My hamstrings hurt

My hamstrings hurt this morning.  More my left than my right.  It was a day-after-the-gym-proof-that-I actually-worked-out-why-did-I-push-it-so-hard-could-I-have-pushed-it-even-farther kind of hurt.  It was a good hurt.  I woke up to this hurt around 4:30 this morning. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep.

But, holy [expletive]!  My HAMSTRINGS HURT!  MY hamstrings hurt!  MY HAMSTRINGS HURT!*

Before everyone thinks that I’ve gone insane: My. Hamstrings. Hurt.  Translated: I can feel my hamstrings!  I haven’t felt my hamstrings since (ballpark guestimate) August 12, 2013.  How do I know that?  That’s the day before I became paralyzed.  My hamstrings haven’t really worked since.  In fact, I’d kind of assumed they somehow jumped out of my legs and were sitting on some beach sipping mai tais.  I wouldn’t know they were there because I couldn’t feel them.

But today.  I. Felt. Them. They. Hurt.  A glorious hurt!  A marvelous hurt!  The most wonderful hurt that has ever hurt in the history of hurts.  I knew that GunShow pushed me yesterday at the gym.  We did some exercises that we’d never done before.  That I’d never really contemplated before.  He’s probably going to claim he’d researched and thought of it ahead of time, but I’m pretty sure that he creatively came up with it on the fly when I said “I want to try the rowing machine sometime when there’s less people around.”  His reply was “Let’s do it now.  No one is ever looking.”  (Um, rude.  I was having a good hair day.  I’m sure they were looking.)  But I decided to go for it.  The transfer took about 5 minutes because halfway through I started laughing (the kind of laughing that made Ninja Trainer come over to watch because he probably thought I was crying) and kind of got stuck.  But, I eventually made it onto the world’s tiniest rowing machine seat (I’m pretty sure it’s actually normal size, but in my nervousness, it was the size of a pinhead).  And instead of rowing, GS had the brilliant idea to have me “walk” my self forward and backward using the moving seat.  It was more of a pushing back with my quads and pulling forward with my hamstrings.  The pushing back was pretty easy because my quads have always been kind of present in the past few years.  The pulling forward was tough.  I had to try to not cheat by using my arms or core to pull myself.  But while it was slow, I was able to do it!  I think we did 8 or 10 or 503 reps. I wasn’t really counting.

I knew that I pushed it yesterday because my legs were tingly all day.  But now, if you need me, I’m going to sit here enjoying this wonderful post-leg-day hurt.  I earned it!  I deserve it!  I can FEEL it!!

 

*Note for my mom: Don’t worry mom, it’s a good hurt.  Not a “I did too much and hurt myself” kind of hurt.  You don’t have to worry, I’m OK.

Playing with the baby

Today after the gym I had some time to hang out with the Little Mister.  We’ve been working on crawling/standing/pulling up.  These are all hard to do if he’s with me on the sofa or in a chair.  We sometimes can practice in his crib.  But, he’s getting too big and too active these days.  The natural solution is to get down with him on the ground.  Getting on the ground is a lot easier than it sounds when you’re a paraplegic.  The getting up is the hard part.  Here is the trick that I have learned: it’s all about leverage.  I normally transfer to the ground from a chair or the sofa, with my wheelchair right next to it.  I place my right hand on my wheelchair and my left hand on the chair.  My legs are in front of me.  I lower myself to the ground while focusing on trying to use my legs to support some weight.  Getting up is just a reverse, with the exception of my legs.  When getting back up, I leave my legs out front of me straight.  I don’t really know the physics or biology behind it, but it’s just easier.  Is it a lot of work?  Yes.  Is it difficult?  Not really, but kind of.  Is it worth it?  100% yes!

paralyzed-ground-transfer

Leg day: take THAT atrophy!

As I was getting ready for work this morning I mentioned to the Hubs that I felt like my legs were showing more atrophy.  That’s really my biggest fear- losing muscle that I will never get back.  That might seem like a silly fear, but here’s the reason why: I’m fully hopeful that someday there will be a cure for paralysis and I don’t want all my muscle to be gone and prohibit me from being able to walk again.  My muscles still have some slight ability, so I like to keep them active as much as possible.  Or, when I remember, at least.

[Random thought: isn’t “atrophy” a weird word?  It looks like “a trophy”.  But, isn’t that the opposite of what it is?  Your muscle is literally dying.  It’s going away.  You’re losing.  There’s definitely no winning.  Shouldn’t it be called a-sucky?  Or a-losing? Or a-where-the-hell-are-my-muscles-going?]

