Training and Cerebral Palsy: Finishing With 40

The final workout session with Bernard was the result of a wager. We had made a wager only once before, on a game. The deal resulting, got me out of a certain part of the workout session. For me, I’m trying to create an easier training session, when I wager. Bernard usually picks something that I’m not fond of working on improving. He normally chooses to wager with my most challenging exercise. This time, we made a wager around the outcome of the Super Bowl. I went with the Chiefs and he with the Eagles. The added intrigue of the wager was the result would be occurring during our final session. Our final workout session together took place yesterday. Fittingly on Valentine’s Day, the Tuesday following the Super Bowl. For my end of the wager, I chose playing catch for the entire session. For Bernard, he decided I would need to achieve forty consecutive jumps with the speed rope. Keeping in mind, I was unable to accomplish much past thirty consecutive jumps with the speed rope, to that point. In fact, my best was short of thirty-five, with about thirty-three being hit only a couple times. The deal was that if Bernard won, I would need to reach the forty jumps mark, even if it took the entire hour. Needless to say, I didn’t want the consequence of having to pay my part of the wager. 

I don’t know if you saw the game, but after the first half, things didn’t look promising. I was rooting hard for the Chiefs, probably with more intensity than if money were on the line to win. It was challenging to understand how I would achieve forty jumps in a row. The image of Bernard standing there as I struggled through attempts that ended short of thirty-five, kept playing in my mind. I watched myself inside of my head, out of breath, and gasping for air. Begging my body to make another attempt at the target number. Each time the image played in my head, I wanted to yell out “Go Chiefs.” But, like me watching most sporting events, I sat there patiently sipping my Pepsi. Sure, I squirmed in the chair some, especially as the comeback was mounted in the second half. Remaining careful not to let completely go of the tortuous image awaiting me if the Chiefs fell short. Luckily, the solid play of the Chiefs continued into the latter stages of the contest. They completed the comeback, winning their second Super Bowl in the span of four years. I was elated for two reason, the first being that I have always liked Andy Reid, and seeing him win again was cool. The second being my escape from the 40 consecutive jumps, which didn’t feel doable. With the Kansas City victory, we would be playing catch in the yoga room for the session. Something I didn’t realize was, I must not have communicated fully. 

Jumping rope has been one of the most challenging exercises during our time working together. The progression of the movement feels like it has taken years to develop. Starting with stepping over, then hopping over a tapped line on the floor. When we worked on moving over that line, I had no idea where it would lead. The movements felt really basic when we worked on moving over the tape. I had no idea it would progress into jumping rope. The fear being felt inside my emotions was stifling when I saw the jump rope. Remembering back to my years of growing up, I really never had the ability to use a rope. My attempts often left me tripping and losing my balance, feeling the flooding emotions of embarrassment. When we began the jump rope exercise, we began with the standard rope. I couldn’t perform the movement without double-jumping. Using a hop in between my jumps over the rope. In the middle of our gym, even the double jumping was causing embarrassment. Probably due to the fact that I couldn’t really achieve much more than five jumps in a row. The movement actually started with just getting one or two consecutively. They were very discouraging beginnings to learning the jump rope. Often with diligent practice, things tend to improve and I moved onward from those frustrating starts. It wasn’t long before my double-jump technique was gone and progressed down to a single jumping routine. 

When the speed rope was purchased, I know a major step had been made. The achievement of jump roping in the training sessions, had been met. It was exciting to graduate on to a style of jump rope I had seen others using. Making me feel like I had completely progressed through the movement, from the embarrassment of the beginning stages. Now, the challenged was in getting better with the speed rope. Working on improving the coordination between my hands and feet. Getting better with my balance, timing, endurance, and strength. Each of the skills have greatly improved over the time spent using the speed rope. Though, I would never be getting to the speeds I watch in others, the achievement remains one of my best so far. Toward the end of my work with Bernard the number of 30 consecutive jumps was being hit with regularity. Each session, I was tasked with achieving 10-15-20 and 30 jumps in a row during four sets of working with the speed rope. The struggle was being able to hit any number of jumps above 30. So, when the wager was for me to get forty in a row, I saw that as a problem. The relief that I wouldn’t be forced to spend the hour attempting to hit 40 jumps was such a relief. But, we still spent time jumping rope in between our sets of playing catch. Bernard had the same rules applying with my four different number totals to achieve. 

With each set of my speed rope, I would try advancing as far as I could. Achieving one of the numbers in my goal didn’t mean to stop. During some of our sessions, I could hit the number 30 a couple of times, but never got much beyond that number. Which, increased my concern over hitting the number of 40. The day we had for our wager to be paid was also our final session together. In working with the speed rope, I wanted to take things as far as they could go. During one of my sets with the speed rope, a rhythm was found. Feeling like I was locked into a groove with the rope. I continued pushing myself past the number of 30. I wanted to send out working together off on a good note. Finding a way of achieving the final challenge Bernard had set forth for me to concur. I found myself passing the number thirty on my third set with the speed rope. Then, I got to the number of thirty-five, and went past that number. My brain willing me to find the strength and continue. It was the best opportunity to make forty, reaching the challenge from the wager. The number keeping me up the weekend before in anxious anticipation. Thirty-eight hit, but I didn’t let my brain consider that I would make my number. There were still two more jumps to get, and in my mind, a lot at stake. The mind kept reminding me to keep pushing with my legs, even with them burning. I finally got the two more in a row and reached the haunting number of forty consecutive jumps with the speed rope. 

The work going into learning how to jump rope was extensive. The progression took most of the five years Bernard and I trained. Starting almost immediately by stepping over a piece of tape on the floor. We would also practice foot work in a rope ladder that sat flatly on the gym turf. The balance and coordination began there and progressed all the way into jumping rope with the speed rope. Bernard explained to me once that a peer of mine could probably achieve between 30 and 50 consecutive jumps with the speed rope. Someone my age who spent time being relatively active. They could hit those numbers without much previous work with the rope. I think getting to the point of achieving forty consecutive jumps shows me a couple concepts. First being how great it was for me to hit the number in the middle of a so-called peer group range. The other would be understanding how much hard work can lead to achievement. I was able to reach a peer group milestone in an exercise I couldn’t do as a kid. Now, in a typically developed person, the number would have shot up above fifty, had they spent time practicing with the speed rope. But, it places into perspectives things I might be able to accomplish with practice. It just takes longer for me to arrive at the level of making something achievable. I see it in my journey of skiing. It takes more practice for me to advance beyond the beginner stage, but I find joy in running laps on the easiest of runs. That joy provides me the ability to, over time, improve as a skier. 

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