More Ball Tossing

Over the last month working on my throwing motion has become a priority. It has helped with the coordinated movement cerebral palsy has hampered. Bernard continues to give me pointers on improving the motion. We have a bucket of twenty medium size balls that we are working with. I attempt to throw each ball into a laundry basket sitting approximately fifteen feet away from my point of release. The targeted basket rests against the wall of a yoga class room at the gym. Banking the ball thrown off the wall and into the basket has always been acceptable in this exercise. So, the ball doesn’t need to be thrown directly into the basket. We have been keeping track of the number of makes out of twenty throws. There have been times of going through three buckets in a row, at other times we throw one bucket. Bernard has had me throw the balls at different times during the work out session. In some circumstances the ball toss has been the first thing we do for the session, sometimes it has been our final exercise, and at other time we work it into the middle. This week we even took video of me performing my throwing motion.

When we began tossing the medium size balls it was all about learning the throwing motion. In the beginning, I was throwing the way that had come natural. Growing up with cerebral palsy meant throwing any ball in whatever way worked out best. The process I had developed was different from the most efficient way, most likely because the strength and stability weren’t there to support a better motion. However, with the strength gained with my training sessions, along with improved movement from chiropractic adjustments, we could work on a better throwing motion. There were a couple movements Bernard pointed out for me to work on improving.  The first was to open my hips, enabling me to point my lead foot at the target, which in this case was the wicker basket. The second thing Bernard encouraged was bringing my arm over the top and finishing my throw with my hand pointed at the target. This movement with my hand would help me follow through, completing the throwing motion. They were two good pointers. Cerebral palsy would make it challenging to open my hips during the throw, but I started working on the movement.

We began running through the ball toss each time we had a work out session. This meant the medium size yoga balls were being tossed at least twice per week. After my throwing motion began showing improvement, we began keeping track of my makes. We would do the tossing under different circumstances to experiment with fatigue. To this point my high-water mark has been making eight of the twenty medium size balls into the basket. As we have done the exercise my low in throwing the balls has been making two out of twenty attempts. It has felt easier to throw the yoga exercise balls when our work out sessions begin. There has been more strength and concentration, though warming up the muscles can take some time. Throwing to end a work out session seems to also be successful. By the end of our sessions my body tends to be warm, making it easier to execute the throwing motion. Having the task of throwing at the end or the beginning leaves time to purely focus on the task of making baskets. When we go through throwing the bucket of balls three or four times, I can get my mind to better focus on the task. The next variable to the exercise Bernard introduced was throwing a bucket in the middle of our work out session. Having me throw during our work out would bring unexpected variables into the process of making baskets.

Entering the ball tossing into the middle of our work out session was the most challenging place for the exercise. In this circumstance, we would get the exercise set up in the yoga room. Then, moving out into the main part of the gym, an exercise circuit would begin. It consisted of something to get my heart rate elevated, then into the yoga room to throw the yoga balls, and out into the gym again for another exercise to elevate heart rate. The idea seemed to be gaining composure and concentration amidst two exercises of higher intensity. The situation was a good challenge. During our first round of the circuit I was simply trying to get through the ball toss as one of the exercises. It meant going into the yoga room and just throwing the yoga balls at the basket. The idea of slowing down and attempting to concentrate didn’t enter into my mind. The second and third rounds of Bernard’s circuit were different when approaching the toss. I began making an attempt to take more time with the yoga balls. It was challenging to slow myself down and concentrate on the throwing motion. My attempts at the ball toss in the middle of our exercise circuit yielded just two or three makes per twenty tosses. It was a good challenge to help learning the process of controlling heart rate. I look forward to continuing to experiment with controlling heart rate during exercise.

After going through different circumstances of tossing the yoga balls, I had an idea. The thought was to take pictures of the activity to provide a better idea of how the process looked. But, instead of taking still pictures of the exercise, we took a video. Over the past months, I’ve found the courage to watch myself on film. First was tossing the lacrosse ball, then it was watching myself play golf in Hawaii, and now we filmed the ball toss. Following the recording Bernard wanted to go over the throwing motion on tape. The suggestion immediately caused anxiety over watching myself on film. There was fear over how I would react to viewing my movements. When Bernard played the video, I was mildly shocked over what I saw. The throwing motion looked pretty good. My overall movements seem to continue improving with added strength and stability. Once the relief set in with an absence of feeling turned off, like had occurred in the past, we discussed my release point. Bernard pointed out the variety of points I was releasing the yoga ball from. He then pointed out where the ball was being released in a good location. It gave me a visual idea of where the good release position would be. So, my next step has been an attempt at emulating the positive release position.

There has been a long battle over viewing myself on any kind of recording. At a young age, while going through school, watching myself was unbearable. The thought of why it was so difficult has been on my mind lately. Was there shame over the fact that I was struggling with my disability? I’ve also been wondering if it was because I didn’t know how to improve the toll cerebral palsy was taking on my body. It was also scary to wonder if things would ever get better, or would I be a victim of time, where the disability would simply get worse with age. It all seemed to change when physical training and chiropractic adjustments entered into my life about ten years ago. However, a large step was taken just over a year ago. My work with Bernard, who has a son with cerebral palsy began and having a chiropractic adjustment twice per week instead of once started. It really began to feel like we were getting true improvement around my CP symptomology.

 

It could be due to the work being done that it feels my self-esteem has improved. My body looks and feels more stable than it ever has in the past. Hope has been installed in me to continue putting in the effort to improve my disability. As the effort to improve seems to be improving much more than the way I appear, it also seems to help elevate the acceptance of myself. But, with improvement comes the understanding that it could all disappear. If the motivation to hit the gym or see the chiropractor becomes lost, the gains would go too. Cerebral palsy would most likely take over my body and many of my hobbies enjoyed today would probably be lost. The disability will be a continual battle with age and staying committed to improvement feels imperative. The blessing of cerebral palsy has always been that with work, symptoms can get better. It has felt amazing to gain the ability to watch myself on film and even enjoy what I’m watching. The exciting improvement with my disability will seemingly continue, as our work doesn’t stop. My only wish would be the acceptance could have begun much sooner, if I had not been so afraid.

 


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