Hurdles

One of the most important factors of battling cerebral palsy has been movement. Cerebral palsy begins causing the most pain when we don’t work on flexibility. Using the agility hurdles was new for workouts with Bernard. When working with Ian, agility wasn’t part of our workout program. Even before working with Ian, the original trainer helping me, worked me through some agility drills, but nothing with consistency. It seemed strength building was the main component with precious trainers. The theory was working to help aspects of the cerebral palsy symptoms of my life. Working with more of a strength focus helped improve stability. It gave me good blocks to build from, making the things we work on today easier. The circuit we do in the final portion of our session wouldn’t be as productive without the prior strength gained. These hurdles require the strength built into my legs to navigate and succeed while working through them. They have also required the flexibility through my hips, gained by learning and executing some complex lifts from the past. However, it seems these drills could be done without having done that lifting to begin with. The hurdles have been about improving balance and overall condition. These circuits have been an exciting challenge.

It has seemed from the beginning Bernard has wanted to see me succeed at agility. These workout tools have seemed part of his life for many years. He grew up playing football at the running back, defensive back, and wide receiver positions. All of these positions require someone to excel at footwork, agility, balance, and body position awareness. Those four characteristics are major attributes cerebral palsy can take away. With me, even walking up a flight of stairs can be challenging. So, Bernard found something from his past to help improve my ability to simply move around daily life. Trainers in my experience seem to follow these types of patterns. Their past experiences with sports tend to influence their philosophy when it comes to training. With his positions on the football field, improving his balance helped contribute to Bernard becoming successful at his craft. It leaves me thankful to interact with someone who puts one of our major cornerstones around balance. As a kid, I can remember often losing balance, sometimes falling over, or sometimes catching myself. Even with age, my balance can be lost at times, so working on improving it feels crucial.

My cerebral palsy has an effect on my gait. The way my body moves when walking down the street can appear unusual. That different walk, has also made running more challenging, even though running has often been enjoyed. Part of the reason for my challenges with walking and running seems to be tightness in the hips. That tightness seems to be brought on by inactivity, but then becomes worse from the way cerebral palsy effects my muscles. The first thing we began using were the agility hurdles. The hurdles sit about six inches off the floor. When we began going through these hurdles, they weren’t unfamiliar for me. I’d worked with them periodically with the first trainer during my life. But, it had probably been more than five years since the last time. When Bernard set them up for us to use, the sight brought on emotions of excitement and apprehension. The excitement was felt from the memory of working through the agility hurdles in the past. They had really helped my movement improve, even with my limited exposure to them. My apprehension came through because of how challenging they can be to execute.

With anything that requires me to step over, anxiety tends to creep into my mind. Any object that requires stepping over has the possibility to cause tripping and loss of balance. On the flip side, if time and patience are taken to work on navigating over something like a hurdle, movement and balance can greatly improve. The difficulty with working on agility hurdles in the past had been doing them every so often, therefore not being given the time to improve. My hope was becoming, Bernard would work me through them consistently, giving my agility and balance a real opportunity to improve. When he set them up for my first attempt, the concern became he would have me try without guidance. I didn’t know if jogging through the hurdles without tripping would be possible. However, my first task would not be jogging through the agility hurdle course. Bernard had me begin by stepping over each hurdle at a walking pace. My emotions eased after learning we were going to start at this slower pace of walking. It would allow me to become comfortable moving over the hurdles, gaining confidence before picking up the speed. The other thing to work on was the timing of my arms. Bernard wanted my arms to move in a running motion with my legs. The pattern was for the opposite arm and leg to be raised at the same time. So, if my left leg was raised to clear the hurdle, my right arm was to be swinging upwardly.

The coordinated movement pattern took time to learn. Learning how to match lifting the correct leg with raising the corresponding arm helps improve cerebral palsy motions. The connection and timing across the body has been challenging to synchronize. Often it becomes difficult to move my arms along with my legs. Moving through the agility hurdles can take much of my concentration. Much of my focus has been used to raise my legs high enough and maintain balance, while the arms can get lost remaining tucked against the body. Part of cerebral palsy has been characterized by keeping my arms tightly to the body when balance gets unsteady. However, part of maintaining balance when moving through obstacles seems to be using the arms affectively. Bernard has tried reminding me to continue moving my arms with my legs. The frustration lies in how against the grain the movement of my arms seems to be. Cerebral palsy has lead me to tighten the arms close to my side those times of uncertain physical movement. My arms being held tightly to my side can provide feelings of safety. When the best thing seems to be learning how to move them productively, allowing for improved balance.

Working with the agility hurdles has been a slow process. We began moving forward, walking over each hurdle. With the walking, I was also learning to swing my arms in order to help my balance. Once the walking was done with relative ease, we began jogging slowly through the agility hurdles. If any of the hurdles were moved while attempting to get over them, the line of six hurdles had to be restarted. As my speed began increasing, balance became more challenging. Remembering to move my arms subsided from trying to remain balanced. Eventually my confidence in moving through the hurdles rose to a place where my arms became more involved. But, once all that was becoming comfortable, Bernard had me work on moving through the hurdles laterally.

We began moving laterally at a slow pace, getting comfortable with a new movement pattern and the timing of arm movements. After becoming comfortable with the hurdles moving laterally at the slow elaborated pace, we increased the speed. Moving laterally felt more challenging than going through forward, because body position and control feel difficult to maintain. Improvement continues with the lateral movement through the agility hurdles, but correct balance and body position remain elusive. But, it seems the more we work on the lateral movement, the better things get. Bernard has told me, once I begin getting the hang of something he will make it more difficult, so last week we began working on doing the agility hurdles moving backward. So far, it’s really tough just walking over them backward. But, hopefully with time that pace will improve.

There seem to be many ways to exercise. The most productive movements might be different for each person. In the first few months of my work with Bernard, the agility hurdles have become a staple for our routine. They have improved so many things when it comes to battle cerebral palsy symptoms. Working on the hurdles has improved flexibility and balance. It has helped me get back into shape, because of the cardio involved with getting over the hurdles. That improved cardio has motivated me by giving me the balance to work on more cardio away from our workout sessions. The flexibility in my hips has also gotten better with the requirement of raising my legs over each six-inch hurdle of the circuit. It has also jump started my desire to continue improving endurance, providing hope that improvement remains possible. Just working with these hurdles seems to help everyday movement, they have been great for my cerebral palsy improvement.

 


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