We have been working with markings on the floor for some time. The theme began with doing hopscotch. Bernard brought out small circular pads to be placed on the floor. Hopscotch was a game causing tremendous challenge during my youth. Usually leading to standing back, watching friends and classmates take on the hopscotch during recess. Cerebral palsy made balancing challenging to the point of shying away from the activity. Bernard seemed to feel it was an activity we would be advantaged by pursuing. It would be a great way to work on coordination and balance for the entire body. Hopscotch, like many movements, wasn’t an activity we could jump right into. Getting to the point of completing any kind of hopscotch course would require preparation. Bernard had progressions for me to work through before the circular pads were ever set on the floor. It feels as though cerebral palsy almost requires the small step progression. The patience to work different movements, then combine those movements together, achieving the goal activity. We started with basic movements, like a step-up to gain timing and balance. The step-up led to a step-over, which led to playing Lava Monster with the Bosu Ball. Most everything we achieve inside the gym, begins with the most basic movement pattern. Working toward goals rarely seeming possible at the time.
As we work through our movements, the goals remain elusive. Bernard often has me working on multiple exercises. These multiple exercises are often geared to unite at some point. In addition to the step-overs, he had me doing lunges. Those lunges eventually lead into a slit-jump. The split-jump was one of our most challenging movements. It required beginning one foot in front of the other. Similar to a lunge position, then jumping to switch leg position. This would mean the right leg going to the back position and the left leg moving forward. The exercise felt like jumping in place. Most challenging about the split-jump was maintaining balance. It required maintaining body position as the legs moved underneath. Followed by having the feet land steadily on the ground. As the repetitions began increasing, the biggest challenge became getting elevation. My legs experiencing fatigue from the repeated effort in exploding off the floor. Balance would become more challenging, as fatigue made landing more problematic. Just as in the past, often if the jump could not be landed with good balance, the repetition where balance was lost, required repeating. The penalty with a loss of balance increased focus, let’s face it, repeating repetitions doesn’t inspire fun. But, before getting to these split-jumps, hopscotch became more challenging.
We began doing hopscotch with a basic configuration. The course went from two feet planted, to hopping onto one foot, then back onto two feet planted. The routine was continued three or four times. Hopping onto one foot, then back onto feet spread out. This type of course took some time for me to complete comfortably. One of the challenges was landing back on two feet without losing balance. The trick would be learning to control momentum after each hop. It wouldn’t work to land on one foot and remain steady, so the two-foot landing was required to slow momentum. Once we had it under control going one foot to two feet and back again, Bernard complicated the hopscotch layout. He would place different variable into the course for balance challenge. The hopscotch progression took months, as we began training on the courses back in June. He started by placing two single pads in between the double circular pads. This meant going from two legs down, hopping onto the right foot, then onto the left foot, and back onto two feet again. Bernard made two sections of this pattern. The idea seeming to be learning how to control the momentum and balance of my body. Again, after this pattern had been learned, he would add another wrinkle to hopscotch.
The next progression of hopscotch would challenge balance even more. Bernard would make two more adjustments to the course we were working. The first would be inserting double-jumping. Which meant with two feet shoulder width apart, instead of hopping from there onto one foot, there would be a two-foot jump, landing with the feet shoulder width apart again. So, we would have a square two-foot jump, then continue onto one foot, then hop back onto two feet, making another two-foot jump. The idea was to push off with both legs, stick the landing on both legs, and jump again. The pattern also brought timing into the equation. Learning how to start and stop with my jumps. The more quickly I could land, regroup, and jump again, the coordination in my body would be improving. It was a coordinated movement pattern requiring practice to improve timing. The second wrinkle Bernard would add for me, would be the distance between circular pads. When he increased the distance of each jump, it placed more pressure on the movement. The ability to slow my momentum became more challenging. In turn, it again had my focus on maintaining body position. With the circular pads placed further apart, the push from my legs required more force. Having my body moving faster through space called for further adjustment. The timing, balance, and force came together for me to remain upright. These tools gained from working through this progression of hopscotch would help in our following step.
Our following step for hopscotch would be the split-jump. The best way for me to describe it would be an alternating scissor kick. Bernard placed the circular pads on the floor in an offset configuration. The configuration requires me to stand with one foot ahead of the other. My lead foot would be slightly off to one side, both feet resting on a pad. If my right foot were on the forward pad, during the jump, my left foot would replace the right foot on the forward pad in completion of the jump. The right foot would drop back, landing on a pad back and to the right rear. The rear pad would be placed on equal level with the pad for the left foot originating point. We have then completed one split-jump. With another jump the left foot would replace the right foot on the rear pad, while the right moved forward again to another circular pad up and to the right. Another split-jump would have been completed. The body would move laterally down the row of offset, parallel pads, using the split-jump, or scissor kick. Once to the end of the course, we would work the side split-jump moving back in the reverse direction. Getting to the point of performing the split-jump took learned movements from multiple exercises. This form of hopping or jumping has placed pressure on multiple aspects of cerebral palsy, challenging my disability in from different angles. Even once we find the functionality of the split-jump, there are ways to continue the challenge.
There were things about the split-jump hopscotch that were challenging from the beginning. The movements involved have required turning on many of the lights in my brain. Meaning multiple actions are taking place while laterally jumping along the pads. We noticed it was easier to move in one of the directions. Moving from my left to right was smoother. One of the major components of the movement has been timing. Bernard has challenged me to perform the jumps in a continuous motion. When we began, it would be two or three jumps, then a hesitation to reestablish balance and composure. With the course length requiring about ten jumps traveling one way, the challenge was finding me stop a couple times. However, when traveling to my right, we first found my ability to complete the course without the break. From there, Bernard has challenged me to complete the course continuously moving left. The timing has been the difficult task. Keeping my body centered and balance while jumping laterally has my brain working. As we make attempts to speed up the synaptic chain, relaying the signal for my body to jump with control. With the handle of completing the jump becoming more routine. Bernard moves his focus for me to increasing the speed of completion. He seems to be targeting the reaction time and coordinated movements. These concepts work directly on the skills cerebral palsy has hampered. The accomplishment becomes realized as speed and fluidity increase.
Patience seems to be one of the key factors in cerebral palsy improvement. Many of the exercises worked on take time to materialize. So, getting to the point of doing these side slip-jumps took months. Beginning with stepping up onto a platform, then back to the ground. The coordination of moving my feet onto a target started with the platform. The movement helped flexibility in my hip, which was crucial with all our hopscotch progressions. It also began working on my ability to balance my body in space. The balance becoming more of a factor when moving from stepping up to stepping over a platform. Once we introduced hopping over the platform, by alternating the plant foot on the platform, balance was truly taking shape. Life has taught me many concepts can take time to grasp. Cerebral palsy making things a little more challenging. The fact doesn’t mean giving up on accomplishing things because they take more time. Our challenges can become opportunities to succeed when things don’t seem achievable. Breaking down a seemingly overwhelming process into manageable steps. Instead of giving up with frustration, we can channel it into working diligently at each small step. It seems advantageous to look at things as challenging opportunities, rather than deeming them too difficult or hard. Maybe our feelings can help us accomplish feats that didn’t seem realistic.