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…

The Power of the Mind

I’ve always believed in the power of the mind. It’s power to get you through tough times, to unlock potential, to be strong when the body is weak.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  One of my favorite quotes is even “change your mind and your body will follow”. However, this is something I’ve always had a bit of a hard time seeing for myself, within myself. You know, one of those age old can’t take my own advice kinda things–I can tell people how important the mind is to achieving your goals, but casually seem to forget that when it comes to my own life. Whoops!!

Until this morning.  Saturday mornings have become my sanctuary since the semester started.  With my interning and class schedules, I’m lucky if I make it in for a class during the week, so I’ve started doing doubles on Saturdays. Drums Alive for the fun cardio and then Full Body Blast/Core Fit for the strength, cardio, and ass-kicking.  The format of FBB changes week to week, but we almost always start out with some variation of interval training: 3 rounds of 7 different exercises performed for one minute each with a one minute breaks between rounds.  The idea is to ramp up your intensity each round, giving all you have left for that last round.

Take a journey with me: it’s the last exercise of the last round. Jumping jacks. Side note: I do regular jacks in terms of the lower bosy, just holding on to my walker for balance. We’re 21 minutes in at this point and everyone is just ready for it to be over. Timer goes and we’re all moving through our final for 60 seconds.  I have a tendency (in everything I do) to come out of the gate insanely strong, too strong for my own good, and then end up having to take a break or two within the minute.  Today started out no differently.  I was beasting through those first few seconds in both speed and accuracy.  Janice, our amazing instructor, was going around the room keeping everyone on track and all the sudden she stopped right in front of me, mirror image.  Janice has been an amazing asset to my life in the past few months since joining the gym and going for certification and has truly supported my goals from the get-go.  She started talking to me telling me things like “I know you want to go faster than me so do it” and that if I stopped and took a break at all in the next minute we’d all be starting over.  It wasn’t the fact that  I was slightly terrified of her in the moment that sparked my motivation, but what she was actually saying.  It was like she tapped into my own mind and knew what I was thinking. I did want to go faster than her. I am a competitor at heart. But my mind was stopping me from getting there.  And then something crazy happened. Janice looked at me and said “I know it’s hard, but do it anyway.” Those words not only unlocked my emotions and almost made me start crying, but unlocked my mind and body together to give me what I needed to push through until the end and do those jumping jacks for a minute without stopping. I have acknowledged that things are hard before, but hearing that acknowledgement from someone else is not something that happens often.  In that moment it was as if our minds synced.

It’s hard. Do it anyway. Do it because you want to better yourself. Do it because your dreams don’t take breaks or days off. Do it because your body does not define you. Do it because you can.

Heading to AFAA, Continuing to Grow

I head to my AFAA Group Exercise Certification workshop in less than 36 hours.  It has been a long 4 months of studying, hours upon hours at the gym re-choreographing what should be the simplest 8-minute cardio routine, practicing, worrying…you get the point.  I’ve spent so much time over the past 4 months doubting my abilities, what right do I have to be getting certified as a fitness instructor?

Over the past week or so though, my mind and my heart started to have a shift. I began to let go of the nerves. I began to tell myself that of course there are going to be things that are more difficult for me because of CP, like making my movements stay on the beat of the music. But that’s not all that teaching is about. And that’s certainly not all the fitness is about.  I began to tell myself that I will try my best, and I will show what I know how–my determination, my physical and mental strength, my ability to modify, and my desire to make a difference and show others, okay myself too, that anything is possible.

Tonight I made the executive decision to not attend one of my grad classes so that I could take some time at the gym to do a final run through in front of the mirrors and then stay for my new found love: kickboxing.  I’ve really come to like this class because of the huge physical challenge it provides me.  It’s one of the only classes I take that is spent entirely on my feet and almost entirely having to balance on my own without holding on to my walker for support (except for kicks because, well, I’m pretty sure we all know that’d end with my face meeting the floor).   We were doing front kicks at one point and these are always the hardest for me because of the muscle control needed not only to lift for the kick, but the whole concept of actually pushing the kick out.  Well, tonight I kicked higher than I ever have before.  Almost a foot higher. And it was a pretty damn good kick if I do say so myself.

After class, I was completely overcome with emotion. I was so happy that I actually got to see some serious physical improvement for the first time in a while, and was so proud of myself for continuing to keep at it even on the days when progress seems like it will never come.  I was so emotional over the fact that I have finally found a way to keep myself active.  Most importantly, I am so ready to share these feelings with the world.  I’m ready to step out and say “I can do this and I want other people to know that they can too.”

Almost 6 months ago, I got my second tattoo. I got it on my wrist so that I could see the words every day and remind myself how important they were.  Today I am proud to say that these words have brought me here: to a whole new world of possibilities waiting just ahead of me, to being proud of myself, to kicking higher, and to being ready to own my place and my purpose in this world.

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These 4 months preparing for AFAA have provided me with some amazing opportunities for physical, emotional, and spiritual growth and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next!

Thanks for reading and wish me luck! 🙂 I’ll update this weekend about my experience.

Know Your Body: The Importance of Modifications in Fitness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attitude

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

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Fitness Friday: How Group Fitness Gave Me Life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Physical therapy became fun.

-I feel like a dancer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-I AM AN ATHLETE.

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

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

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

More rambles

There are so many random thoughts going through my head today. I blame the absolutely GORGEOUS weather!

Dear Mother Nature, can it please stay like this from now on?? 🙂

Thanks to everyone who showed their support on my last two posts. I definitely felt it. I am happy to report that I’m back on track and really ready to go again. I find myself questioning so many things all the time, but it always comes back to my heart and the dreams and goals that sit, impatiently, inside waiting to be let out. They haven’t changed in years. And that’s OKAY. They are what I want to do, what make me happy, for ME. And I’m going to do them. (I’ll get into what some of those are at a later date).

So, for now, it’s back to basics–stretching everyday (EW!), crawling, standing, walking. And, most importantly, remembering that I need to breathe every now and then. I tend to forget that all too often 🙂

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! 🙂