Old legs, new tricks

I hit a major plateau in my paralysis recovery.  Or, rather, the plateau was in my mental state regarding my recovery.  I became rather complacent in my wheeled life and kind of gave up on trying to get stronger.  I focused on getting better in my wheelchair.  If this is my life, then I need to be as good as possible in my wheelchair.  But, why can’t I do both?  Why can’t I be good in my chair but also still try to get out of it?  I give credit to going to the gym for helping me reach this new revelation.  The fact that I am getting stronger and getting pushed beyond where I ever thought I could go has made me more open to trying more things.  I’m still a big whiner and really have to be forced into new things, but I’m more open to it than I was a year ago.

Today was one such day.  I’m on vacation in Wyoming.  The hubs and I joined a gym for the duration of our stay.  It’s a really nice little gym, though it does make me miss my gym and my gym friends back home.  But, for a temporary gym, this place is nice.  (I love that I’ve become a person who needs to belong to a gym while on vacation.  I literally NEVER thought I would be that person.  I was always more of a “eat crap cause you’re on vacation” vacationer.  But, now I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made.  And I feel gross when I don’t work out these days.  Who knew?!)  I was going to jump on the recumbent bike while here, because that’s something that I’ve been wanting to try.  But, the  one here isn’t as nice as the one in my gym back home.  And that’s something I want to try when I’m in my home gym on my home turf with my home girls (and guys).  Instead, I decided to try the leg press machine.  The hubs was all for me trying and encouraged me to jump on.  So I did.  And at first, I wasn’t able to do anything.  Go figure- my legs didn’t work.  But, then I realized I could push my knees down to straighten my legs and then my muscles kicked in and controlled my going back down.  This was the kind of situation where I wish that Gun Show or one of the other trainers had been around to make sure I was doing everything correctly and to reassure me that I was actually working. (I tend to second guess everything because I don’t want to get my hopes up.)  The hubs filmed me while I did a few reps.  Then he showed me the video and I promptly deleted it.  (Note to self: you make some really awful faces when exerting yourself.  Don’t do that.)  Then the hubs filmed a second round.  Towards the end, I was actually able to kind of push myself up.  A little.  The unfortunate thing is that the video cut out at that exact moment because someone called me.  But, the video caught the awesomeness of the rest of it.  I don’t know if it was really that awesome, but it felt awesome.  And I felt like I conquered something new.  I tried for a third round, but my legs were spent and I didn’t want to push it.

So, now I am super stoked about my new signs of ability and I can’t wait to try it again and push myself more.  Though, I’m worried about when I get back to my real gym, because GS has already promised to torture push me based on the video proof what I am able to do now.  Who knows what can happen?!

Yin and Yang at the gym

I had a good day at the gym today.  No, strike that.  I had a GREAT day at the gym today.  It would have only been better had GunShow been there to give me a hard time.  I’ve really come to appreciate him there annoying pushing me.  I just hope he doesn’t read this and think that I’ve become a softy.

My other friend, Smiles, was there though.  He’s the gym manager.  But more importantly, he’s the nice yin to the mean GunShow yang.  Hence “Smiles”.  He’s always quick with a friendly word of encouragement.  Today he was almost sad when I told him I didn’t need help getting out of my car.  That’s how friendly most everyone who works there is!

But here’s why today was so great:  I didn’t have a very long time in the gym today as I had to get to the office for a client meeting.  So, after court I decided to stop by and do a quick video boxing class.  I hadn’t done one in a while since I started training with GS.  No one was in the room (I still don’t get why that room is rarely used??) so I figured that I might as well.  I tried not getting sweaty but that lasted like 3 seconds.  I did the warm up and then the punches. Awesome awesome awesome.  Then came the part for the kicks.  It starts with a knee lift and then a kick while it’s lifted.  I swear to God that I lifted my left knee as if I’d forgotten I was paralyzed.  It came up a couple inches and then I was able to control it out in a flick.  It wasn’t just completely flopping, it was actually controlled!  If anyone looked in the room they would have wondered why there was a crazy smiling and laughing girl in a wheelchair.  I almost wished GS had been there right then to see it cause he would have been stoked too.  I wanted to record it, but every muscle was focused on my left leg.  I worried if I moved a hand that I would have lost it in the leg department.  By this point I was a sweaty mess and beyond exhausted.  That takes everything out of me.  But I was so beyond stoked.  Any little change, improvement is huge!!  That’s what keeps me going.  Keeps me fighting!

