My Body

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“Why do you out your body through so much?”
“Be careful. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“You must be really pissed off at your body.”
“Working out so much does not mean that you’re going to not have to deal with the Cerebral Palsy.”

Yes, all of those statements have been said to me at least once-sone hundreds of times. Yes, each of them has been true at some point in my life. However, they are not my top reasons for being so passionate and invested in my personal fitness journey. In fact, they are not even in my top 100.

Why do I work out and work so hard every day? Because I love my body.

I’ll admit that this wasn’t always the case. In the beginning, I was guilty of taking out my physical frustrations on my body. I was trying to perfect something that didn’t necessarily need perfecting. I was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, at least not it the way I was thinking.

As time evolved though, so to did my mindset. Fitness became less about perfection and more about growth. Growth on both physical and emotional levels. I wanted to see how far I could get, where I could take my body and my mind, the goals I could accomplish and the boundaries I could healthily push. Even within the past week, that growth has expanded even more.

Fitness, for me, has become about loving myself, loving my body, and being confident in both. Because it is then that my physical strength has the opportunity to shine through and truly push the limits. I know this is my heart and I will not let anyone try to tell me otherwise. I have learned that when my motives are pure, and strong, and for the love of my body and myself, that’s when I feel most physically strong and able. And there is nothing that can beat that feeling.

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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…

Random Acts of Kindness

It’s a pretty well known assumption (I won’t say fact because I know someone will pick up on that) that we live in a society that is generally pretty self-centered on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, we are all too often in a rush to get where we need to be, to get things done, and look out for ourselves as number one.  I say generally because there are times when we, as a whole, transcend that tendency and reach our hand out to someone in need.

The past few days have been rocky here on the East Coast with the aftermath of hurricane Sandy in CT, NY, NJ, and RI.  We were fortunate enough where I am to have never lost power, but just less than an hour south of me is devastation along the shoreline.  Times like this stir up the humanitarian in all of us, the strong hearts that we all have, and the desire to help others.  I for one know I wish I could be in NY doing something to help with the cleanup efforts.  My prayers are with everyone so greatly effected.

Those times can also occur on a much smaller, more personal scale.  There doesn’t have to be a natural disaster or a devastating heartbreak of some kind.  Sometimes that helping hand comes in the form of a simple random act of kindness–and just that occurred for me this morning.

I was at the gym for my normal Saturday morning double and was doing some free weight work in the boot camp class.  Normally I sit down if we’re going to be lifting for a long period of time to preserve some energy, but I knew this wasn’t going to last long and I wanted to make the quick transition.  One small problem: the studio floor is super slippery because of the type of wood it is (I think), so the breaks on my walker wheels sometimes don’t work as well. Usually I can get by readjusting myself, but today it was not working and the walker started sliding backwards every time I’d let go to do a bicep curl…so annoying…and unsafe too I guess. 😉 All of the sudden I noticed I wasn’t sliding anymore, and looked behind me to see that one of my fellow bootcampers had positioned herself behind my wheels so that her feet could block them from sliding!!

I was so taken aback by her actions that all I could say was thanks.  Not only did they allow me to continue on with the workout, but also gave me a little extra push. I was tired, class was almost over, but knowing that someone was standing behind me, extending me a helping hand, helped me to find the energy to keep going.  We were a team, connected through her kindness, and I wasn’t going to let her down.

I don’t even know this woman’s name, and she probably doesn’t even know how big that random act of kindness was for me, but sharing this with all of you is my way of saying such huge thank you to her!

Don’t ever underestimate the power of a random act of kindness offered or a helping hand extended.

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.

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.

Make A Difference Monday: The World Needs More of This

This morning I got a text message from a family member telling me to check out an article on the front page of the Hartford Courant.  I don’t get the paper at my house and just got the chance to check out the article, but as soon as I did, I knew I needed to get on here and tell everyone about this amazing and inspiring story.

In case you’re not the reading type (except for my blog of course!) here’s the gist: At age 15, CT resident Micaela Connery didn’t get picked for a part in her school play.  She wasn’t sure why, but decided she would instead start her own independent production at her school.  She also noticed that there were never any students with disabilities involved in school plays or activities, and decided she was going to do something about it! And so Unified Theater was born. The program is a truly inclusive theater program in the Hartford, CT area, which brings together children and young adults with and without disabilities to put on productions.

Micaela’s program is expanding all over the country from CT and CA. Amazing, right?! I thought so too! If you are a parent of a child with special needs, check to see if there is a program in your area. They also offer program training to anyone interested in bringing Unified Theater to their neck of the woods–I’m definitely thinking about it. 

And all of this start when a 15-year-old girl, now 25, turned one road block in her high-school years into an inspiring and life changing program for kids. The world needs more people like Micaela. So to all my 20 something friends reading this: don’t doubt that we can, and we will, do our part to make a change too. 🙂

The Return

Can it really be that I haven’t updated this blog in three months?! That was a complete shock to me! I knew it had been a while, but no where near that long! I could sit here and rattle off excuses as to why I haven’t blogged, but don’t we all hear enough excuses in our daily lives? And do we really listen to the full response once we hear a person say, “I haven’t done XYZ because…”. I know I have a tendency to turn my ears at least partially off at that point.

Instead, I’ll give a quick rundown of what I’m up to, what’s new, and what I hope to post more of in the coming months!  First and foremost, if you’re a new reader, welcome and thank you for starting to follow along on my journey.  Scroll up a little and click on the “About Me” tab just below the picture if you’ve gotten here via Google or another search engine to find out more about me.  Also, feel free to subscribe using the button to the right. 🙂

Next to the “About Me” tab is something new!! I’ve added a “If you like what I have to say…” tab.  This a my way of adding some new resources to my blog.  If you click on it, you’ll see that I’ve added some of my most frequented blogs, sites, and videos. I’m hoping this will be a fun way to let everyone see who and what inspires and interests me, without me just writing about it.  Please check it out and comment on the page to let me know what you think!

The page is also a bit of a preview of what I’m hoping to do with the blog as I continue writing.  When I was getting ready to start blogging again, I felt like I needed to change some things. Not really take anything away, but add things. What I’d like to in addition to my own anecdotes, rants, and just general musings, is add in a holistic approach that is relevant to not only my life, but the lives of everyone who stops by to read.  The way I’d like to do this, if it works, is through an array of posts on fitness and recreation and the adaptations for the special needs community, health and nutrition, faith and spirituality, my research interests in psychology, and many other areas.  I’ve always wanted to find a way to make my blog into a “whole life” blog while still keeping it personal enough as it relates to my life and my experiences with all of these topics.

I hope you’re as excited as I am about these new changes! Thanks for coming along. 🙂