Cerebral Palsy First

Our workouts today are being pushed further than they have been in the past. It seems each week brings something new to experiment with. It also feels like something new about cerebral palsy can be learned. With the movements becoming more complex, I’m also gaining new information about movement patterns themselves. The way our mind has control over the way our body moves has become interesting. Cerebral palsy has compromised the connections that should be naturally taking place between my mind and the way my body moves. The trainer Bernard has been spending much of our time working on those movement patterns, which have been compromised. He always finds something new that challenges the way my body moves and there has become a CP first focus. The sessions always begin by working on exercises specifically designed to target those movements cerebral palsy has inhibited. These exercises have been some of the most challenging of any throughout my time of working out. Bernard has designed things which combine elements from physical therapy and weight lifting. They open pathways from my brain to the muscle that have become damaged. Doing these movements can bring about feelings of frustration from weakness as well as being discouraging with my lack of coordination.

Cerebral palsy causes the brain damage that makes movements challenging. Those patterns, which have been lost, seem to have the ability to be regained. The connections require hard work to reestablish those lost movement patterns. This becomes the reason for spending the first part of each workout working specifically on cerebral palsy connections. We are challenged to work on rerouting the connection and learning to use muscles. Bernard accomplishes these tasks with creativity. Balance has always been one of our major focuses during the first part of the session. This week we began working on my balance in ways I hadn’t yet. It involved balancing on one leg at an angle and pulling my chest up to a bar. We attempted ten reps on each leg. The balance required was intense, with balancing on the right leg being most difficult. Keeping the suspended bar level, which was used to balance and pull toward, could barely be accomplished when we began. As repetitions continued, the exercise became easier.

We discussed a concept which was foreign to me, but interesting. When working with Bernard and even before with Ian, our discussions were often captivating. They both have a lot of knowledge when it comes to movement patterns. It wasn’t a subject of study for me while growing up. However, it feels like spending time learning about how our bodies move would have been advantageous. Because those movement patterns have been compromised with cerebral palsy, better understanding the impact would have been good. Learning more today has helped me follow those things we are trying to achieve. It seems much of our work has been attacking the compromised pathways. One way we do that was through proprioception, which is the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. Not being the most knowledgeable person, it leaves me to think about what this might mean. It seems to talk about placing the body in unique positions and asking it to respond. It’s something Bernard has been doing for me, seemingly since we began.

Another way of thinking about proprioception would be the ability to sense stimuli within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium. Proprioception is something disturbed in many neurological disorders, of which cerebral palsy would fit. But, part of the positivity of cerebral palsy has been the opportunity to improve these challenges. There has been so much value in working with trainers who have become familiar with these obstacles. It’s not simply them understanding the challenge, but also being able to help improve what has been lost. When Bernard had me standing on one foot and attempting to hold a suspended bar, this seems to be what he had in mind. The exercise had my body in a position it wasn’t familiar with, my position was abnormal, equilibrium was compromised, and the motion was challenging. I had done plenty of rowing movements in my life using both legs to help stabilize my motion, but never using just one leg for balance. The exercise felt awkward and unstable from the beginning. After getting my body into position to make the first attempt, it didn’t feel possible to achieve.

Beginning the work on this new exercise was frustrating. When we first started, it felt as though I wouldn’t be able to keep my balance. The movement began with my left leg being held in the air, because it has been more difficult to stabilize with my right side. It seems counterintuitive if cerebral palsy has more effect on the left side. However, playing golf for most my life seems to have strengthened balance on my left side. When my left leg went off the floor things were immediately unsteady, but the suspended bar provided something to hold. The most challenging part of the exercise was centering my body before pulling toward the bar. It was especially tough with my left leg up, but got better as my body gained the feel for the movement. The movement was substantially easier with my right leg being held off the floor. It seems golf has greatly helped the core strength of my left side, so raising my right leg and pulling toward the bar, came more naturally, and my body remained centered more easily. It was clear as the exercise continued, I was gaining the feel for it, as my stability became easier, and the proprioception involved in this movement was improving.

There are times when cerebral palsy becomes frustrating and discouraging. Though it has been helpful to work on these challenging movements, sadness does creep into my feelings. The feeling of wishing things were easier has to be fought against. However, I do understand these movements will require less energy as we improve on them. Bernard has always reminded me to concentrate working through difficult periods of our sessions. He reminds me things aren’t too hard; you just need to think. When those moments of discouragement arrive, my effort needs to increase, with the trust we are doing good things. It’s all about improving the cerebral palsy and that seems to require patience at each turn. When one exercise starts to become routine, Bernard creates something else to challenge CP in a new way. This week I learned a little about proprioception and how we are trying to improve those pathways. Who knows what new things there are to learn as we continue this journey of improvement.

Opening our work out sessions with CP focused exercises has been productive. The beginning of each session contains the least amount of fatigue. Not only does my body feel fresh as we get started, but my mind also feels ready to work. So, we attack the most challenging aspect of my work out routine. We know going in that these movements will be the most challenging of the day. I’m starting to become adjusted to understanding how discouraging some of them can be, as we get going on our hour of work. The other thing for me to keep in mind has been the understanding that I probably won’t become proficient at these movements. The minute they are done with some efficiency, Bernard will find another challenging movement to continue battling cerebral palsy. Even with the emotionality, my improvement has been undeniable. We will continue along our journey, though the progress at times feels slow. It has been exciting to be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally.


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