We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of exercise. It seems crucial for all of us to spend some time working out. The benefits are numerous, like helping prevent the illnesses of heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Exercise can also help elevate our mood by releasing chemicals in our brain. For cerebral palsy, getting exercise might even be slightly more important. So, to help with my symptoms working out with a trainer has been beneficial. However, the goal has always been to find different ways of exercising in addition to training. Playing golf in the summer and skiing in the winter become sports to help me improve balance. Taking on any new physical challenge can also help strengthen the body differently than before. While, bringing back activities of my youth like cycling or doing something totally new like hiking also help. These are all ways of working the body differently. These activities work muscles that other forms of exercise might not reach. So, not long ago an idea came up that seemed totally outside of the box. CrossFit was something that never entered into my thought process to attempt. The chiropractor who works on me truly enjoys doing CrossFit and thought it could be good for me to get involved with. Once I decided to try, it took a couple attempts with CrossFit to find something that worked well.
It did take some time for me to come around to trying CrossFit. Most of the images that came to mind when thinking about it were concerning. CrossFit always struck me as a pretty intense form of exercise. With cerebral palsy, the idea simply seemed to be over my head. The stories of lifting heavy weight and being timed while doing it felt overwhelming. Injuries seemed to be part of many storied relayed regarding CrossFit. But, my chiropractor kept talking to me about giving the gym an opportunity. He talked about the great people who work out in the morning. They all had formed a sense of community that was supportive. There could also be modifications made to the movements as needed. The coaches would help find some way to modify each exercise that might be too challenging. Any movement could also be done at lighter weights than prescribed. There were many ways to make it all work and Dana was serious about me making an attempt. Finally, the excuses ran out and I gave CrossFit a try.
Before entering into any form of exercise, there are things to learn. CrossFit had three different lessons which needed to be completed with a coach before workouts could begin. These classes turned out to be extremely informative. The coaches worked me through proper technique for all movements used during workouts. We worked with small amounts of weight on some movements, while other movements they had me using no weight at all. Each class taught me that some of my movement patterns had been wrong for a while. It helped outside of the Cross Fit gym as well, giving me a better understanding of movement patterns. The lessons took over a week to find the time to complete, with each hour session becoming more complex. During that time, it was even difficult for me to complete one sit-up without assistance from a band. There was still weakness throughout my body holding me back. Even with the challenges through my body with cerebral palsy, we made it past the coaching lessons. It was time to give CrossFit an attempt for real.
The people in the CrossFit gym were great during my first go around. Coaches were supportive and helpful in modifying movements to help my workouts. But, after a few workouts, it wasn’t working. Each time I went into the gym felt overwhelming. The weakness experienced during our coaching sessions seemed to be carrying over. CrossFit slowly began frustrating me to the point of walking away. However, one of the bright spots was Wednesday mornings when we did our workouts in pairs. Those Wednesday workouts seemed more easily managed and tackling the task with a partner was fun. Painful exercise becomes easier when the misery can be shared. Still, even with the Wednesday workouts feeling slightly more manageable, it continued to be overwhelming. In the end, I decided to take a long break from CrossFit. It was an enjoyable experience, but I continued to feel overmatched by the difficulty of each workout.
Continuing to heal the weakness driving me away from CrossFit was important. So, work continued with my training just as before. The unique thing about working with a trainer has been our ability to work specific muscle groups. CrossFit seems to design their workouts for the majority of people to benefit. Things within workouts can be modified to help make movements easier. But, it has felt difficult to focus on specific weakness within the body. Working with Ian helps strengthen supportive muscles in unique ways to make more major movements easier. When those smaller muscle groups become stronger, more weight can be lifted. The sessions with Ian also help flexibility, giving me the balance to complete those complex movements. We have the ability to break down the body and slow down the workout. CrossFit also uses workout timing to speed the intensity and create competition. These ideas help produce better workout, but require strength and stability to move at an elevated pace. The only way CrossFit was going to work was if I got stronger.
My chiropractor continued to check in about coming back to CrossFit. It had probably been six month since walking away and gaining strength with Ian was working. But, in the summer months’ activity levels elevate. In addition to working out at the gym, the weather allows for other activities like playing golf or working in the yard. These other things keep me building strength and balance along with the training sessions. So, my reply back to Dana was the thought of possibly coming back to CrossFit in the winter months. It seemed likely to require adding something to my exercise when the weather turned. The continued delay would also provide more time building the stability needed to make my next attempt productive. My deal to myself was also to just go back for partner Wednesday workouts. Getting involved fully in CrossFit still didn’t make much sense. Working with Ian has been so productive for me that reducing those training sessions didn’t seem productive. But, the partner workouts would seem to achieve that middle ground, so I could enjoy workouts with Dana and everyone in the CrossFit gym.
When winter finally came, it was time to give CrossFit another try. There was still skepticism over whether this form of exercise would work. But, the hard work had been done during the winter to gain strength. On that first day, back in the CrossFit gym my growth felt obvious. Movements were easier than they had been in the past. The people were just as kind as they had been too. However, this time inside the gym felt more comfortable. There seemed to be better feelings of inclusivity with the new faces that had joined. My added strength and stability had me feeling further part of the team. CrossFit no longer felt too overwhelming. The movements were coming more naturally and I found myself bonding better with other members. The journey of not giving up on CrossFit had been completed and the gym was fun. It was a feeling that I honestly thought would be unreachable. It continues to be a form of working out only enjoy on Wednesday mornings, but just getting to that point seems an accomplishment.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy require continual exploration. CrossFit became an idea to strengthen my body from another angle. Even with it not working the first go around, it wasn’t given up on. After taking time away from the CrossFit gym to work on things hampering the activity, CrossFit has become positive. It still isn’t the end all solution to helping with CP. Life has taught me many things go into helping cerebral palsy. But, finding different ways to work on strength and stability has been a major aspect. The process begins by working in the gym with a trainer and fills in with other sporting activities. CrossFit has been somewhat of an accomplishment to add, because it required more strength than I had at the time. As my journey with cerebral palsy continues CrossFit will remain one more piece to help. The comradery inside the gym provides motivation and fun, it gives me something different. Hopefully as life continues, more activities will be found to challenge cerebral palsy.