Without the Gym II

Having cerebral palsy causes movement to be important. Exercise has been one of the best ways to improve symptoms. While staying away from consistent movement seems to have the opposite impact. Without the help of exercise my muscles tend to become tighter and more rigid. This translates into making everyday tasks more challenging as mobility becomes increasingly limited. As the coronavirus has impacted our lives greatly, continuing consistent exercise has presented a challenge. The training sessions with Bernard have been worked out through technology. The other part of staying in shape has always been my responsibility. With the gym being open, my portion involved going into the gym on my own during the week. The trips usually amounted to a couple times each week. Making use of the cardio machines to supplement our training sessions. With the closure, taking care of the cardio piece has been left to my creativity. There were some ideas that came to mind when we began staying in our homes. The challenge has opened the option of spending more time outside. It can take us back to many of the ways we exercised during childhood. My childhood home still has a sport court and my bicycle collecting dust in the garage. There would also be the possibility of running along a trail in my town. The challenge was finding ways to remain active outside.

The first avenue appealing to me outside of training was running. While the gym was open running on the treadmill was something targeted once a week. It was an activity that brought excitement in its challenge. The simple act of balancing on the moving treadmill could be a difficult task. Cerebral palsy has hampered my balance throughout my life. The disability making it challenging to walk in a straight path. My balance sometimes causes me to take an inadvertent step to the side, catching myself in times of instability. The skill has always been worked on with trainers. So, reaching the level of being able to run on a treadmill has often felt a good achievement. Something to improve upon, keeping my balance as the belt below me spins. In order to keep the balance process up, I wanted to attempt running outside. The goal was to begin slowly in the hopes of reducing the risk of injury. My thought process in pursuit was to begin by walking and running along the trail. The trail just down from my home has gravel instead of pavement, which would seem to have less impact. When starting out everything seemed to be working well. The morning would begin with walking to get warm, then turn into running, back to walking, before jogging took over again. The process was taking place twice per week for a couple weeks. It was going well, as my running portions were stretching longer, along with overall time on the trail extending. Until about the third week into the routine, old injuries started invading.

The shin splints caught up with me and derailed the great mornings. They were becoming pretty great mornings twice per week. Running along the trail stretching through the Snoqualmie Valley. The crisp cold morning air was refreshing. While the trail provided views through the sporadically placed trees. Farmland along the valley floor took your gaze toward the hills on the other side. The variety of people using the trail for running, walking, or biking greeted you with a wave and hello. There was a bit of sadness when it all came to an end. Running inside the gym on a treadmill has often been successful for my body. The stern surfaces of running outside have been the opposite. The shins began bothering me not too long after the process of walking and running began. My denial was hoping the slight discomfort might fade. However, similar to situations of the past, that idea would hardly come to fruition. As my morning jogs continued in an attempt to deny the pain, it only got worse. Until the pain was finally mentioned during a chiropractic adjustment with Dr. McCracken. My shins weren’t bothering me while going about the daily routine, but it was hurting to run. Dr. McCracken provided a couple stretches to work on while going through the healing process. He also began running a massaging device over the calf muscle during our appointments. Helping me regain the ability to get back on the trail in the future. But, for the time being, it would be about finding other ways to maintain exercise.

During these times of uncertainty, we can resort back to things from the past. Activities which sustained while growing. We played in the neighborhood all the time as kids. Participating in all kinds of things with friends. Something we did all the time was play basketball. When the sport court went in during my youth it was exciting. Giving us a great place to play basketball, which we did for years. As we have gotten older things like playing basketball seem to dissipate. The sport court has sat in the yard for years without being touched. Waiting for the next generation of kids to take advantage of the hoop. Until the pandemic took hold, it hadn’t really occurred to use that hoop again. Sure, there have been those, wouldn’t it be fun to shot hoops again thoughts, but nothing seemingly serious. With the gym closers those thoughts began echoing in my head. After what had felt like five or ten years, I stepped onto the sport court again, basketball in hand to shoot. It was a blast to start playing around with the basketball. Taking the time to relearn how to release a jump shot with the correct timing. The first few attempts lacking the arc to fall through the bucket. As the timing with the body and flicking wrist were recalled from memory. When it all did finally make its way back, so did that great little feeling of making a basket. The basket hadn’t been used in a while, making the net sticky. The ball would fall past the rim, but get stuck coming through the net. That only lasted following the first few made buckets, as we leaped to free the basketball. Once loosened, the net gave way to a successful shot, and something old was found. But, it was still causing some pain, and didn’t seem quite sustainable. I continued my search for something consistent to replace the cardio.

Running along the trail was causing some pain.  The next idea on my list was playing basketball. Only to find shooting hoops to be making the pain in my shins worse. The two ideas to stay in shape while causing the least anxiety weren’t without harm. This meant moving on to an exciting challenge fraught with nervous energy. There seem to be more things capable of going haywire on a bike. They require balance that hadn’t been tested in some time. On the flip side, riding the bike would take pressure off the shins. Riding could also help keep me in relatively good shape. The time was upon me to dust the bike off and give it a spin. Like many of these activities the hiatus from cycling had been years. There was fear around the idea of getting back onto the bike. An apprehension taking a few days to make its way through my emotional system. Once the courage took over, along with the limitation of options left. The bike came out of my childhood garage and it was time to ride. Instead of traveling to a nearby biking trail, peddling around the neighborhood felt more comfortable. Rolling to the end of the driveway and looking for cars, it was time. My leg pushed me up onto the seat and the bike was coasting down the road. The situation felt mildly unstable, but better than my thoughts had conjured up. Within minutes the confidence was inside to turn the bike around, heading back up the hill. Off I went back into the hills of the neighborhood.

The first of my rides felt slightly unstable. Riding through the streets, while simply attempting to get comfortable. That initial ride was relatively short and without major hiccups. Providing the confidence to give riding another attempt the following evening. The progression on the bike continues over the following few afternoons. They would get slightly longer with each venture, as stability on the bike was improving. The activity continued consistently over the following week. Filling the sundrenched early evenings with something new to keep up my conditioning. The bicycle has always been great for providing a sense of accomplishment. Riding was challenging to learn during childhood. I can still remember the feeling when it finally clicked. Giving me the freedom to explore the neighborhood, riding around with friends. Today the skill continues to help improve my balance. Placing me in positions to challenge my disability with the coordination required to ride. Which it can do for others who are also challenged with a disability. As I witnessed during my visit with Outdoors for All. They have access to bicycles of all kinds. Providing that same challenge and joy I’m rediscovering with the bike. The pain in my shins continues to subside. While biking has given me some much-needed exercise without the gym.


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