Remember how I said I wanted to go to the gym more often in 2022? Well just this past week, I went twice! I’m pretty proud of that. I even went in freezing temperatures. You’re probably thinking big deal, right? It’s a big deal for me. Especially in this atrocious winter weather.
Thought I’d give an update on how my personal training is going. I’ve done mostly leg work. Warmup: five minutes on the bike. For me, the first couple minutes are the hardest. I just want to jump off the damn thing. I swear I feel my legs turning to jelly on it. I know, I know…the bike a great workout. And even though it’s tough, I feel great afterward. Definitely a plus.
After the bike, I headed to the seated leg press. I actually pressed the most weight I have in a long time: 80 pounds. Almost forgot I could press that much…. you might be thinking, what? Those legs can press 80 pounds? Why yes. They can. I like to say that my quads are deceptively strong. Wink, wink. One would think with my strong quads, walking would be a bit easier. But alas. The world doesn’t work that way when you have CP, I guess.
Here, I’ll let you all in on a little secret…back in college, in my “prime,” I went to the gym three times a week. Woke up at 6am to hit the machines before my first class. I could leg press as much as 100 pounds. Yes. Seriously! All well and good and cool, especially for me, right? At first. Then it’s like, eh….not so much. Even though I was in fact pressing all that weight, I don’t think I was doing it correctly. As my old physical therapist once told me “just because you’re doing the exercise, doesn’t mean you’re doing it right!” Words to live by. Form is everything.
Let me get more specific. In personal training these days, I use a blue yoga block while on the seated leg press to drive my knees apart. Since my hip muscles are so weak, my right knee is constantly collapsing inward. Annoying. The block stops that from happening. It improves my form. My trainer told me to press my knees into the block for leverage and to keep in place. Exhale as you push off. Inhale on the way back down. A lot of work for my legs, right? Correct! Remember, I was on the bike before this. And I walked 0.7 miles to the gym from my house. Oof.
I told my trainer, T, that I really wanted to switch to upper body work to give my legs a bit of a break. We went to the seated row. Meh. Not my favorite machine. At least not anymore. I might’ve touched on this before…but I always feel like I’m going to fall off the damn bench. There was nothing to hold onto on either side of me! Plus, my legs weren’t planted on the floor. They were hoisted up, slightly bent at the knee. T knew that because he double checked that I was centered on the bench and squatted behind me, placing his hand out so that when I pulled back to complete a rep, I could feel his hand. Feedback is essential for my CP brain! The best part about using the seated row machine is….getting off. I don’t tell T that. Don’t want him to think I’m not up to the challenge. BUT –– he knows my limits, too. Because in my case and in this case, limits do exist and it’s super important to acknowledge them. Ok, ok, I’ll get off my soapbox. You get the picture.
We finished up the next half of the hour-long session with some stretching and core work. You all know by now I have a love/hate relationship with stretching. And it’s so bad. *Cue embarrassed Emoji* Stretching is good for you. I honestly don’t know why I resist it so much. Can anyone else out there relate? Sigh. CP struggle bus, all aboard! Maybe I should give myself some kind of incentive when I stretch….or do more stretching while watching tv or something. I honestly wish I had a genie that appeared anytime I needed to stretch and helped me out. You know, held my leg up. Made sure I kept my knee straight during the hamstring stretch. Gave me encouragement. Reminded me to breathe. Instead of giving me three wishes, the genie would be my stretching buddy. Though, three wishes would be nice, too. One can dream. Side note: on the topic of genies, nobody compares to Robin Williams. Period.
I feel awkward AF asking family members or those close to me to help me stretch at home. Why? Because it’s such a hassle. At least it feels that way to me. Nobody has the time. Point is, it’s tough to get help at home. Wish it were easier. Again, alas. That’s why I like to prioritize stretching during training sessions. T is thorough. Doesn’t go overboard. Takes his time. Is willing to help me out. Of course, it’s technically his job to do so, but I like to think he enjoys our training sessions as much as I do.
Another thing we’re working on is leg curls. While laying down on my stomach, T stimulates my hamstrings, gently guides my ankle with his hand and tells me to curl my leg and pull my heel toward my butt. Sound easy? Um, for me it’s not. It’s pretty freaking difficult, actually. I’m exhausted after a single rep. After, T says “Ok. Do that nine more times.” … Ugh! Can’t stand it. But I do it anyway because it’s good for me. And I know it’ll pay off. Just like going to the gym more often will pay off, in more ways than one. It’s pretty exciting, really. To top it off, as the iconic Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!”