and potentially cracking my head open, so it was time to modify! Yay!

I started the exercise by sitting on the floor slightly leaned back and performed my row. From there I was to lift my body off the ground as dead weight with only my heels as the anchor point. Failed attempt after failed attempt began to leave me more than a little bit frustrated.  At this point, Janice came over and foot blocked me so I wouldn’t completely go sliding and I tried again.

Note: Everything from this point on might sound utterly ridiculous to some, but this is what I believe can happen and this was my experience. I closed my eyes and tried to connect my mind and my body in a way that I had read about only hours before. I needed to feel the energy of my heart, of my will, and somehow transfer that energy into my legs, into my core–to come together and achieve this small goal for the day. I inhaled deeply and I could feel the connection. With what seemed like unimaginable strength, I felt my arms start to strengthen and slowly lift by body. I felt my core muscles engage and noticed that the only physical point of connection I had was at my heels.  This was it. I trusted my mind and it got me through step one. Now it was time to trust my body. A 10 second hold of this position was what was being asked of all of me. Closing my eyes again, I hoped. I pleaded with my body to outlast the time. I know I beg a lot of my body on a daily basis, but I needed this one, because I knew I could.  Janice, standing above me, said “trust your body, you are stronger than you think”. And I believed before those 10 seconds disappeared.

Then I collapsed on the ground and started hysterically laughing because all I wanted to do was cry.  The tears came later on in the day, when my soul processed what occurred in the gym. Today, for the first time, even if for maybe only a total of 30 seconds, I fully trusted my mind and my body. The results were awesome.

Until next time…inhale hope, exhale strength…

Coming to a Gym Near You…

I’M AFAA CERTIFIED!!!!

I’ve been waiting and waiting…and waiting for these results for what feels like an eternity! I know that my presenter told us it would be about 4-6 weeks, but I always assume they overestimate these things and when it got to be mid-way through week four this week, I started to  doubt that I’d passed the practical portion of the exam–I was almost positive I had passed the written portion.  Then last night, I just had a feeling that it was the day.  I was in class until 7pm, so I texted my sister and asked her to please get the mail, but not to tell me if anything came. When I walked in the door after class, I noticed the envelope sitting on the table. I ran over to the table, sat down, and ripped it open to see what was inside. All I read was the “Congratulations!” on the letter and I threw it down and screamed/cried/laughed and every emotion in between! Everything I’ve been feeling for the past months and weeks came flooding out of me like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

All night I could not stop smiling and staring at my certificate. I DID IT!

What this means to me is something I’ve tried to put into words so many time, yet I fail every time.  All I know is right now I’m on top of the world and I don’t see myself coming down anytime soon. I have never wanted anything so badly, and I have achieved it.  These few months have led me to amazing new people and experiences, and deepened my passion for fitness, both for myself and for others.  I am so excited to be a part of the AFAA family–one that has already welcomed me with open arms in the past 24 hours! I am even more excited to start planning my classes and get out there to help others realize that fitness truly can be for everyone and that they can make their lives however they want.

So to everyone out there who has a dream and is not sure they have “what it takes” to make it happen.  I’m here to tell you you do. Fight for it, and when it’s yours, rejoice in that moment. There is no better feeling.

I’d love to join your gym…if I could get in your building!

January is traditionally the “Fitness Frenzy” month of the calendar.  People are either rushing to the gym to work off the holiday few pounds, or rushing to the gym to jump start their new year’s resolutions.  Whether you’re a seasoned gym goer or a newbie, you count on being able to just walk in, sign a membership form, and get your fitness on, right? Most people do. But what if it’s not that easy? What if you find that the gym down the street doesn’t have the welcoming, arms wide open feel it boasts about on every single tv, newspaper, and online ad? Let me tell you a bit of my story.

I’ve been an avid gym goer, spinner, and overall group exercise (mainly of the Les Mills variety) for the past six years.  I also have CP.  Yes, I know most of you know this, but just in case someone is stopping by for the first time, which I hope happens. I’m telling you this not because I’m looking for praise or kind words, but because there is a distinct purpose to this post.  During my four years of college I was fortunate enough to be a member of an amazing local fitness facility.  It housed amazing instructors, motivating classes, and exceptionally kind members. It might have helped that the facility’s owner was a pediatric physical therapist, but it was truly one of a kind.  This facility was my refuge–from the stress of a rigorous college load, the drama of living with five other girls, and the general daily grind.  At my highest point I was going to the gym 4 times a week.