So, at the gym today I did leg day.  I killed it on leg day.  I told GunShow that I thought my legs were getting skinny and at first he didn’t understand why that was a bad thing.  “You don’t want your legs to get skinny?”  I responded “No.  I’m good with every other part of my body getting skinnier.  Just not my legs, cause it’s not for the right reasons.”  And after that, I killed it.  I rode the bike longer than I have yet.  I did more reps on the leg press and I did the abductor and adductor machine.  I was completely spent by the end.  Legs twitching up a storm.  It’s funny when I do leg day, because I know that I am working really hard, but I can’t really feel it.  And then after I’m completely exhausted.  But I still feel like I didn’t do anything, because, again, I can’t feel it like with other body parts.  Sometimes I forget why I’m so exhausted and have to be reminded that I did leg day.  It’s just a really odd feeling.

But, it’s something that needs to be done.  I need to start pushing myself more to keep my legs from withering away if I can help it.  They may atrophy.  And they may get skinny.  Too skinny.  But, I am going to fight like hell to keep that from happening.

 

Trust.

Today was a body part at the gym day.  (I honestly don’t know what part of the body we worked out today because somehow GunShow managed to make them all sore.  Maybe shoulder day?  Maybe bicep day?  Pretty sure it wasn’t leg day, though he did still manage to get them involved and they are now steadily twitching as I sit here typing in agony.)  He was a bit under the weather with a sinus infection and he decided to take his unhappiness out on me.  Ok, I don’t know that last part to be completely true, but it is a very likely scenario.  I told him to take the time off to rest.  He told me I wouldn’t work out if he weren’t there.  I told him I would.  He apparently knows me too well. I would have gone to the gym.  And I probably would have half-assed it in a virtual class.  I love the virtual classes.  But, I also admit that I don’t push myself in nearly the same way he does.  Hence my need for his services!

But, the conversation also got me to thinking.  I sometimes do weights when I’m not training at the gym with him.  Again, it’s not the same way.

wheelchair lat pull downwheelchair lat pull downI don’t do some weights because I would need help (i.e. a seated lat pulldown [I’m sure the “seated” ).  I need help pulling the bar down to even do the exercise.  Sometimes I lose my balance.  I’ve never fallen.  Or even come close to falling.  But it’s still a really scary feeling when you have no control.  And that’s why I like having him there.  I know GunShow won’t let me fall or hurt myself.  I trust him.

 

I know that I’m a different kind of client.  I need more attention because things that aren’t an issue for other people are possibly problematic for me.  Like sitting on a weight bench.  A normal client can just sit down.  I have to transfer off of my wheelchair onto a narrow bench.  I have to know that I’m not going to fall off equipment.  Or that I’ll be able to get back up if I get on the ground.  These are considerations that I think about nonstop when I’m at the gym.  And that’s why it has to take trust.  My trust in him has grown as our relationship has developed while I’ve trained with him.  I’m willing to try different things that push me way [read: WAY WAY WAY] past my comfort zone because of that.  If I don’t trust my trainer (physical therapist, doctor, whatever) I’m not going to push myself or let them push me.  I’ll play it safe.  It’s once we’ve established that level of trust that I’m willing to go out on the ledge (so to speak).  And I don’t trust everyone.  Or many people, for that matter.  And if I don’t have the trust connection with someone, I will completely shut down.  That’s why I left a couple physical therapists prior to joining this gym.  No trust = not pushing myself = wasting my time and theirs.  But you have to understand how scary it is doing things when you can’t feel that you’re supported on the ground by legs that are meant to stabilize you and having a core that isn’t quite up to snuff.  It’s intimidating and daunting.  Even though past therapists would tell me to trust that my legs are there and still supporting me, it’s nearly impossible to trust that when you can’t feel them.  So when I can’t trust my own body, I have to trust the person who is working with me.  I have to trust my trainer.  I have to trust GS.

Another example: today we did timed bicep curls and I set the weights on my legs for very short breaks.  I had the weights resting on my hands because it’s scary putting weights on my legs and not knowing if they’re hurting my legs or not.  GS didn’t want me to cut off circulation to my hands by holding the weights.  I told him my fear of accidentally hurting my legs and not knowing and I could see him thinking about that.  I don’t think that’s something he had thought of before.  And I could literally see the wheels in his brain turning.  And then he said “Do you think I would let you do something to hurt yourself.”  It wasn’t accusatory like how dare I not trust him.  And it wasn’t feeling sorry for himself like he was sad that I didn’t trust him.  It wasn’t even really a question. It was a statement of strength.  I know he wouldn’t let me really hurt myself.  He knows that I know that.  And I moved my hands and let the weights rest on my leg.  And I did not get hurt.

