Lava Monster

Lava Monster is a game from my youth. Unlike Twister or Hopscotch, Lava Monster isn’t one of the games in my memory. It might be due to the game being more challenging. Lava Monster calls for a person to remained balanced on objects set on the floor. If your feet where to touch the floor at any point instead of the object, you would fall into the lava. In the lava would be the monster to gobble you up. The game seems to be an awesome exercise for learning balance. The course through the lava could be set up in different ways, using different objects. We could also set those objects up using more or less challenging formations. Having them closer together would make it easier to move between. While setting up the platforms saving you from the lava further apart would increase the challenge. The flexibility also makes the game one that may challenge balance as it improves. Lava Monster has been the most recent game added to my training program. It might be the most challenging of the three games, due to the maintaining of balance of one foot as you step. Your lead foot is required to hold your body while the trail foot moves to the spot, or a separate spot. The game seems to provide an ability of many modifications.

The idea of Lava Monster came to Bernard, while working with his son. Bernard’s son is five and has a similar form of cerebral palsy to mine. Bernard has always been on the lookout for ways to help his son. This personality trait of Bernard also leaves me feeling blessed, as often the ideas he has for his son, can help me as well. Bernard had his son working on Lava Monster in their family room. He was balancing on small pads, as he moved across the floor to Bernard. For a child of five, imagining the floor as lava would make the game fun. So, while his son might believe Lava Monster to simply be a fun game, he is working on important skills, hampered by his disability. Cerebral palsy makes understanding balance more challenging. Sometimes requiring us to wear braces, use a cane, walker, or wheel chair. However, there are times where added strength and stability can leave supportive mechanism unnecessary. Working on balance in a fun way seems to make taking on the challenge for a child more exciting. Anytime we can find ways to hold a kid’s interest while improving something important, we all win, as a child gets better.

With any new balance exercise, we find a place to start. Bernard has been good about finding places for me to begin. In his variation of Lava Monster inside the gym, Bernard wanted to use Bosu Balls to be balanced on. The Bosu ball is flat on one side and has the half circular ball on the other. The question to begin was whether I could balance on the “ball” side of the Bosu Ball. He had the knowledge of my ability to balance on the flat side of the ball, with the soft ball side facing the floor. But, we needed to test my stability standing on the ball. The idea of balancing myself on the ball made me nervous. Most intricacies of these balance exercises tend to cause discomfort. Barnard set the Bosu Ball next to a handle bar that could be used for support. He stood on top of the ball, as he always tests a balance exercise on himself first. It felt okay to him, so he wanted me to stand on top of the ball. While up there, my goal would be to lift one foot off the ball, set it back of the ball surface, and lift the other foot off the ball. There was no requirement of time for balancing, just to pick up on leg, then the other. The first couple attempts turned out to be a little challenging. The hand rail came in handy to stable my balance. However, after practicing a few more times, my balance was able to be found in the movement. I didn’t realize at the time, the balance exercise on the Bosu Ball was building toward an exercise.

Normally we don’t move directly into a more complex exercise. To my surprise, Bernard took my ability to balance on the Bosu Ball, and made things more complex. The gym has multiple Bosu Balls, giving him the ability to three at one time. He set three of them in a slight U-shape pattern. My mind was swimming over what this whole set-up might entail. Similar to other exercise routines, Bernard wanted to give his idea the first run. He wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be too complex for me to execute. He walked on the top of each of the three Bosu Balls, stepping from one to the other, gathering his balance before stepping onto the next. The exercise looked pretty challenging for my position. But, once he had walked on the balls a couple times, he was satisfied with the challenge. My role would be to do the same, stand on the round side of one Bosu Ball, and step to the other without making contact with the floor. It felt like my largest balancing challenge to date. However, the exercise was able to be executed. With some instability, I walked down the three Bosu Balls, stepping off, then turning around and walking back on them. It was the first variation of Lava Monster and I managed to stay alive.

Moving through the three Bosu Ball course was successful. With the balls being placed in the semicircle arrangement. It was able to be executed with the leading step of both feet, using the right leg to step first, then using the left leg to lead. Maintaining my balance on the Bosu Balls was tricky at times, but it was maintained. Once the three-ball course was traversed a couple times, Bernard brought out another Bosu Ball. With our first Lava Monster course my steps from one Bosu Ball to the next were being made forward. Bernard added the fourth ball to change the course into a “T” formation. He set one ball in front of me, another ball in front of that ball, then one Bosu Ball to the left, and one to the right. The new set-up would require me to step forward once, then laterally to the left, and back to the right. The plan brought in another form of balance. The balls were place relatively close together, making the step look comfortable. It would be all about balancing myself, as I moved to the side. This ball configuration would require longer balance on the middle Bosu Ball. My brain would be required to have my legs move in different directions while on the balls. The “T” formation would be a more complex form of the movement. Stepping to the side was challenging, however the comfort gained with the first configuration of the balls made this more familiar. There were some unsteady moments, but with the Bosu Balls being relative close, the exercise was successful.

After completing the two variations of Lava Monster on the first day, it felt like something positive to get on film. The following week we took the Bosu Balls into the studio at the gym. Bernard placed them in a line to begin. The balls this time were place further apart than they had been the previous week. It would require a more extended step and require more balance. In the studio, my balance was more challenging to keep. The first set-up had me moving forward, which had improved from the previous week. My balance was able to be maintained moving over the three Bosu Balls. However, when the course slightly changed, keeping the balance became challenging. The course was changed into the semicircle formation. Bernard wanted me to move over the balls by stepping to the side rather than forward. The challenge of lateral movement caused some loss of balance. At points, requiring me to start again and maintain balance through the step. So, the loss of balance and step to the ground only means the Lava Monster was able to get me a couple times. Luckily, there was more than one opportunity.

One major factor in each of the games Bernard has brought to me, has been the idea of balance correction.  It has felt like a challenging idea to place into action. Correcting balance when it becomes lost requires knowing how to find it again. Which includes understanding the muscles needing to be reengaged. Balance seems to come from the core and lower back, but engaging those muscles at the correct time to reacquire balance can be tricky. It feels like cerebral palsy can make that connection more challenging, as having the brain instruct any muscle seems hampered. However, like many things involving cerebral palsy, the connection can be improved. These games we work on seem to provide the opportunity for the balance connection to be improved. They place me in many position where my balance is almost lost. As we continue running through the games, my ability to engage my core at the moment balance starts to waver, gets better. It feels like one of the most important things to do with the disability is challenging CP. I have been blessed to experience the ideas Bernard has been able to come up with.

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