Brick by Brick

The way we think about challenges in life seems different for everyone. Looking at the way we approach those tasks may be different still. When faced with a test, some might jump in feet first, while others could take it slow. In my life, opting for the slower approach has seemed more affective. Though I admire the ability to plunge off a cliff and figure things out on the way down. In many ways, cerebral palsy helps facilitate a tendency toward the more cautious side. The approach has helped me in many aspects of life. Whether talking about gaining emotional or physical strength. From events of my youth, I’ve found a house built without a steady foundation tends to crumble. It seems this thought can be applied to the gaining of strength in life. The more diligent we become about improving ourselves, the less likely those improvements will crumble with a strong wind. Cerebral palsy may add to the time required to learn, but I feel the time spent has created a sturdy foundation, one brick at a time.

Cerebral palsy has added to the challenge of learning. Sometimes I find myself using the disability as an excuse. Especially in the world of physical movement. I will look at something and struggle to envision myself succeeding. There are times I have a preconceived notion that someone with CP shouldn’t be able to perform the task. When the reality is, it may simply take longer for me to achieve a physical movement. In the gym, this week I attempted a lift it seemed would always evade my skill set. It’s called a sumo-deadlift and from a young age I remember watching people perform the lift. The movement always looked complex. It felt as though I would always lack the strength and coordination. My time spent in a gym, gave me no indication the improvements could be made to perform the movement. There was no way of knowing what I was in for this week.

When the journey of working out with a trainer began, I had no idea what to expect. Throughout college my gym experience had been limited. The exercise routine consisted of some dumbbell weight lifting and riding the stationary bike. Even upon beginning my work with a trainer after college, there was a fear of walking on a treadmill. The first trainer didn’t seem to have much faith in my ability. It also could have been my lack of confidence in my ability. For years, we exercised using simple movements. Much of our sessions seemed to be geared toward physically moving through the day easier, rather than building muscle. He could have struggled with an understanding of cerebral palsy. Therefore, leaving him concerned with injury and the lack of capability. But, those years of cardiovascular, simple movement, and light strength training, served an important purpose. The years taught my body how to exercise through the challenge of cerebral palsy. It may have felt like a tedious process, but it set the foundation for the challenge I met this week.

Even with the work done with my original trainer, there was still foundation work unfinished. It seems when we come in contact with those who believe in us, things can change. The trainer I work with today brought a different outlook to training with cerebral palsy. He has always felt no exercise or fitness level is unachievable. Making me feel even with CP there doesn’t need to be limits to my fitness level. I’ve learned through our time together he doesn’t enter a workout without a short term and long term plan. The physical movements we do, are designed to provide the foundation for more complex movements in the future. It seems to require more creative ideas for building muscles affected by cerebral palsy. But, the time and effort put into strengthening my body one brick at a time, has greatly reduced the symptoms of CP. The process of targeting one muscle in order to target the next, along with the cumulative affect it has, often leaves me surprised.

This week when the trainer set up a barbell for me to attempt the sumo-deadlift, I felt more excitement than anxiety. Our time together has shown he won’t place me into a position of failure. It leaves me confidant we have been preparing for this type of lift. The first couple attempts where a little shaky. As I explained the feeling in my back, he gave me pointers, tweaking the way I went about the movement. By the time, we completed the new exercise, I found myself improving my form, adding to the weight and repetitions within each set. It was a milestone in the journey of my fitness. One that didn’t seem reachable a month ago, even though the process of achieving the sumo-deadlift began long before that. The bricks supporting this accomplishment were put in place unbeknownst to me and the emotional gains seemed to follow a similar path.

Emotional strength can follow the path of physical strength. A trainer may not simply help strengthen your body, but modify the view of your world. Cerebral palsy can strip away strength with the lack of exercise. Moving my view of the world into a more negative context. However, as strength increases, my interactions with the world around becomes more positive. Slowly, simple physical tasks become slightly easier to perform. With each slight improvement, another brick is put in place, and a small increase in confidence occurs. Often the small uptick in self-esteem goes unnoticed until an unforeseen goal is achieved. Then you may realize the bricks have slowly been put in place emotionally as well. The emotional foundation can help us realize our capability and in turn grow our confidence. It may feel awkward at times, when the world around looks different. But, all the positive effort has created a stack of bricks that won’t easily tumble.

One brick at a time is how I view challenges in life. Cerebral palsy might cause more difficult challenges, but we all face our own set of obstacles. Just like a well-built home, it seems important to start with a sturdy foundation. It often feels, the first steps are the least exciting, but the most crucial. Without the first layer of bricks nothing can be placed on top. The first years of exercise were tedious. They were made up of simple movements other people didn’t seem to require. It frustrated me to find I couldn’t work out like those around me. The process would be more involved for me to realize true strength and stability. One brick at a time, my strength began to improve, fostering improvements of self-esteem and slowly changing my interaction with the world. There have been times of frustration and temptations to give up. This week was an example of how perseverance can lead to achievement. The work will continue, as we find new ways to accomplish things I didn’t think were possible.










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