Friday, March 4, 2011

The Joy In The Journey

Looking back on this amazing health and fitness journey, I cannot believe how far I have come. The only exercise I used to do was a stationery bike and some walking. Strength training? Free weights? Cardiovascular conditioning? Pilates - weren't those the people who fly planes? These words had no place in my vocabulary or my life. I lived from the neck up immersed in intellectual exercises. I had a loving heart for others but did not know how to love myself. I despised my body which I felt had betrayed me. I did not have the tools to feel whole. With the diagnosis of post polio syndrome came the greatest blessing of my life.

I started out in outpatient rehab using a modified elliptical bike for 10 minutes. I remember feeling the joy of being able to just move. My physical therapist, Allison Lamarre Poole helped me to connect the dots and begin to feel myself in my body. Therabands, pilates, manual manipulation, cold therapy were all a part of those three times/week visits. I want to inject a thought here about the paradox of pain. When we are in pain, our instinct is to withdraw from physical exercise and often times that is a wise plan when you are injured or recovering from surgery BUT there is a pain associated with lack of exercise called the pain of disuse. It is counter intuitive to exercise when you are tired or in pain. When I look through the literature on post polio syndrome (PPS) it says that to date there is no known effective pharmacological treatment of PPS but offers a list of drugs that may be effective. It says that gentle non fatiguing exercise may help with some of the symptoms of fatigue. And that's where I had to start but as my regular readers know, one of my favorite songs is 'It's Not Where You Start It's Where You Finish.'

It's been a slow and steady journey with a slow and steady climb. Some times I had to rest on a rung before I could begin my climb up again. There have been earth angels at every rung to help me with my journey. The more I move, the better I feel.My drug of choice for the treatment of post polio syndrome is regular fatiguing exercise with variety as the spice of life. What are the keys to my success?

1. Perseverance - Stick with it. I write down in my calendar my plan for the week ahead. Sometimes I have to tweak it based on the weather or how I am feeling after trying something new (like yoga) but I am learning the difference between when I need to push myself through the pain or fatigue and when I need to take a day off. Invariably I feel so much better when I do not allow the pain or fatigue to prevent me from doing my plan for the day.

2. Patience - Sometimes you may not be able to 'see' your progress but trust and know it is happening. The phrase slow and steady wins the race is so true when it comes to recovery and healing.

3. Feel the joy in the journey - Focus on every minute detail of 'success'. For me when I was first able to get off of a low toilet seat, I felt a rush of success. In yoga, I feel a sense of joy when I take a risk to move my body in a new way and it feels so right. PR's are great and certainly a measurement of success but often times it's not the time on the clock but how I feel inside that fuels my feeling the joy in the journey.

4. Variety is the spice of life - Even if you are initially limited in how much you can do, be sure to build variety into your health and fitness regimen. I am still in awe that I can use different pieces of equipment at the gym, free weights, a pilates ball; I still use my therabands for upper body strength and incorporate my rehab pilates into my core training. I run, do yoga, do free weight training and who knows what else is waiting for me out there in the Universe. I am so blessed to feel the joy in the journey and have so many wonderful fellow travelers along for the ride.

God bless,be well and live like you were dyin'
From my heart to yours
With love,


Pamela McCurry Robbins said... make me smile!!! I think I may have to give Yoga a try soon!

Doug W said...

So proud of you Mary! I just LOVE your warrior spirit!

Anonymous said...

Pure inspiration!