I was going to tell Smiles, but he was busy with his boss and I didn’t want to interrupt.  There was a ladder involved and it seemed stressful.  I had just met her that morning but she seemed super nice too, so I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded the interruption.  Besides, imagine the PR: miracle gym gets obnoxious paralyzed girl to walk again.  Hey, it just may happen!

Ode to GunShow

I love my new gym.  Seriously.  It’s just a really comfortable place with good energy.  (No, I’m not getting all new-agey. I just mean people there are super friendly and they usually play good music.)  I like everything except for my new personal trainer: GunShow*.  (Please see below for *.)  I hate him.  I’ve never hated anyone so much in my life.  I thought Drill Sergeant and 5-0 were rough on me.  But they were physical therapists and were more inclined to not push me too hard. (Drill Sergeant was a little more aggressive than 5-0.  But I still had some tricks that worked for leniency.)  I think personal trainers are just built differently.  Literally and figuratively.  Pain is gain. Sweat is fat crying.  And other such motivational sayings.

What makes GunShow even worse is that he was in the Army and had to rehab after an injury.  There is literally no pity in him for me.  He pushes me to my limit and then adds 5 more pounds.  He is quick to tell me when I have “4 more” but neglects to tell me when I’ve stopped counting and did 2 more than he instructed.  Jerk!

The hubs was his teacher in high school so on some level I think it’s payback for long held grudges.  I asked him and he denied that, though I swear I saw him rubbing his hands together like some evil genius.

The worst part is that there is no distracting him.  With my physical therapists, I could always get them distracted.  I had one who I could get to massage me for the entire session.  I would just tell her that my legs and shoulders were tight from sitting and pushing all day.  The next thing, I’m snoozing on the table.  The hubs would get so mad that I would get away with that and tell me I had to stop that.  What I heard was “Do that every time?  Challenge accepted.”  And 5-0 loved to talk about the physiological aspects of everything I did.  He’s roll over the skeleton and show me how everything worked.  That took up half the session.  But, with GunShow, I can’t distract him for anything.  I do try too!  His response “You think I can’t multi-task?  Keep going.”  I think I threatened to punch him like 3 times today because of how hard I had to work and how sore I was from Monday.  That’s what happens when I work for the straight 60 minutes and become sore and tired.  Maybe once I give him nice throat punch he will let me have more breaks.  But, somehow I think that would lead to more reps or some new torturous activity.

I hate this guy so much that I spent the last hour looking up personal trainer memes to bombard him with.  That’s the first passive aggressive step before throat punch.  You have to work your way up the aggression ladder.  Here is the first one from my new arsenal of memes:

personal trainer 10 more

 

Ok, and for those of you reading this, replace hate with love.  It’s only been one week and 2 sessions with him (though the soreness in my muscles would indicate differently) but I think he’s actually an amazing trainer.  And I’m always up for a challenge and looking for opportunities to fight when someone doesn’t give in to me and let me have my way.  My physical therapists (specifically 5-0 and Drill Sergeant) were so amazing and I loved working with them.  But, it wasn’t enough to make me stick with it.  I can already tell that this is going to be a much, much different experience.  And I’m not just saying that based on today’s conversations about metal music and festivals.  The fact that I enjoy talking to him is just icing on the “get me in shape” cake.  [And yes, I am aware that I probably shouldn’t be using sugary cake metaphors when talking about getting in shape and my personal trainer.  Give me a break- it’s only been 1 week at the gym.]

*GunShow was his choice of name for this blog.  He’s a goofball but since he wouldn’t stop increasing the weight on the machine I was using, I gave in.  I was hoping he would reward my generosity by going easy on me for the rest of the session.  He did not.  So for now I will acquiesce, but I do reserve the right to rename him “Jerky J” at any point in time if he becomes too hard on me.

Gym rat- day 3

Today was day 3 at the gym. 3 days in a row! I think you get a medal when you go 3 days in a row, right? Yesterday we went in the afternoon and the gym was full of big muscly guys. I think I prefer going in the morning where it’s more women and older people. That’s more my speed. I’m not quite at the “lift 300 pounds and grunt really loud so that everyone knows you’re lifting 300 pounds” phase. Give me a couple weeks. One of my clients is a big muscly guy and has promised to train me once I win his case. I’ve bartered with him- I won’t charge him anymore for his case and he will train me. He said he’d train me for free if [WHEN!!!] I win his case. I have 2 witnesses to hold him to that!

