Another exercise eluding me in the years of my youth. I can remember being asked to Crab walk in a few situations. The movement felt like it was done in physical education classes in school. I would make a good-hearted effort each time it was assigned. Placing my hands behind my shoulders and my feet flatly on the floor in front. The idea was to lift my hips off of the ground. Balancing my body with my arms and legs. It was an incredibly challenging position to hold my body. Once, the hips were supported off the ground. The concept was to move the arms and legs in conjunction with one another. The synchronized movement would end up looking like a Crab walk. The motion was complicated and not something everyone had the skill to achieve. The Crab walk was different for me in that context. I wasn’t looking around, feeling like I was the only one challenged by the exercise. However, it didn’t really take away the frustration being felt inside. I was unable to even hold myself in the Crab position for any amount of time. Falling back down to the floor, due to the weakness in my shoulders and arms. When I was able to hold the position for a short while. I would immediately make an attempt to do the Crab walk. Which, inevitably sent my backside falling down to the floor. The discouragement surrounding my attempts never subsided. So, when Bernard introduced the Crab I was less than thrilled.
I have been told the Crab position is a stress position for the human body. Similar to the crouch position often used by a baseball catcher. Which, explains the importance of balancing in a Crab stance. It also brings into focus the reason for working on the Crab walk as children. The movement helping to strengthen many muscle across the body. Promoting the growth of the muscles called upon to provide stability in the body. The bummer occurs when the Crab position or walk aren’t achievable. Missing out on the opportunity to work the strength in the important muscles. The strength and stability to even get into the Crab position had to be worked. Like many other complex movement for my body. The Crab exercise had to be broken down into smaller portions. But, unlike the work done to achieve other movements. I can’t point to the exact progression bringing me to the Crab ability. There have probably been many different things we have worked on to get us to this point. Like, all of the stability exercises we work on in the yoga studio, each session. The agilities moving me up and down the floor. For sure, the work with the jump rope has added to my ability in maintaining balance. Many times, it takes different exercises to help achieve the strength to perform one movement. The Crab has been a good example of that theory. As, Bernard has explained the many muscles involved in executing the Crab position.
As Bernard provided a quick rundown of the muscles I’m engaging to hold the Crab position. The information helped me understand the reasons for the challenge in the movement. It also placed into perspective the emotions I felt during my youth. With cerebral palsy, there would have been little possibility of performing the Crab walk on command. The exercise always looked appealing when I watched my peers. I was often tickled when watching my friends Crab walk across the gym floor. But, the thrill made me try desperately to achieve something that wasn’t possible in the moment. Even being asked to do it later in life, when working with another trainer, the Crab walk wasn’t attainable. In that moment of failure, frustration came flooding back into my body. So, when Bernard presented the movement to me, all I could feel was fear. My brain immediately seemed to jump into protection mode. Trying to guard my emotions from the hurt of a familiar movie from past years. The feeling of trying and failing, when challenged with the Crab position. Interestingly, the introduction of the Crab into our workout sessions would be different from past experiences. Like so many movements Bernard has taken me through prior. He had trained the strength required to execute a position of the Crab, before its introduction. I was unable to work the exercise to the degree he had pictured. However, one more slight modification provided our starting point with the Crab movement.
I was surprised by the ability to balance myself in the Crab position. Lifting my hips off the floor with my arms behind my body and my knees bent in front. In years past, I recall struggling to even stabilizing myself in the spot. Once I got my bearings holding my body off the turf. Bernard challenged me to extend one leg out in front, while maintaining the Crab. Upon my attempt to pick one foot off the floor and extend it forward. The exercise began falling apart quickly. Balance was lost, as my backside fell down to the floor. I was thrilled with the skill of just holding my body off the ground, like a Crab. The disappointment landed when I couldn’t hold the pose, while lifting a leg off the ground. That depressing feeling, of here we go again, flooded my body. But, failure wasn’t going to be part of this version of the story. As I sat in my state of discontent, Bernard jumped up with an idea. He grabbed a slider from the shelf of exercise knickknacks. The same slider I use to perform my lunges in place. The tool helps guide my foot along the surface of the floor. Allowing for the constant contact with the turf. Enabling stability and balance to be maintained, while being challenged. Bernard wanted me to attempt sliding each leg out away from my body. The movement would be easier than lifting each foot off the ground.
The slider provided a new element to the Crab exercise. The slider provided us with a place to start with the Crab. Instead of giving in to the inability of moving my legs, I could now make the leg movements, while holding the position. The first time I slide my right leg out, it was for a short distance. My goal was to get the slider moving with my heel to any extent. So, my leg went forward for just a few inches, then I moved it right back to help body stability. There was still fear about losing my balance and my backside falling to the floor. It felt like we would be stuck if I couldn’t make the exercise work with the slider. Leaving me using caution when extending my foot on the slider. I found quickly, my left leg was able to extend out further than my right side. With my right foot under my body, helping with the stability, I could move my left side out to a greater extent. After proving the ability to move each leg out with the slider. We were off and running with the Crab movement. I performed ten leg extensions on each side. Breaking them up into five reps each time, in order to hold my hips off the turf. Excitement entered my body after executing each round of the repetitions. We had gained a place to start with the exercise. Strength could be built from this point found. It wasn’t long before Bernard was challenging me to extend my leg out a little further. His challenges were working, after a couple more session, I could almost fully extend each heel on the slider. While, maintaining the Crab position with my hips off the floor.
With the satisfaction of finding the skill to do the Crab exercise. We went away from the movement for a couple weeks. Working on other ways of building strength and stability. I didn’t realize these other movements were going to help move my Crab exercise forward. There was shock when we came back around to the Crab. Bernard had me attempt the Crab movement without the assistance of the sider. He wanted me to get into the position, with my arms behind my shoulders and my hips off the turf floor. He then asked me to try extending one leg out in front, holding it off the ground. I could perform the movement and hold the Crab pose. Then, I attempted the same movement on my weaker side. Holding my left foot on the floor and extending out my right leg. The exercise worked, again. I couldn’t hold my leg up and extended for too long. But, I was able to execute the next progression of the exercise. Since accomplishing the feat of doing the movement, we have progressed it a step forward. Now, extending each leg from the Crab position and holding for three seconds. Doing ten repetitions on each side. I have found myself unable to hold my hips off the floor to achieve all twenty poses in one go. Usually, making it through twelve to fourteen rounds before my hips fall to the floor, and I need a rest. I feel confident that even this will continue getting stronger.
These are the types of exercises that warm up my heart. Causing me to feel like even better movements might be possible in my life. Being able to perform exercises today that weren’t possible in my childhood. While, the disappointment of failing at those exercises played a role in my formative years. Causing me to feel some of my first emotions of being different from my peers. The sadness of feeling isolated from watching them jump rope or Crab walk was real. Even if I didn’t fully recognize the emotions I was experiencing. Finding the opportunity to ease those emotions some thirty years later has been an awesome experience. The patience of our process to break down movements and put in the work has led to great things. Leaving me to wonder if these progressions could have happened earlier in my life. The idea of finding someone who could have taken the extra time needed to develop the skills. I wish for kids with cerebral palsy today, that more time could be taken with them. Instead of giving them just a couple opportunities to achieve a skill. Who knows what they might be capable of with extra time to work on something. I’m thankful for not totally giving up on the hope of improvement. That hope has led to accomplishing things that weren’t possible early in my life. It feels nothing short of exciting.