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…

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A lesson in getting out of my own way

It’s been a little bit since I wrote an exercise and PT related post about myself so, I figured, why not tonight? My love/hate relationship with anything having to do with exercise has always stemmed from the inconsistency I tend to often see in my abilities as a person with CP. Some days I’m extremely tight, some days I’m only slightly tight. There is no loose in my vocabulary lately, due to taking the better part of sophomore-senior year of college off in the PT department. Some days, the task I worked on yesterday that I accomplished with ease seems completely foreign and not possible. I know that everyone faces day to day challenges, especially in exercise settings, but when you’re working toward such a huge goal, you look for those consistences to prove you’re doing something right and they don’t always come. Until now.

Tonight I was talking a friend who’s currently studying abroad for the semester in Cork, Ireland. We were catching up on random pieces of eachother’s lives, when she said something that struck me so much I really needed to make it a part of a post. “You know what I’ve come to realize? Life’s not that hard. And it’s not that complicated.” At first I laughed. But then I thought, “you know, I think I agree with that”.

I’ve been consistently working on exercise and things at home for 3 weeks. 3 weeks and 1 day to be exact.  While it was an adjustment at first, it hasn’t really been that hard. Life isn’t that hard or that complicated. All it’s taken is a little planning (I’ve spent about 2 hours a day so far working), a little determination, and some journaling to keep myself on track.

I’m really proud of myself and, while I don’t try to think about seeing any results as a sort of denfense mechanism for not being let down, I have a PT appointment on Monday and I’d love to see if any of the things I’ve been working on are helping when I have a real session (it’s hard for me to gauge at home).

I think it’s all about knowing when to get out of your own way and just go for something. Put the effort in, call it yours, and go get it. For me, that time has come. It came a few weeks ago when I was sent that Crossfit article and video that I blogged about a few posts back. It was my “wake up call”; that somehow I got stuck on exist, rather than live when it comes to my goals, that there was so much I could do (no matter how small to start), and most importantly, that this is not a lost cause. There is hope. And there is proof, in an amazing women named Marissa, that this can happen! (Please take the time to click the link above and go watch the video if you haven’t. It might change you, too.)

I’m stepping out of my own way and knowing at the end of the day…no matter what happens, I did all I could on that day. That’s what I’m feeling 3 weeks in anyway, and this feeling seems long-lasting.

In the end, life isn’t that hard, or that complicated. Thanks Joce! 🙂

Big Picture

I’ve always prided myself on being a “look at the big picture” kind of girl. For the most part. I mean, except for the whole, “I want to accomplish this and I want to accomplish it RIGHT NOW” attitude I sometimes find myself having. But who doesn’t experience that feeling sometime of another in their life?

I had a Crossroads appointment Monday, that I happened to squeeze into at the last minute. I’ve been so happy with how things are going, and still am. I wake up every morning–no joke–and thank God for bringing me to this place and to these therapists; because for the first time in, honestly ever, it feels right. It’s difficult for me to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, why Crossroads is so amazing and why it has worked for me when so many people didn’t think it would and so many other therapies really haven’t. But the more I go for appointments, the more I realize I don’t need to explain anything, because I know it, and I feel it. 

Like I said in a few post back, I was struggling recently with feeling like I’m not doing enough for myself outside of PT and one my own. I talked, at length, about it with my PT Anthony yesterday and his answer was one that I didn’t expect. So I thought I’d share his insights here, for any interested readers.

I basically said that I didn’t feel like I was doing anything because I may work on standing for 3 minutes a day, or stretching and that’s it. And, while I know those things are all helpful, they don’t feel like enough because I’m so used to the mindset of “okay, do these 5 exercises and cross them off your list everyday”. Anthony laughed, and we had a long conversation about how your body isn’t made to work that way. We don’t do things in isolated movements. We don’t lift a box by simply curling our biceps. We are dynamic movers. We use our movement systems and our postural systems together. They feed off of each other. So, why would we want to intentionally seperate something that doesn’t work seperately? Good point.

The second question I asked was sort of more specific to me, but can also be useful to anyone reading–disability or not. More about the brain and thinking through a task and why, sometimes,  you seem to get caught up on some part of the task. Anthony told me when I’m working on something to focus on what I’m trying to accomplish only, not every step, because our bodies do all of that extra thinking at a level below our consciousness so that we don’t have to; and when we try to over think or work against that, it becomes harder. Makes complete sense.

