Side Step Up

In my view, the movement felt like coming from one side. We worked on it earlier in this week. An exercise I had not done in almost two years. Stepping up onto a platform about two feet off the ground. The platform I was stepping onto might have been a couple feet in diameter and length. A pretty even looking square piece attached to a much larger fitness apparatus. Bernard gave an example of the movement to refresh my memory. Normally the idea had been to step directly into the middle of the platform. Lifting the opposite leg off the ground until it reached the ninety-degree angle. Then, step back down off the platform moving back and down. Working in what seemed to be a front to back pattern. Placing my foot in the center of the step provided a large area of stability. With adequate room to catch myself on the platform when my opposite foot came upward. In the movement pattern he wanted this week, there would be more side to side stability required. Instead of placing my plant foot in the middle of the platform. The foot being placed on the elevated step would be placed to one side of the surface. When stepping with my left foot, I would be on the right side of the platform. Causing my left foot to rest on the very edge of the right side of the surface. We would then repeat the process with the right foot on the left side. Working on the edges of the step, provided room for the opposite leg to be lifted without hindrance. It felt as though done to challenge balance. The movement challenged my balance more than I had perceived from watching Bernard show the exercise. 

While watching the example movement, it didn’t look too difficult. I had recalled doing many types of these step-ups before and felt I could handle the exercise. The challenge wasn’t glaringly obvious when standing to the side. We began with my left foot being placed on top of the platform. Hoovering along the right edge of the step, if looking at the elevated platform from behind my body. The first thing I noticed when placing my foot along the rubberized surface was height. The step felt further off the ground than I remember working with. Most steps I have used during training have seemed lower in altitude. So, that immediately had my brain experiencing apprehension. The anxiety was shaking off quickly, thinking I had the balance to execute this task. Going into the motion of taking that first step upward felt relatively solid. With any unfamiliar movement, there will often be some wobbling of my balance. The feelings surrounding cerebral palsy over the years, seem to bring on the hesitancy. Still, the first step was executed with the required full extension skyward. It wasn’t until the transition was made that things became interesting. My extension upward didn’t leave me understanding the height I was above the ground level. When the attempt was made to lower myself back to the floor, things became interesting. The challenges of keeping my balance when landing on the right leg proved tricky. In my head, I would have thought stepping down would not be a problem. Most likely the simplest aspect of the movement. Lowering myself back onto the ground, quickly proved to be the most challenging portion of the exercise. 

The first time my right foot hit the ground from lowering myself was shaky. Almost losing my balance when the shoe impacted the indoor turf. My body rocked back and forth with my right arm extending tensely. An instinctual movement for me when balance suddenly renders itself elusive. I was able to gather my center of gravity before any kind of disaster struck. Stepping back up with my left foot. The mind didn’t quite calibrate how high I was off the ground. My right leg came up to a bent ninety degrees and prepared for its second accent to the turf below. This step up was providing a similar feeling from my past. The one where I will step off some without correct anticipation of how far the step down will be. The mind readies itself for impact of the foot and safe landing, but it doesn’t occur. The leg trying to find a solid surface becomes asked to fall a little further. It causes my mind to scramble and immediately panic about my ability to balance. My second attempt at landing the step up looked much like the first. I was required to lower myself a longer distance than anticipated. The second attempt was even more unsteady than the first. My right arm went tight and the wobble to find balance more pronounced. I needed to focus on the lowering back onto the floor in order to maintain stability. Also, focusing on smoothing out the entire movement pattern. Bernard gently reminded me to think about remaining engaged throughout the core, during the downward portion of the exercise. My goal was to maintain better composure. 