Two years later, I am back to living home while saving money and going to graduate school full time.  This gym has now merged with another gym in the area.  It is not far away from where I live, but far enough that I am no longer a member because I wouldn’t be able to go as often.  Two years have gone by and I know I am not as physically active as I was then if you don’t include PT appointments.  Not only can I tell from the fit of my clothes (or lack there of!), but also from how I feel. I am not as happy. I am not eating or sleeping as well. The list could go on and on.

About two weeks ago (wow, there are a lot of twos in this post!) a friend and I decided to join together and change this! We set out to check two gyms in our area, both no more 10 minutes from our houses.  We had some really high hopes for our first visit as we’d heard rave reviews. We pulled into the parking lot of gym #1 around 5pm and that’s when we encountered our first problem. No parking! We didn’t think anything of it and circled the building again. On the second go around I noticed a few things: they only had about 10-15 spots in the whole parking lot and there was NO accessible parking space, marked or unmarked. This probably should have been a giveaway, but no.  We went in, talked to staff, and were pretty pleased with what they had to offer and went for a tour. Only I couldn’t tour the facility because it was completely inaccessible. Machines were bolted down, placed too close together, and throw rugs were covering areas making it very difficult for my walker to navigate. We politely left. I won’t go into detail about the second facility, as it was much of the same.  However, gym #2 had something gym #1 did not, that wonderful staff member that gives your assistive device a once over  while asking “what kind of class are you looking to take?”. Translation: What can of classes can you take?

My whole being was drained by these two experiences. Quite frankly I was angry, but more than anything I was saddened.  Saddened by the fact that the fitness and wellness world as a whole is so closed off to those with special needs.  Yes, I know that there are some exceptions, like the facility I belonged to in college, but by and large society only plans for “typical” people to come and work on their physical fitness.  Which is silly when you really think about it. Everyone needs to be fit. Everyone needs to keep their body functioning at an optimal level. Most importantly, everyone needs to feel good about themselves.  We all have more in common than many people choose to believe, and it’s time the world starts adapting to that.

Note: My story has a bit of a happy ending, as I just took my first spin class at my local YMCA tonight and found it not only accessible, but also accepting!

Why I don’t mind that “I’m (not) in it” for the 2011 New York City Marathon

I wasn’t sure how today was going to go when I woke up and found out that tonight’s spin class was already full before I got the chance to sign up, but things quickly started looking up when I didn’t have to work and got to go to the beach for the day. I’m not the biggest fan of the beach since it’s not quite the most accessible place in the world, but every now and then with my crutches I don’t mind.

I love the moments when I can just sit and stare out at the water and let the answers to my life’s questions float into me with the tide–and today just that happened.

Ha! Don't you wish CT beaches looked like this?? Photo: Carillon-Beach.com

I’ve obviously been doing a lot of thinking (and writing) about the things that make me happy and the things that I do for me, but I never really shared what led me to question that.  So, here’s a bit of the story…a few months back I became a member of Achilles International a group for people with disabilities who run, bike, do all sorts of sports.  I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but it sounded great. At the start, I got in touch with the head of the CT chapter of Achilles who told me about a handcycle (like a regular bike pretty much, but pedaled with your arms). We also talked about how the New York City Marathon has special spots for handcyclists/Achilles athletes. I was already getting my hopes up!

A few months later, I met Tony, an above knee amputee and all around great guy. He brought one of his handcycles for me to try out and it was pretty awesome. But let me tell you, these things are not for the faint of heart! They take some serious arm power.  I left that day feeling like I had made a pretty cool connection in the adaptive athletics world.

Tony and I right before trying out the handcycle

Fast forward to not getting a lottery pick for the 2011 NYCM and I wasn’t all that upset. Why? By the time I got home from that day, I knew the handcycle was awesome and that I liked it, but I had this tiny voice inside of my head and heart that was telling me it just wasn’t quite right for me. It wasn’t involving my legs enough, challenging them, or allowing me to tap into my true motivations.