This morning the owner of the gym was there and was super excited that we were there too. I know this because he exclaimed “HI!” and waved with both of his arms over his head. Not quite a 3-day medal, but close.

Me on the arm bike at the gym

Me on the arm bike at the gym

I’ve learned that people are more awkward around me at the gym. They don’t want to crowd me or offend me by assuming things. Case in point: This morning I was using weights in a free weight area. I happened to be next to a balance ball apparatus. It’s the thing that looks like half a balance ball with the bottom being a flat board. (In looking it up, I see it’s called a Bosu Ball.) I think you stand on it and try to balance. I used one back in the day during PT (like 2006). I was never any good at it.

Anyway, a woman came up to me nervously asked if I was using it. I tried to not laugh when I said “no” because she was so sincere and nice about it. She probably felt awkward because it was right next to me and didn’t want to offend me by assuming that I couldn’t use it.

This made me realize that people generally are nice. And respectful. And nonjudgmental. She could have easily just assumed I wasn’t using the thing. But she was worried about hurting my feelings. That was very nice.

So, I think I’ll go back for day 4.

Arm Bike

I love the arm bike.  I used to hate using an arm bike when I was walking.  I felt defeated- that I should be using the regular bike or elliptical but because my legs weren’t as strong, I was using the arm bike.  But now that I’m wheelchair bound, it’s become an awesome workout!

The arm bike at my gym requires me to transfer to the little bench.  I don’t know if it’s removeable.  The arm bike at my physical therapist’s clinic has a removeable bench where I can wheel right up and stay in my chair.  I don’t mind transferring though.

The workout I did today (3/29/15) consisted of 15 minutes:

1:00 warm-up

4:00 forward [moderate] (L4)

4:00 backward [moderate] (L4)

1:00 forward [rigorous] (L5)

1:00 backward [rigorous] (L5)

1:15 forward [moderate] (L2)

0:45 forward [rigorous] (L5)

2:00 cool-down (L2)

This definitely got the heart rate up and the sweat pouring.  Trick: keep your back straight and your abs tight for a great core workout.  Don’t twist from side to side.

Gym Rat

Ok, that title may be a *bit* optimistic or even *slightly* misleading.  I went to the gym today.  First time.  I guess that doesn’t quite qualify me as a gym rat or a regular.  But, I do intend to go back.  So that’s something.

Just like a majority of Americans, the Hubs and I joined a gym at the first of the year.  There’s a small gym by our house which is owned by a super nice guy who is really excited about helping me get healthy and in shape.  He even moved weigh equipment around for me.  We dutifully joined in early January.  Today was the first time we went.

I’m really good at excuses. “I don’t feel good.”  “Tomorrow I have PT and don’t want to wear myself out.”  “It’s Tuesday.”  Whatever the situation, I can come up with a great excuse to talk myself out of going.  I actually packed my gym bag one morning and went to the gym on my way home from court.  I pulled into the parking spot which is literally in front of the door to the gym.  I sat there for a minute and then chickened out.  In my head, people were going to stare at the handicapped girl in the wheelchair and judge me for being there.  The hubs has been busy with work and we hadn’t found any time to go to the gym (Sounds an awful lot like an excuse, I know).

Going to the gym is always a good idea.  I never get there and think “Man, I’m bummed I went there today!”  Even if I’m sore, I don’t regret going.  The soreness lets me know I actually did something!

Cut to today- we decided to go.  I put on my gym clothes as soon as I got up.  That’s always half the battle.  Luckily, the hubs as motivated to go.  I’m always on the fence.  It sounds like a good idea, but do I really want to?  Today he wanted to.  He put his workout clothes on which got our dogs super excited cause they thought it meant that they were going on a walk.  So, 20 minutes later, after he returned from a quick walk with the dogs, we left for the gym.

As we were parking, another car came into the handicapped spot next to us.  Out comes an older man with one leg.  Not even a prosthetic.  Just one leg and crutches.  The reason why this is noteworthy is because I kept seeing him all over the gym (again, it’s very small).  He would balance on the one leg and do the overhead pull down bar weight thing (yes, that’s the technical term I believe).  Nothing makes one feel like a whiner than to see a one legged man killing it in the gym.  Talk about inspiration!

I did my thing on the arm bike.  I used to think the arm bike was kind of a weird machine.  But now that it’s my go-to gym aerobics machine, I appreciate it.  Talk about an arm, shoulder and core workout!  The trick is to sit up (not propped up on the backrest) and flex your ab muscles the whole time.  Yikes! I also used a pec machine, which made me feel like I was going to fall off the little bench thing.  I did not.

