Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room at least it might be for anyone with a physical disability and that is exercising and stretching. I’m speaking from my own experience. I love to exercise, when it’s something for me and when I don’t feel forced, but the minute I feel like I’m doing it for my cerebral palsy I get frustrated. Although when I am on a consistent routine with my CP exercises I notice the biggest difference and feel better, stronger and my walking gait improves. So why am I so against doing these exercises? Is it just me, or do any of you have the same issue? Maybe I just get burnt out because I have been doing this for my whole life.
I, like many others who are affected with CP started doing daily exercises and stretching at the age of 2. Yes, that’s right 2 years old! I’m not saying I was running on the treadmill getting my 30 minutes of cardio in every day. It was the simple stuff, mostly done by my physical therapist and my parents. Stretching twice a day, pushing my toes outward, bending my knees up and down. I honestly can’t remember a day in my life that I didn’t do my daily stretching and exercising, other than days I was sick, but even then my mom would make me do a “quick stretch”. If I did feel like rebelling and telling my parents that I didn’t want to stretch, I regretted it the next day when I woke up tight.
Every school day (elementary) started with my mom waking me up 30 minutes earlier then I needed just for stretching. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I laid on the carpet in our living room with a pillow and blanket watching cartoons as my mom stretched me. Not too spoiled, right? This was the time that I would try and convince her that I should stay home from school so we can order in chinese lunch specials with my aunt. I’m not going to lie to you I can be pretty convincing, so it worked some days. After my 30 minute stretch was up I would get ready, and we would walk hand and hand down the block to school. It didn’t end there though, three days a week after school I had Physical Therapy for 45 minutes which happened to be 45 minutes away. My mom always made it fun though she would have a snack waiting for me in the car along with the newest Spice Girl CD that was out and a clip board so I could do my homework. If PT went well, I could always count on getting ice cream on the way home. To end the day, I would take a bath, stretch one last time for the day, and curled up with my parents and watch TV.
I used to complain and think that this was all so much for me, but the real question is how did my mom do it all? Taking care of the house, cooking, cleaning etc. That’s why all of you CP moms are the real heroes. As I grew up and got stronger so did my CP routine, but the one thing that stayed the same was my mom right next to me. For all the CP mama’s reading this as much as your kids are going to fight it, and believe me I tortured my poor mom, but do it and push them every day. Without my mom being so on top of me as a kid my doctors said I wouldn’t have been walking as good as I do. I would have had more pain and not have retained as much flexibility as I did after my surgeries. As much as you work on yourself as a child and young adult it will only benefit you in the long run.
In the past couple of years, I have changed my mindset when it comes to doing good things for my body and health. That’s a big thanks to my fiancé. When I met Matt I was intimated by him, he went to the gym 5-7 days a week and sometimes twice a day. He was extremely strong and confident, something that I wasn’t. The first time he asked me to go to the gym with him my heart sunk into my stomach. Somehow he convinced me to give it a try, we walked into the gym and went to the side that I never thought I would be on… the weight training side. “Come on babe, let’s lift some weights.” He said. I looked at him with complete fear in my eyes, my anxiety set in big time. I thought I was going to ride the bike and walk on the treadmill and be done. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other girls lifting weights next to me and completely embarrass myself in front of my new boyfriend, but next thing I knew and it was months later and I was able to leg press over 200lbs. It was then when I realized that I had to stop comparing myself to others because yes maybe they can run on the treadmill and be stronger then me in some ways, but I might be stronger in other ways that they aren’t. Rather than focusing on how far I have to go, I had to recognize how far I have come.
So let’s make a pact and look that elephant in the face and take out those Thera Bands that are collecting dust in the closet and sit on the floor and try and reach for your toes and think about how far you have come the past few years. Together let’s make a healthier version of ourselves for 2017.
Be the best for YOUR ability!