In true Molly fashion, I ignored the voice and kept plugging along until I reached a point where that voice got so loud I could barely hear myself think. At that point, I removed myself from the 2 races I was scheduled to do with the handcycle, and went back to the drawing board.

What does all of this have to do with the beach? I’m almost there I promise. About 2 weeks ago, a friend (hey Lor! 🙂 ) approached me about helping to create an adaptive category for a 10k race she helps run in September for the Mari Hall Foundation. I jumped at the opportunity and immediately felt like everything was going to fall back into place.

What I’ve come to realize over the past few weeks is this: I don’t do races to win. I don’t even do them to place. Or for the attention, the one girl in the crowd who is overcoming this challenge known as CP. Because every single one of us has challenges; whether they’re visible or not. I do races because of the challenge; because of the mental and physical push it requires me to commit to as soon as I step on the start line and even before when I’m stretching and spinning and doing whatever else to get ready.

For me, the only way I know to tap into that challenge is on foot because, whether this is fair or not, I equate CP with my legs, not my brain. Actually, that’s not fair at all. Sorry legs, my bad!! And that’s why the handcycle didn’t feel quite right to me.

Okay, okay, back to the beach. Water. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. Many of you might know, how great water therapy is for people with various disabilities. Well in my own head and heart, I’m finally jumping on that bandwagon. (Sidenote: I can’t believe I even just thought, let alone wrote, this sentence given my previous detest/downright refusal to even try this for years!!) As I was watching my 2-year old niece play down by the water today, I swear I heard that same voice that told me the handcycle wasn’t right, tell me water was.

Here’s what I know:

  • I can’t “get out and train” everyday like many other runners/walkers/I don’t even know what category I consider myself do. It’s not ideal right now given that my streets have no sidewalks and tracks are freaking boring.
  • When you’re in the water, you tend to not feel fatigued as quickly, allowing you to possibly get more out of your exercise time.
  • Water holds you up, meaning that I can practice movements without worrying about falling over. Drowning? Eh, a friend once told me I have 4-5 minutes to be rescued if I drown. I’ll risk it.
  • I can walk in water. I mean really walk, without crutches or walker or anything. Do I really need to explain why this is a plus?! Come on! What are 90% of my post about? Okay, you may argue that I can totally do that on land too. I won’t disagree, it’s just way easier in water.

(Disclaimer: These aren’t facts. I’m just a 20 something blogger on a mission to make a change.)

So it looks like water will be another added method of training and therapy this summer. Thanks for sticking by me, and see you all out on the road.
Oh, and for those of you who are really good at reading between the lines: YES I’m doing a 10k in September; YES on foot; YES I already got the okay; and YES I know at least 3 people reading will try to convince me not to! Did I mention I’m really stubborn? 😉

The Dance

That last post I wrote was totally me pulling a Debbie Downer. I was feeling stuck in a rut, and didn’t really know what to do. I can’t really apologize for my feelings as they were expressed, but I can definitely apologize leaving everyone wondering what the heck was going on for a few days.

Crossroads came at the perfect time this week (along with a visit from my college roommate and a spin class) and has really helped me get back on track both mentally and physically. I’m not going to go into details, since a lot of it was really…profound actually…and quite personal as far as the whole brain effecting the body; body effecting the brain thing goes, but what I can say this this:

I’m learning that, sometimes, the only thing to do is to get upset, and get angry, and not know what to do. Because if you deny yourself those emotions, they can so easily turn to hate. Hatred of the situation your in, or worse, hatred of yourself. That is a difficult place to be, and somewhere even more difficult to climb out of once you’re there.

There’s a fine line between the two sides, between the two “worlds” I often say I feel like I find myself living it. It truly is a dance. And the only way to dance it well is to take it each step at a time. I’m still learning the steps…

Frustration

Lost: Motivation.

If found, please return to Molly ASAP.

Just a quick post tonight because, quite honestly, I need way more sleep than I’m about to get. Finished classes tonight! (For a week) then summer class starts, but it’s only 2 nights a week for 5 weeks so that’s pretty much a win.

