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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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!

We Are Alive, We Are Strong: Pedal for a Purpose 2011 Recap

Here we are, three days post P4P2011. I want to start off by saying that this is my third time trying to sit down and write this recap. I haven’t been able to quite find the right words to fully capture everything I’d like to share with all of you, so let’s hope this time I can get it all down…

We all knew this year was going to be big. Not only because the even gets bigger every year (physically and emotionally), but also because the cause was going to touch many of us on a much deeper level. The event was to benefit the CT chapter of the MS Society/Team Jenifer. I talked a little bit about Pedal and about Jen, who the event honored, in a previous post, but I have to say something again, because Jen’s strength, determination, and all around awesomeness simply blew me away again on Sunday.

Leading up to the event, I was nothing short of extremely excited. I have, for the past 4 years, felt like P4P was my Christmas not on Christmas. It is the day I most look forward to on the calendar.  There is just something amazing about being able to take the one thing you are most passionate about and use it to do something good. That is exactly what P4P is for me. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous as well. Other than the Monday before, the last time I’d been spinning (due to class schedules and lack of rides) was probably in January.  I was riding three hours and wasn’t sure how my body, or my mind for that matter were going to fare.  All that fear and anxiety immediately vanished upon entering the gym though. Jen was the first instructor of the day, and the first instructor for my 3 rides. There was something so powerful in those first 50 minutes. Dare I say more powerful than any of the other 5 hours, with the exception of maybe the group ride at the end with all 5 instructors. I honestly felt like the hour went by so fast, because the only thought in my head (after the initial “OMG. Can’t breathe. So. Out. Of. Shape.”), was how I was here, spinning with someone I look up to so much. A woman who I have found so many similarities with. A women who refuses to let a diagnostic label define her.  There were a few moments when I really doubted my ability to finish out the hour, but all I had to do was catch Jen’s eye **first tears of the day** or look at the banner behind the stage and that was enough.

The banner read:

Behind every success is effort,
Behind every effort is passion,
Behind every passion is someone,
With the courage to try.

The energy in the room was on fire all day. There was nothing stopping anyone from doing their part to kick some MS butt. I had a two hour break to enjoy the environment and take LOTS of pictures! The instructors, the riders, and the music all really spoke to this amazing cause during every hour.  The second hour I rode was taught by my cousin. Which always proves to be challenging both physically and mentally (she likes to pick songs that make me cry).  I knew that I had to save some energy during this ride because I only had an hour in between to rest before my last ride, but all bets were off when it was time to sprint and the song was Pink’s F*ckin’ Perfect. Gets me every time. The sprints were on the chorus (please look the song up if you’ve never heard it) and I had no choice, but to go all out. The song means a lot to me, for a lot of different reasons that aren’t the point of this post, but it also meant a lot to combine this song with spinning–the one thing in my life that makes me feel absolutely perfect. At the end of one of the sprints, I looked over and two of the instructors were mouthing the words to me. It all comes together. **Second tears of the day**

The third hour I rode, also the final hour, is always the most moving for me. All of the instructors get up on stage together and “team teach” the final ride.  It is also, without a doubt, the hardest ride because each instructor brings their own strength and determination, as well as their desire to push each other to the absolute limit! 🙂  This year was no different, but the last ride had a little something special about it for me this year. As I looked up to each one of those women, figuratively and literally, I was reminded of what true friendship is and reminded of what it means when you care so deeply for a person, that you will be there to hold their hand through everything. **third tears of the day**

What more can I say really? Other than the day was absolutely amazing, start to finish. This was the 4th year for the event and, by all standards, our best one yet! In the end, we raised over $11,000 to FIGHT MS!!…and had countless more memories!!

It’s funny the way life works. The people you meet, the things you do, the moments that forever stay etched in your heart. I was reminded of something at P4P this year that I often forget; or at least I forget lately. I can’t let my life be defined for me. By a person, by an event, and most definitely not by a diagnosis. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. No one. So why waste precious moments letting your life be defined, instead of defining it yourself?

Live each moment. Give everything you’ve got. Feel the fire inside of your soul. Own it. Hope. Never say never. And, most importantly, let everyone know how much they mean to you…I make sure to tell these 5 women every chance I get!

