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.

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Make A Difference (through music) Monday

Hi Everyone!

Just a heads up, this will probably be my last post before heading to Camp Care Thursday-Sunday then immediately off to a beach vacation for a week with my family.  I’m trying to “unplug” for this time, as I always do during camp, but you never know what I might get inspired to share with you all during a week on the beach.

I wanted to share a little something about Camp Care before I go though.  I thought, what better way than through music since music becomes a huge inspirational diving board for our morning and evening meetings.  This will be my 6th Camp Care session now, and these two songs have kind of become a perfect definition of what Camp Care is for me and for every one of the therapist staff, volunteers, kids and their families. (Note: get your tissues for the Matthew West song…)

Tenth Avenue North-Love Is Here

Matthew West-The Last Ones

For my readers that don’t know much about Camp Care, please check it out here. It is an amazing, completely free, therapy and recreation camp for children with special needs. Any of my SN parents readers or peers, if you are in the area anywhere driving distance to Connecticut (and even if you’re not) it’s worth checking out for you or your child.  Therapy focuses on both manual therapy techniques and functional therapy. I might have been a few years late on the bandwagon, but it has truly made the biggest difference in my life in terms of other therapies.  At least, that’s how I feel now that I’m an adult and have tried various things for myself. (Second note: you do not have to be of any specific religious affiliation to take part in camp or its activities.)

I know so many of you reading this have been such a huge source of support for me over the years through all my different trials and triumphs and I thank you immensely for that.  Many of you have supported my fundraising efforts in the annual Columbia Classic which benefits Camp Care.  This is so important since the camp, and its therapeutic riding program, are entirely run on donations. Thank you.

Even though I choose to participate in Camp Care as a volunteer first and foremost, when the time comes to participate as a camper, I thank God that I have so many of you praying for me and hoping for me. It makes all the difference in the world for me and my spiritual, emotional, and physical successes during Camp Care. Thank you.

All I ask is that you continue to keep all of us involved in camp in your thoughts and prayers over the coming days. All my love.

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? 😉

Self-disclosure and hints of clarity

Hello!! I really do exist!! Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. I have about 3 drafts sitting in a folder, but haven’t really felt compelled to finish any of them right now, and I’ve definitely learned that if the post doesn’t come to me right away it’s not meant to go up yet.

Where to start? What’s new in life? Snow, snow, and more snow. We’ve been getting attacked with it here in CT and I’ve had just about enough. Okay, I had enough about 30 inches ago. I think I would like the snow a lot more if it came in smaller bursts or if I were into any form of winter sports, but I’m definitely not. Although, I would like to try skiing one day! All this snow has led to far too much time being spent indoors lately, but it’s been somewhat of a blessing in disguise because it’s giving me the time, energy, and a little added motivation to stick to my semi self-imposed exercise plans (one month and 2 days! pretty sure that’s a new record in my life!). I’m so extremely happy about that. It’s still not everything and there’s still a lot more I need to get working toward, but it’s huge in my eyes.

The semester started up again on Monday. I was so ready for it. My family has always joked that I would go to school forever if I could and I can’t say I disagree with them. I’ve always loved school/learning. The reasons have changed over the course of my education, but the love has always been present. I’m taking 12 credits this semester, with one course being 6 credits, so I think it’s going to be a tougher few months, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’ve talked a lot about self-disclosure in my classes so far–as it pertains to the client-counselor relationship, as well as self-disclosure in the classroom with our peers, and it really got me thinking about self-disclosure in terms of having a disability. I’ve, often, fully self-disclosed in pretty much every setting (friends, doctors, stangers, classmates, interviews, etc.). Most of the time I felt like it was the right thing to do because my disability was much more visible, especially because I’ve always used some type of mobility aid, and I’d rather confront the topic than leave people with unanswered questions. Even though I’ve always done this, I don’t necessarily thing self-disclosing is “who I am” all the time. I don’t like people knowing a lot (or anything at all really) about me, seeing my strengths OR my weaknesses. I keep my heart in an iron-clad box, and if you know anything about me, it’s because you’ve proven, over years, that you’re not going to leave. I know that’s hard to believe, especially with this blog, but like I’ve said, it’s all part of the Plan and I don’t necessarily know why the blogosphere is so comfortable to me, but I have a feeling it’ll be revealed in due time. Until then, I’ll keep blogging as long as I have readers.

The past month has been a really amazing eye opener and gift for me. Between PT, school, and life in general, I’ve been under some stress, but also been given some amazing chances from God for clarity in my head and heart. And we all know how important and awesome those chances and moments are, no matter what your belief system is. One of those moments came this past weekend when I went to visit one of my friends from college, actually my first roommate, who I have stayed extremely close with over our 4 years. There is something so special about taking the time out of whatever is going on in your life to get away, both mentally and physically. It’s an even bigger gift when you can do that with someone who truly “gets” you and truly values who you are as a person and a friend. I’m lucky enough to have so many people in my life that have been there for me, will continue to be, and remind me of that daily. This weekend gave me the opportunity to kind of step outside and see the way others see me, instead of the often distorted view I see of myself (think, how we all feel when we look in the mirror, but on an emotional level as well). Everytime I’m given one of these opportunities, it always ends up leaving me a little lighter and a little happier. 

Another part of this clarity is starting to focus on the future, my career path, and my calling, meaning, whichever word you prefer, in this life. I have been shown so many new doors lately through others, through my own experiences, PT, reading materials, lately and I am eager (and incredibly happy!) to see if the big flashing neon sign that I keep seeing in my brain is really where I’m meant to be. I’m still in the process of discerning much of this clarity out for myself and researching the various hints that He’s been dropping for me, so I’m not going to share it publically yet (sorry! 🙂 ), but I will say that it has to do with all the things I’ve mentioned in this post so far. Vague, I know. Also, for my family and those of you who know me personally; I will say that this is not currently a discernment of a religious nature. Not like that would really matter, or is anyone’s business!

I am continually amazed how much life changes for me on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, and I can truly say that I’m in a state right now where I am happy and content, but that contentment doesn’t necessarily feel like a negative thing or a standstill. It feels right; in every sense of the word.

Also, I feel as though this post was completely random and lacking in a point or any interesting content at all, but thanks for stopping by and reading as always! I appreciate it more than many of you know.

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! 🙂