This little outing taught me A) I’m able to use quite a bit of machinery in the gym; B) I should definitely stop feeling sorry for myself; C) I should also stop being so conceited and thinking that people are looking at me, cause the only people who glanced my way were just waiting for me to finish with my sets.  [Well, I also caught a few glances when I took a selfie to send to my mom and dad as proof that I was in the gym.  They tend to not believe me unless there’s photographic proof.  My dad said I used photoshop and my mom said I took a photo in front of a gym poster.  Haters!]

Eat less…yeah right

It all started a couple weeks ago.  My mom uttered those 7 words that every girl loves hates to hear:  “I think you should see a nutritionist.”  I told her it’s rude to make fun of the handicapped.  She repeated her statement.  I told her that this conversation was better to be had over pizza.  She repeated her statement.  I told her that I don’t need a nutritionist to tell me to move more and eat less.  I need new legs to move more.

Ok, earlier I said I need new legs to move more.  Did you fall for it?  I’m the queen of excuses.  Did that one make you feel bad?  It doesn’t make my mom feel sad.  She tells me to move however I can.  For example, getting from the floor to the sofa gets my heart rate up.  She sat there today to see if it’s something we agree I could do while I was home alone without the fear of being the next “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up spokeswoman.”  I wasn’t in the correct attire for this attempt, however.  I was wearing nylon warm-ups which kept sliding all over the floor.  I couldn’t get traction to save my life.  I finally managed to wedge a pillow under my knees which gave me enough traction to hoist my upper body onto the sofa.  My therapy dogs (which are really just my dogs during therapy time) thought I was playing a game and both decided to sit on my back.  They’re always looking to lend a helpful paw.  Or for a new place to rest.  After shooing them off of me, I managed to finally get myself onto the sofa.  The whole thing took about 5 minutes and probably got my heart rate up enough to burn 100 calories.  Probably not one of the exercises I should do unsupervised, unless we want the hubs to find me half sprawled on the sofa in my new occupation of “dog bed”.

Since move more isn’t the best solution right now, eat less is definitely the solution.  There’s just one problem: I love junk food so much that it’s practically against my religion to not eat them.

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my friend Kiki (not her real name, but the name she plans on her grandkids calling her one day.  Her kids are under 10.).  We were talking about dieting and losing weight and all those other things girlfriends talk about when they get together.  She told me how her mom and sister told her that being skinny feels better than anything tastes.  I wish I had that mindset.  I would probably pay money if someone could reprogram my brain that way.   But, I love the taste of cake.  And ice cream.  And pizza.  And those are all way better than being skinny.  Yes, yes.  Being skinny is wonderful.  But, so are Oreos!  Literally, they’re so delicious that after I wrote that last sentence, I got sidetracked on the Oreo website and found that they have recipes for delicious desserts!  That’s how addicted to junk food I am!

To be fair, after Kiki and I had this conversation, I made her a spinach and goat cheese salad with balsamic vinegar and a hint of Italian seasoned olive oil.  So, I am not opposed to eating healthy.  I try to do it pretty often.  I just believe in moderation.  One thing healthy, two things junk food.  One thing healthy, two things junk food.  Etc, etc.  I usually find ways to justify it.  I’m in a wheelchair; I deserve those cookies.  I’m home alone; I need Skittles.  I had a hard workout so an extra scoop of ice cream won’t hurt.  It’s Wednesday pizza day.  It’s someone’s birthday somewhere in the world so let’s buy a sheet cake.  I can literally find any way to justify any junk food decision.

But there is one way to get me to cut back on the bad food.   And no, it’s not health related.  Yes, I do acknowledge that losing weight would help walking when I’m using all upper body on the walker.  And that’s a benefit.  Is it enough to get me to stop though?  Nope.  And yes, I acknowledge that putting on my clothes without using my legs would be easier if they fit looser.  Again, not enough to change my habits.  The one thing that is enough?  Having my mom bring up the fact that I need to go on a diet.  She’s not the type to let things go.  She will bookend every conversation with reminders.  She’ll bring it up at all times of the day when she calls to check in.  It is worth it to sincerely cut back on the intake just to have those nails on chalkboard conversations friendly reminders stop.  And believe me you, she knows this and is precisely the reason she persists.  After 33 years, she knows every trick and has me beat at every turn.  So mom, you’ll be glad to know that tonight I am passing on the cake for dessert and instead having a bowl of strawberries.