And for your viewing pleasure, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone for 23 seconds and post this video (in purple):

Thanks for sticking with me! 🙂

Photo Credits: Molly Carta, Karen Butler, Ron Kochman

Make A Difference Monday

A fellow blogger I’ve often talked about, Sarah, occasionally writes “Make A Difference Monday” posts. From what I’ve seen, these posts are generally about some cause, organization, or individual that is doing something to…make a difference! 🙂

An event near and dear to my heart is coming up, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve often blogged about what Spinning means to me and how something as “simple”–though the class itself is anything but–as a group exercise class, completely changed my life almost 4 years ago. For those of you that have never read it, please read my post about Spinning here.

Four years ago, the gym I belong to started a charity event called Pedal for a Purpose. The event was a 5 hour spin-athon to benefit various causes important to both the members/staff of the gym, as well as the pediatric physical therapy clinic it is joined with. The first year: Spinal muscular Atrophy (SMA) CT Chapter. The second year: United Cerebral Palsy CT Chapter (and yes, I cried my way through the entire day for so many reasons I don’t have the energy to get into tonight). The Third Year: Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation CT Chapter.

This year: National Multiple Sclerosis Society CT Chapter/Team Jenifer. I don’t know that I would normally publish something like this on the blog, but with this cause I really could not pass up the opportunity. Not only is this cause so important for because of the number of people diagnosed with MS in the state (and country), but Team Jenifer honors one of our own.

Jen is one of the gym members I first met when I joined and also one of the Spin instructors. She also happens to be diagnosed with MS. Jen is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and her and I instantly connected because of what our passion for spinning truly means to us as people who have a little extra challenge to overcome getting on the bike everyday. She inspires me in more ways than I can even begin to express, and I am so honored to be riding for her (and more importantly WITH her!!) for this event! In fact, she is so loved by all of us, that they had to add an extra hour in to make sure everyone got a chance to ride! She has already made a huge difference in my life, and continues to make a difference in the lives of all she meets, befriends, and rides with! Jen is someone who constantly reminds us of the importance of HOPE and the strength of the human spirit.

Riders get sponsorships for each minute they are on the bike (rides are 50 minutes in length) and all money raised goes to the CT chapter as well as Team Jenifer! As I’ve said, for more reasons than one, this event is so close to my heart and I couldn’t help but share with all of you who have also become close to my heart.

Pedal for a Purpose will take place on Sunday, March 27, 2011 from 8am-4pm.

If you’d like more info on this event, how to get involved, or how to donate please visit: Team Jenifer, Cheshire Fitness for Women, or contact me via comments and I will e-mail you back!

Thanks for your continued support everyone! 🙂

Boston bound

I can’t lie. I can’t think of anything of real substance to post tonight, but I refuse to break my committment of blogging for 30 days, so here’s what I have for you tonight.

I can’t wait to be done with class and assignments for the week, because that means it’s time to head to Boston!! I’m heading up for concert with a friend from QU and we’re meeting my roommate Katie who’s from New Hampshire! 🙂 

NEEDTOBREATHE! They’re an awesome band. Kindof following the pattern of Lifehouse in that they started out as primarily a Christian band and have gotten a lot more mainstream play as their albums came out. This trip has been in the works for months so I’m pumped! I’ll leave you with a few songs of theirs (one from each album).  Katie and I first heard them during a spin class last year and it was love at first listen! They have 3 CDs and I strongly reccommend all of them!



Sorry, only could find the live version! I love this one too much to not include it though!

Why Do I?

I may not entirely love being an unemployed college graduate right now, but if there’s anything I do love about it, it’d be all this free time I have to think up, and write, more blog posts!! What wisdom do I have to share today you ask? Well, it’s not really wisdom at all I don’t think. Instead, I thought I’d give my readers a little glimpse into my brain and what makes me tick. Lately, I feel like my life has solidified, more so than ever, around three interests–passions if you want to call them that (I do!).

These three passions are: Cycling and Spinning, Lance Armstrong and his LIVESTRONG campaign, and 5k races.

For the past 20 days, I’ve been getting up at ungodly hours (okay, maybe not, but they are for a college grad!) to watch the 2010 Tour de France. Now, my first motivation for doing this was to watch Lance Armstrong in his second year of a retirement comeback and his-really now-last official Tour. More on that later though. I’ve been a follower of the sport for many years now, since Lance Armstrong’s original comeback in 1999 after his battle with cancer, and I often get asked if I stopped watching the tour when he retired, or if I’ll keep watching now that he’ll really be done. My answer is always yes. Cycling is not just a sport that you can check yourself out of when your favorite rider is gone as you might with some other sport. I don’t just familiarize myself with the top riders in the peloton (big group on the road), I know them all. I make it a point. I’ve learned a lot about the tactics of this intense endurance sport, and see the benefits of cycling being both a team and individual sport. Cycling has truly become one of my passions.

