Each trainer we work with looks at working out differently. As my journey with cerebral palsy continues, Monday was my first session with a new trainer. The final work out session with Ian concluded last week. This week began my work with Bernard and his perspectives. It takes time to become comfortable with someone different. Going into our first work out session carried some apprehension. However, there were things about the new training relationship to put my mind at ease. Usually when entering into working with someone new, cerebral palsy seems important to discuss. It becomes interesting for me to find out whether they are familiar with CP and have worked with anyone who has the disability. Luckily, I knew going into our first session that he was familiar with the challenges. He has a son who has the same disability. Cerebral palsy can appear different from one case to the next, but there was comfort in his familiarity. The other interest for me was going to be his depth of knowledge. He might have a son with cerebral palsy, but would that fact influence our work together? There were many question in my mind going into our work.
It was bittersweet to walk into the gym and not see Ian. He had done so much for the development of my strength. My body had been relatively fragile when walking into the gym for the first time. Ian spent many hours beginning at the elementary level of strength and we built stability that had never been there before. Our work out sessions were full of exercises that didn’t seem possible for me prior to our work together. It felt satisfying to engage in movements I had only witnessed in high school. During those early years, thinking I would never have the stability or balance to perform something like a deadlift. Or bench-press much more weight than the forty-five-pound bar. The ride with Ian was pretty exciting, but most good things come to an end at some point. It would be important to keep an open mind going into my first session with the new trainer. Ian had been one of the most positive people to work with, but B deserved a chance to shine new light on my work out routine.
When meeting with my new trainer our first conversation revolved around goals. He had been around to witness my work outs with Ian. Even though he was never personally involved in my sessions with Ian, we began working out during the afternoon. It seemed our switch was to be in a similar time slot to one I would eventually occupy with the new trainer. The change in time would also give B a chance to observe our sessions, as he was often training one of his clients during the same time. This all leads to a conversation, which would not be necessary. The cerebral palsy wouldn’t need to be discussed because of his familiarity with my disability. It gave us the opportunity to simply move into talking about goals inside the gym. My first goal inside any training program has always been to improve the symptoms of my disability. The goal of improving the strength and stability that cerebral palsy has always tried tearing down. Any goals beyond working though my cerebral palsy would be simply gaining overall strength, balance, and improving my golf skills.
Our journey working together began with cerebral palsy becoming our first priority. The new trainer wanted to begin each session working on my disability. So, in going to work, he had specific movements to help the symptoms. Throughout our first workout, the idea revealed itself as we proceeded. Everything he wanted me to work on, he wanted done one side of the body at a time. This meant doing each of my lifts one arm at a time. If we placed my hands together in order to perform an exercise, we rotated from one side of the body to the other. Some examples during our workout was cable row with one arm, then switching to the other arm. The session included one arm deadlifts with a kettle bell, instead of using both hands to lift the weight. We also walked over a series of foot tall hurdles, then moved over them laterally, then did a slow jog over the series of them. There was also time spent on a balancing mat, where the challenge was to see how long I could stand on one leg, then make the switch and check my ability to balance using only the other leg. These were mostly new exercises for me, focusing on most aspects of cerebral palsy, everything was required to be done as smoothly as possible. It wasn’t simply about lifting weight.
The new partnership would be about working the brain along with the movement. In working one side of the body at a time, I work across the body. One of the most difficult things to do with cerebral palsy, is to manipulate one side of the body independently. Working out becomes easier when only thinking about one movement. An example would be doing any kind of motion when both sides of the body work together accomplishing the same goal. When each side works on different tasks, the brain becomes more involved in the workout. Bernard wants to turn all the lights on in my brain during workouts. The result becomes thinking about each movement instead of simply performing the exercise. My concentration level was much higher when working with the new trainer. It was difficult to pay attention to the things going on around me, due to the more intense thoughts. The trainer wanted to work in this way because of the hampering cerebral palsy causes in transferring signals of movement from brain to body.
It’s challenging for these movement signals to get out to the muscles with regular momentum. The signals should be moving faster and with more freedom. That hesitation in the signals becomes part of what causes the rigidity and tension. These situations bring about the absence of smooth transitions in movements. If we change the workout, maybe we can speed up the connections between brain and muscle. It would mean getting the signals to move more quickly by practicing the connection through movement. The idea seems to be, once we’ve become comfortable with one movement, we not only add weight, but make the movement of that weight more complicated. Our result over time should be causing the brain better recognition of movement patterns. The elevated familiarity could improve the speed of signal transmission and smooth out movements. It all seems to be educationally guessing at results, but we both have experience with cerebral palsy, so it just might work.
After experiencing one session with the new trainer, the theory of working out has changed. This will be the third trainer I’ve worked with during my adult life. Seeking out training earlier in life would have helped improve cerebral palsy sooner. It has become somewhat of a regret that the process wasn’t started earlier. The idea of working with a trainer simply didn’t occur to me until later in life. So, now we move on to our third theory of helping cerebral palsy symptoms. The first two helped build my body to the position of taking on this new challenge. We are going to strive for both stability and strength. Bernard seems to have the theory of not having one without the other. Every exercise we have performed to this point focuses on fluidity of movement first. It’s performing movement as smoothly as possible, not increasing weight until that ease becomes accomplished. The new formula seems to combine theories from the first two trainers of my life. There has also been a different bond developing because our shared experience with CP. With Bernard raising his son who has cerebral palsy along with my battle with the same disability, it seems we share a common language and understanding. Our work together could become pretty exciting.