With the step up attempts moving forward in duration. The request was to complete ten step ups on each side. The balance got better after moving past my third and fourth repetition. Gaining focus on securing the core all the way through the movement. A hint has also been dispensed as Bernard has been working with me, to find a focal point. The point of reference doesn’t carry too much of a specific. It could be a point on the floor just feet in front. Or, a point further in from to keep me engaged in my exercise. During the first few repetitions my eyes were wondering. Having forgotten about the idea of picking a focal point to assist in maintaining stability. Thinking the motion of stepping up onto the platform would not require attention on balance. I perceived my balance could be held without that level of concentration. The thought was mistaken on my part, as this exercise required undivided attention to keep from falling. Once I gave into the challenge of the movement, a point of reference was found. There were some handles lying on a shelf not far from the platform. They would have been at about my shoulder height when standing flat on the ground. The handle was black, making it easy to focus my attention onto. The height of those handles worked well, while they remained inside a good viewing window, as my body moved up and down. After zeroing in on the handle, my balance improved with the remaining repetitions. One side was complete for the first rotation. It was time to attempt stepping with my right foot. 

When working on any kind of exercise. We normally work the more challenging side of my body first. In the instance of this step up, it would be more challenging for me to step up on the platform with the left foot. Cerebral palsy has greater impact on the left side of my body. The concept makes sense to me when performing some exercises, but not every time. This step up was one of those times when the routine felt backward. I was thinking the exploding upward with the step would not be the most complex aspect. The landing when lowering myself to the floor seemed most complicated. As was evident by the first few motions, coming down toward the ground held the complications of keeping balance. When it was challenging to maintain stability landing on my right leg. The idea of coming down onto my left foot caused even more apprehension. Following the switch in sides of the platform. Moving over to stepping onto the elevated surface with my right foot and lowering myself onto the left foot. My first two repetitions were a little bit shaky. Landing caused some wobble in balance, forcing a few seconds to regain stability. However, the movement was steadier on this side, than it had been landing on my right foot. Again, I found a point to focus on off in the distance. This time, a shelf full of exercise balls, sitting at about eye level if standing on the ground. With the point of reference, balance was easier to maintain when stepping up with the right foot and landing with the left. Leaving me to understand even better the side of my body providing more challenge. Maintaining stability using the entire left side of my body caused more difficulty. 

Similar to many exercises we have done over time, they get better during the second and third sets. When the movements become more familiar to my body. As we moved back to stepping up with the left foot again. The exercise was becoming comfortable in the execution. Some of the instability remained while working the first few cycled. But, nothing to the extent experienced on the first go around. As I had gained the knowledge of focusing on balance all the way until my off leg returned to the floor. Recognizing the feeling of keeping my core engaged was the most difficult part. Along with trusting in my ability to repeat the stability when the movement pattern began again. There was a handrail in front of me, incase my balance failed and falling felt immanent. Bernard always provides a “bail out” option when working on something balance heavy. While, I never want to resort to grabbing onto the rail/handle provided, unless absolutely necessary. In the midst of this exercise, there didn’t become a point to which reaching for stability happened. Though, the “bail out” option has been used a few times in our sessions. This style step up was a good challenge. Causing me to focus intently on the ability to stabilize myself. With condition teetering close to the edge of losing balance.

One of the most important things about keeping balance seems to be saving balance. I love working around the edges of balance capability. That ability to remain stable has probably been the most hindered aspect of life. It can be difficult to walk at times, especially on un familiar surfaces. So, when we push my balance to the brink, we work on cerebral palsy at the core. Meeting the disability at its greatest impact on my life. This step up we worked pushed that exact capability. I was at the brink of my ability to maintain balance. We had not worked this style of step up in years. With the opposite leg lifting up to ninety-degrees before being lowered back to the floor. Engaging in this type of movement again showed the progress in getting back into shape. There had been months of losing focus around the workout sessions. Allowing my strength and stability to slide. But, the reintroduction of this movement, with slightly more challenge, shows I have moved back onto a positive track. When the concentration on improvement wavers for a while, it can be found again. Showing the ebbs and flows sometimes accompanying fitness. It feels good to be again challenging my balance with difficult movements like this step up. The best way I have found to gain cerebral palsy improvements. 

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