It is because of that passion that I took up spinning-indoor cycling-in the summer of 2007. I knew that I probably could not ride a true road bike, for reasons I talked about in this post, but eventually Spinning became my road biking. It became my release of negativity that life can sometimes bring, and my hour of “me time”. I cherished, and still do cherish, my ability to spin at least once a week. I know this is not something that not everyone can make the time for and I know that many people with CP or other disabilities might have difficulty doing. I thank God that I was blessed to believe that I could take part in such a class and go out and do it. Thanks to my beginning interests in cycling, spinning is now a passion that I can’t live without.
Lately, I’ve developed an interest in another interesting endurance sport: running. Okay, so maybe I don’t exactly run, but still. It all started last October. A friend of mine called me asked me if I wanted to do a 5k with her that Sunday that was going to benefit Camp Care, the free camp for children with special needs, run by Crossroads Physical Therapy which I’ve talked about here. I could not turn down the opportunity, but 3.2 miles? Continuously? Was I nuts? Yes! Not only was this a continuous 3.2 miles, but it was ALL uphill!! Except for the last .2 miles. Either way though, I walked the entire race and finished it in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 33 seconds! It was the most amazing feeling to cross that finish line on my own and take pride in such an accomplishment. After taking part in that 5k, I realized that you don’t need to be running to have the “runner’s high”. It’s simply chasing a dream, feeling on top of the world, and in control. Run or walk. I’ve done another 5k since-the George Washington Bridge Challenge 5k across the GWB. It was an American Cancer Society event I did with my friend from college who has a cousin diagnosed with Leukemia shortly after birth. He is now 6 and in remission!! Again, it was an amazing experience. I completed that race in 1 hour, 18 minutes, and 12 seconds! I think the major time difference had a lot to do with the GWB being completely flat, but it was also the attitude. I’m doing my next 5k 2 weeks from today. The Hope is Coming 5k to benefit the Smillow Cancer Hospital. My goal is to get my time down to an hour or less (slightly irrational I know).

Okay, I’ve shared two of my passions. By now I probably just sound like a crazed “wannabe athlete”. Some of you might even be saying, “But this can’t be safe/healthy/whatever you’d like to call it, because you have CP” So, WHY DO I do this?! Well, that’s where passion #3, and the strongest passion of all comes in.

It started as an idol, moved into a hobby, and has now transformed into a mantra and a way of life. LIVESTRONG. The one word motto from Lance Armstrong after he launched his foundation to raise money and awareness for cancer research. I’ve always looked up to Lance for his courage, strength, and overall ability to fight, and beat, the odds. When he launched LIVESTRONG, I just looked up to him that much more. Whether he ever enters the pro-peloton again. Or any sporting event for that matter, he has taught me what it really means to fight, to triumph, to believe in a cause, and to make a change. THAT is why I do this. Because it’s not a matter of just living, but living strong. With every pedal stroke and every step I take on a course, I am putting the LIVESTRONG way of life into action.

If I ever doubt my abilities, or whether it’s safe for “someone with CP” to be doing these things, I look down to my left wrist where my yellow LIVESTRONG wristband sits, and am reminded that this is my life, and I will hold the same attitude I have since I began following Lance Armstrong in 1999.

I know I have a wide variety of readers to this blog, but I encourage you (and your children!) to find your own ways to live the LIVESTRONG way of life. 🙂

Photo Credits:

Peloton Photo: http://www.photosfan.com/images/2009-tour-de-france1.jpg

Livestrong Photos: Twitter.com/lancearmstrong

Spinning

The title of this blog is a reference to many different areas of my life. One of those, is my love of Spinning classes. I started spinning almost 2 years ago, at my gym & physical therapy clinic. It started out as just something to try to waste 20 minutes at the end of a PT session because my brain had checked out. I really had no desire to be conquered by yet another “able-bodied, normal person’s” exercise class and would much rather have been sitting outside waiting for my ride home.
From the minute I got on the bike that night, I knew something was different. First of all, there was no balance needed–the bike was stationary, but upright like real bike. First point goes for me. Second, the pedals came equipped with these rubber foot covers called cages so that your foot would be strapped into the pedal and not slide off while you were riding. (This was always the biggest problem for me when I tried to ride a bike as a kid.) Second point to me. Within those few minutes, I fell in love. It wasn’t until I got off the bike that I realized it had scored one point against me. I had huge cuts on both of my thighs/inner knee areas. Because of the tightness of some of my leg muscles and the circular motion of pedalling sometimes my legs would not be able to stay far enough from the bar the seat rested on and I ended up repeatedly scraping myself.
“Oh well” was honestly my first thought. Not oh well that I would just have to forget about my new found love because of my bodies limitations, but oh well that my body was just going to have to forget about its limitations because of my new found love. There was no way I was going to give this one up. Over several months I worked hard to build up my endurance in these classes, slowly adding on 5 minutes every week or so until I eventually completed a whole class 3 weeks later.
The best part about Spinning for me at the time was the environment. Our spin room, like most, is black lit. This allows riders to get in their own “zone” while they’re riding. A true Godsend for me. For once I was not worried about other eyes being on me, as they had been so many times in my life, or keeping up with everyone else. It was just me, the bike, a stereo, and the long roads of whatever journey I was on stretching out before me.
Over the past 2 years, I have become an integral part of the Spinning community at the gym. I ride 3-4 classes per week most weeks and I have participated in, and helped organize annual Pedal for A Purpose 5 hour charity spinning rides. This past March I rode for 3 hours to benefit United Cerebral Palsy and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Sure, I ended up with a stress fracture/tendinitis/a hip that now hurts whenever the weather changes, but I would do it all again if I could.
This is just something I wrote last year about what Spinning means to me, though some people still may never understand it fully:
Some say it’s just a bike.
It’s one class at one gym.
It’s something her peers conquer everyday—and have for years before her.
She sees something more.

It’s not about the number of calories burned.
It’s not about the ready-for-summer legs.
It’s not even about any aspect of exercise or fitness.
Sure, those are some really great outcomes but to this girl they’re simply added bonuses.
Because, she sees something more.

So, you ask—puzzled, if none of that is what’s important, what is the point?
The answer to this question is simple. However, some may never understand it.
It’s about that feeling deep inside her heart.
The feeling locked far away where it can’t be seen by any mere passerby.
It’s about the athlete.
Not the softball star that has a crowd of admirers following her around wherever she goes.
Not the flawless dancer whose graceful movements across a stage bring her viewers to tears.
This athlete will never get her fame on ESPN or the local news, or in a competition.
In fact, you won’t even notice her, because it’s not about that.
You see, she sees something more.

This athleticism and this emotion come from deep within.
So deep that, at times, she struggles find it.
Why did I think I could make it? Why did I think that I could be the same as those around me?
As the inner demon starts to control her, as she tries to find her strength, these questions surface.
But she fights. She pushes. And just when she is ready to give up, the feeling appears again.
She feels free. She feels strong. She feels alive.
As alive as a newborn baby breathing in her world for the very first time.
For just one hour, most times just once a week, she feels at peace.
It’s not just something to do for fun, or to make her feel included in this world.
In this room, she sees something more.

She does not see the Cerebral Palsy, the walker, or the unsteady gait
She sees a young woman broken down by the hands of time.
But a woman who is growing and putting herself back together with each pedal stroke.
She sees something more.

She does not see an ugly inner being, a shattered mirror broken from the weight of the pain just looking into it causes, or a tear stained pillow she lays her head on each night
She sees an equal.
An equal who is fighting along with the women beside her to make it through that extra sprint, that last climb.
She sees something more.

So no, it’s not just a bike, or a class, or a gym, or a group of strangers who ride together.
It’s her release, it’s her freedom, it’s all her dreams rolled into one, and it’s her friends. No, her family.
And because of all of it,
In herself, she sees something more.

For me, Spinning is my outlet. It’s my time away from my daily struggles and the pain they sometimes cause even if I try not to think about that. It’s a time to reflect and a time to really be proud of the accomplishments I’ve made–both on and off the bike. Most importantly though, it’s a time to be the person I truly am on the inside. A time to let my inner Lance Armstrong shine through. I hope you all can, and will, go out and find that in your own lives if you haven’t already. You deserve to.