Well, My legs didn’t get hurt.  My biceps are completely on fire.  But I suppose that was intentional.

Wonder Woman

I’ve been really into making shirts lately.  Call it my zen happy place.  I tell the hubs to call it “money savings” which is how I convinced him to be as excited about this new hobby as I am.  It’s hard to keep him maintaining the same level of excitement when our house is overflowing with iron-on vinyl.  “How many different colors do you need?!” is a frequent question in my house.  (You know you may have a problem when the guy working the register at Joann’s asks what project all these colors are for and your answer is “I don’t even know yet!”)  But, I’m quite the stock-piler and I like to have everything I could ever possibly need on hand just in case.  Most people have hoards of water and canned food for an eventual earthquake in California which will shut the state down.  I’ll be prepared to make disaster relief shirts.  Who’s the prepared person now?

But I seriously, seriously digress.  The point is about one of the shirts I just made.  It’s a workout shirt (which is another frequent topic of conversation in my house: How many workout shirts does one person need?!) and it features Wonder Woman and the phrase “Not all princesses need to be saved.”  Wonder Woman is my girl.  Or, my gurl for all the hipsters out there.  She’s all things strength and power, but super sexy and feminine (in a strong and powerful way).

My favorite Disney princess is Ariel, and always has been.  Even before my legs stopped working.  But, the irony in having a favorite princess who wishes she had legs that worked is not lost on me now.  But, if you think about it, the Ariel story kind of sucks.  It’s this guy who is super into Ariel, but then this other hot chick with a voice he heard once comes around and he ditches Ariel despite their insane connection.  And then she saves this dumb prince and gets her voice back and he’s all “Baby, I really wanted you the whole time.”  So, instead of being the strong, independent Ariel who defied her father and made a deal with Ursula, she becomes this weak chick who will take back the guy who spurned her.

But Wonder Woman.  Talk about strength! wonder-woman-shirt She’s the warrior princess of the Amazons!  How do you beat that? And wouldn’t a lasso of truth be the coolest weapon? You can do so much when you know the truth.  If there’s an issue, I can problem solve when I know the truth.  And she has the crazy ability to heal really fast, which is obviously very enviable.  Especially when my body heals like molasses [read: very, very slowly.  Not sticky.  That’s weird.]  Also, the invisible plane!  I mean, who even needs working legs if you can fly everywhere and shoot projectiles with your tiara?!  And, not to brag, but I can rock knee high boots like nobody’s business!

So, isn’t it better to be the princess who is out saving other people, including weak males?  Isn’t that showing independence and self-reliance?  I try to be as independent and self-reliant as possible.  I’m constantly telling people that I don’t need help.  If I really sit down and think about it, there really isn’t much that I can’t do.  Even in my wheelchair, with two non-functioning legs.  I joke around with the Hubs a lot that people probably think he’s a jerk for not helping me more.  But, he knows that if he tries, it will lead to problems.  (Is one too independent if offering to help leads to an issue, versus not helping at all?)  But, that’s how I know he cares: he knows that I can take care of things myself.  Of course I like some help.  And I appreciate him for helping me when I need him to.  For example, when I am sick with a cold I turn into a huge baby and he brings me food and drinks and kleenex and all that stuff.  And when I take a shower, he puts my shower bench in and out for me.  Yes, I can do that myself, and sometimes if I decide to take a shower when he’s not around and I forgot to ask him to put it in, I do in fact do it myself.  But it’s easier for him to do that.

And it’s not just the hubs who feels weird about not helping.  A year ago, my brother went on a day trip to Catalina Island with me because I had court.  He begged me to let him push me because he thought people were giving him the ol’ stink eye for not helping me.  But I didn’t need the help, though I did appreciate the offer.  Some people in wheelchairs get mad when people offer.  I think mainly they’re offended when strangers ask.  I’m never offended if someone offers to help me with something.  People passing by when I’m getting my wheelchair out of my car often ask for help.  They’re probably not used to seeing a wheelchair on the ground with no wheels when I’m snapping it all together.  So, I’m never offended when they ask.  I appreciate the niceness of strangers wanting to help someone else who may be in need.  But, it does get slightly annoying (and embarrassing) when they don’t stop asking.  If you ask and I say no, then don’t keep asking.  And don’t assume I’m trying to prove to you that I can do it.  Maybe I’m trying to prove it to myself that I can do everything.  And maybe I don’t want to give someone else the power of thinking that I need their help.

And maybe I’m Wonder Woman, a princess who doesn’t need to be saved.  Maybe you need me to save you.