Yet, it’s not something we ever think about because we’re all taught that working out the “right way”, again disability or not, means to do a certain number of this or that so many times a week. But in reality, it’s all about the big picture. Because how often when you’re functioning on a daily basis are you really going to stop and say, “Okay, now I have to shift my weight to my right foot”? Never. Or hardly ever. So, why start that habit when practicing to do something?

I think, in a way, (for my parent readers out there especially!) kids have it right. For many children with and without special needs, anything they do is trial and error. And it’s also done without higher order thinking. Okay, mainly because they haven’t developed that yet, but still! There are some things worth overanalyzing, but I’m starting to learn that the movement of your or your child’s body isn’t one of them. You can aid it in ways that might be easier or more efficient, but really it’s taking the time to work through itself, even if it’s a slow pace.

It’s all becoming much more clear why everyone’s body is made to go through the developmental sequence. There’s a reason we roll, crawl, sit, etc. in the order we do. Forgive me if I don’t know the correct order, still haven’t gotten through the whole sequence at 22. 🙂 It’s also becoming more clear that, if I want the end of that sequence: walking, the stages I’ve “missed out” on are what I should be working on.

Like I said, now it’s all making sense as to why this might take years to accomplish. Just some food for thought.

The Right Recipe?

I can’t sleep and at 2am, when I can’t sleep, I blog. I don’t really know what’s on my mind right now or, actually, what’s not on my mind right now. It seems like lately I can’t pause long enough to even keep track.

I had a Crossroads appointment on Thursday and I definitely needed it. My PT was Matt, who I love, but who hasn’t treated me since Camp in August (before I was even an official client), so I was a little nervous. I’ve been having different PTs lately because I needed an longer appointment after the car accident which put me on someone else’s schedule. It was a really interesting session. Like most sessions, I’m not really sure what he was working on. I think something to do with my hips and spine alignment. That must be it because both of those areas are still sore. After he got done working there though, we were just talking as he was doing some other things and Matt asked me if I’ve noticed any differences since I’ve started coming for treatment on a regular basis. I told him of course I did, but that I couldn’t really explain how just that I knew I felt better–my body felt better. Matt said he had to ask because he noticed some big differences since the last time he treated me. First off, he told me that my body was much more relaxed, and had an easier time relaxing, than it originally did. He also said that there was much less muscle tone throughout my body. This is actually a good thing and very good for someone with my form of Cerebral Palsy. High muscle tone is what makes it most difficult for your body to carry out the messages it actually receives from your brain because it is too tense or being hyper vigilant in a way. For there to be less muscle tone means that there’s improvements happening in my Central Nervous System, which will help to improve the more noticeable physical changes you might expect. I don’t know if that made any sense, it’s 2am, but I hope it did! Lastly, he told me that he remembers having to help me lift my legs up to lay down on the treatment table in August. Something that I do on my own without even thinking about it now.

I wasn’t expecting to hear any of these improvements, but I’m elated that I did! I needed to hear them. The last thing Matt said to me was, “I’m not sure what you’ve been doing, but keep doing it, because you seem to have found the right recipe.” That’s the funny part. I have no idea what I’ve been doing. On the physical side, it hasn’t seemed like I’ve been doing much of anything, except for the past week or so I’ve gotten back to stretching nightly and trying to walk without holding on to something a little everyday. Maybe that’s what he means. I’m not sure. That is definitely something I’m proud of though because I feel like it is the strongest act of commitment I’ve displayed in a few months and even in the week that I’ve been doing it, it hasn’t felt like I chore and I haven’t pressured myself by keeping track of each move I make. I’ve just made the attempt each day and, quite honestly, enjoyed the challenge and accomplishment.

My path over the past month or so has been quite unknown. I’ve gone from fully believing this dream was possible, to doubting everything about it, even the ground I’m standing on. I’ve had trust strengthened and trust shattered all within the same day–both of myself and some around me. That’s why hearing of those improvements came at such an important time. I guess it just has to do with the fact that we spend every moment of every day in this skin with ourselves, so it’s difficult to see the changes that could be occurring. I’m just glad to know they are. And proud of myself too even!

I think that’s all I have for tonight, even though there is plenty more floating around in my head. Hopefully that was enough to send me to sleep.