I just need to vent. Or something. I’ve completely lost motivation lately on anything physical related, and even though I know it’s normal, it’s scaring me a little. And by lost motivation I really mean haven’t done one little thing in a little over two weeks. Granted I’ve had a crazy intense few weeks with school, figuring out classes for summer, and my dog almost dying (he didn’t though, he’s home safe with us!). But those all just feel like excuses to me at this point. I always feel like when I get to the point where I recognize my lack of motivation I should be ready to jump back in, but I’m just not.

And the only thing I can think is, if all these things are so important to me (walking, PT, everything) how do I so easily blow them off for week. It’s frustrating. It’s upsetting. Yet, I don’t know quite how to get back. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party here. I just don’t really get it.

Do any of my other followers have this issue with PT or other such things? What do you do?

Motivation Monday: Ryan Hall

After watching a history-making 2011 Boston Marathon this morning, in which world records were met, an American woman finished 2nd, and an American man finished 4th, I’m quite insipred and quite motivated.

Who was that man in 4th? Ryan Hall. An amazing person, an amazing athlete, and an amazing man of his Faith.

A friend shared this video entitled “How Does Running Glorify God” a while back, and it put my faith, my struggles, my triumphs, and my races both on road and in life, into perspective.

Feel free to check it out, or just keep on reading through your blogroll if this doesn’t interest you. I won’t be offended! 🙂

“My career is basically about pain management. It’s how much pain can you handle, for how long can you handle it?” -Ryan Hall on the marathon

The blessing (and curse) of Google…

I’ve come to realize lately just how much of my time is spent on Google. Sure, sometimes it’s purely out of procrastination (kindof like me writing this post right now instead of working on a take-home exam), but a lot of times I spend hours on the search engine trying to find any information on anything. I’m weird that way, I suppose.

First of all, I need to say, I’m not writing this post to look for your positive accolades about the things I may chose to do in my life. I’m writing this post to be honest. And to bring awareness to something that doesn’t get enough.

The fact that we, as a society, have the opportunity to have all this vast amount of information readily available is a pretty awesome blessing. Without google, I wouldn’t have find some of the many blogs I follow, for one. Search engines have changed our world on many levels.

Yet, they’re also a curse sometimes. What do I mean? I’ve always googled CP. You never know what new info or people have surfaced as resources. When I was younger, I would search things because I didn’t want to ask anyone else about things. Now, it’s a little different. Now, I’m a little sick of asking people and getting their “professional opinions” instead of facts. Yes, there is a difference.

I know that the internet isn’t always the best source but, in my opinion, it’s better to hear from someone with similar experience than someone who has spent their time only reading about things in textbooks. Lately–maybe in the past 6 months or so–the search has expanded from just CP to CP and…

  • CP and…running
  • CP and…marathons
  • CP and…exercise/Crossfit
  • CP and…walking

Okay, so maybe there is a pattern here. And maybe I am a little insane. But this is what I’ve constantly been spending my time Googling lately. And this is where the curse comes in. Sure, I’ve found some valuable contacts, like Greg and Amy, and read some amazing stories, like those of Dominique and Marissa, but there isn’t much more info out there.

For some things, it’s no big deal, but for many others it’s frustrating. Like the fact that there are no “training plans” for people with disabilities who want to run an endurance event. I get that those are often very individualized and have to be altered, but nothing?? You can’t tell me no one has ever done it. Clearly people have. Same thing with walking. Same thing with Crossfit. Okay, maybe not Crossfit, because that’s a bit of a “new” thing, but exercise certainly. People (of all abilities) exercise everyday!!

That’s when Google becomes a curse. When you’re looking through this amazing super-database, and the information is just not there.

The more time I spend on searching, and the more I try to come up with my own database for myself, the more I am introduced to a new chapter in my story and a new meaning to my struggle. Maybe I will do some of these things and maybe, when I do, I will be able to get the world out to others who are just as frustrated by this wall. Did I just say I’m going to do a marathon? I don’t know. I guess you’ll have to stay tuned! 😉

Note: this wasn’t meant to attack Google. I’m hating on all search engines equally! 🙂