It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On Mindfulness: How to Exercise with Spastic Legs, Post 1 of Many

I think I'm going to start a series, "How to Exercise with Spastic Legs", but I don't own a camera, it requires pictures of me, and even if I did own a camera I can't take pictures of myself. People I know IRL read this blog. Anyone volunteer?

Today I went to the gym for the first time in so long I don't want to mention it. What precipitated this unusual event? I think my dosage of one of my meds is now too high and I'm a bit worried that it'll take me in a direction I don't want to go. I've been telling my shrink for 4 years that if I just got myself back on a horse (and found a massage therapist and an acupuncturist, and went to the gym) I could take myself off them. Then I realized that's probably dangerous, but feeling like I need to lower my dosage wasn't unexpected.

horse ✓
massages ✓
gym ✓
acupuncturist, not so much

Anyway, horseback riding precipitated my general desire to get back into shape even if it didn't get me physically to the gym.

The point of this post though isn't that I went to the gym for about 50 minutes today, but that I went in there with an entirely different mindset then I ever have in the 10 years I've been gyming on and off. I started physical therapy 2 weeks ago for the first time in about 4 years I think, a referral I got from a close friend (so why did I find myself in a gym? My goal is to exercise 30-60mins 7 days a week, as opposed to the 2-3hrs 2x a week I used to do) and I think it's this PT that used to tell my friend to "respect the pain." I used to take long gym breaks and then go back to my exact same workout I was doing before, thinking that lower weight or lower speeds would be ok. Except I always ended up pulling muscles in my legs several gym sessions in a row.

This time I decided to "respect the pain," and not do anything potentially dangerous. I stayed off the weights. I only biked for 5mins, I stayed on the tredmill for just 5mins, backwards (a GREAT exercise that works your abs, adductors, glutes, hamstrings, gastrocs, upper arm muscles, and every muscle in your back) and did a modified floor routine: 75 crunches, 20 "girl" push ups, 15 hip bridges, and 30 of my shoulder stretches.

And to my surprise I ended up practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness has been big in psychotherapy for at least the last decade. It's what the picture (right, isn't it odd that I found a picture with a horse) says it is: "Being still, becoming aware, living fully in the present moment." Mindfulness is big in eating disorder and anxiety treatment, among other things, although it's not something I've ever delved into in therapy, despite my anxiety issues. Either it isn't my therapist's "thing," or she caught on rightfully that it isn't my thing. I shy away from anything new agey.

If you want to learn about my particular subset of mindfulness, Body Sense, or Embodied Self-Awareness, check out this post from Psychology Today. Today when my abs felt the tinyist bit sore (a 0.5 on a pain scale) I stopped what I was doing at the end of that set, put both hands on my stomach, and took 10 deep breaths in and out, counting them and focusing on what my breath felt like. Then I kept going.

I'm focusing intensely on my adductors and my abs, so after my hip bridges, I laid flat on my back on the floor (I was already down there, so why not), my body aligned completely straight with my legs hip width apart, put my hands on my hip bones, which I wasn't even able to feel until I was 13, and concentrated on how my back felt against the wood floor and the 0.5 degree of pain in my right adductor, and I just breathed. I may start taking baclofen before my workouts. It's always been the tightest muscle in my entire body and if just that little bit of a stretch causes any degree of discomfort I don't want to risk going further and doing damage.

Mindfulness was an unexpected change, and something I hope to be able to continue, although people sometimes get concerned if you're lying on the floor at the gym. As someone with spastic CP, I typically spend all day "scrunched up." I'm sitting in my powerchair right now hunched over slightly, I tend to end up sleeping with my legs crossed, I stand crooked with my legs bent at the knees. For the last half of my life since my hip flexor surgery and my subsequent back issues I've tried to spend a few minutes at night in bed laying on my stomach. I figure your body wasn't designed to be scrunched all day long and it's the least I can do for myself.

But this was different, besides the fact that I was able to fight the urge to cross my ankles. This centered me, and I owe it all to Bentley (the horse). It's something I'd recommend to all the spastics out there, even if you can't completely unscruntch yourself. Start a little at a time :)


Anonymous said...

WOOOHOOO! This is amazing! Wild and wonderful. Bit by bit... Way to go! Sounds like a great journey.

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