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.

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? 😉

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?

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! 🙂

Racing Ramblings…

There’s “Music Monday”, there’s “Make a Difference Monday”…all of these usually lead to some pretty great posts with new songs and new causes, but today all I have is a Monday post. It’s been a while–my apologies! School took over for the month, and I can’t say I’ve had anything life altering to post for you all. Which, I suppose, could be a good thing.

I’m really excited for the upcoming months. March boasts my 5th Elton John concert with my dad, Spring Break (not going anywhere, but can’t wait for the mental vacation) and of course the 4th Annual Pedal for a Purpose!

Add in there that I might be participating in my first race of the season on the 19th, and I’m one happy girl. I stress the might because it all depends on weather/road conditions/my body. Either way though, it’s coming! I sat down on Saturday and picked out a race a month (tentatively) from March-October. Right now, everything is local with the exception of the LIVESTRONG Challenge Philly in August. This race has been on my radar since 2008, and I think this might be the year. I’m not sure that a race a month will physically and logistically work out, but I’m going to try my hardest.

I miss everything about having a solid workout regimen since moving back home after college, and having the races in the back of my mind will hopefully give me some added motivation.  Speaking of motivation, it was lacking for about a week, but it’s back again. I think I had been going so strong since right before Christmas with the working out and everything that I just needed a break before I hit serious burn out.

Having taken a week off or so has left me with a question…and I thought I’d pose it to all of my readers, not just those with special needs or parents, but anyone. After taking about 6 days off from stretching an hour a day, I am extremely tight (particularly hamstrings) and kind of feel like I am starting back at the beginning. I know that I will get everythiing back now that I’ve started again, but it just seemed fast.

So I guess my question is: is that normal, when you take a week off, to feel like you’ve lost ground that quickly? Do any of my reader’s know if CP makes the tightness happen quicker(or something)? Or is this something that everyone who works out, stretches, etc. goes through and I just don’t know because I’ve spent most of my life NOT doing those things? 🙂

Thanks for checking in, Happy Monday!

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! 🙂

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! 🙂