Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My life with Cerebral Palsy Pt. 2 - Working out

When I started my New Year's Resolution back in January one of the first things my roommate asked me was what limitations I had.  He seemed genuinely concerned that there'd be things I couldn't do or that I might get hurt.  You get this a lot when you've got any kind of physical disability.  I had to continually tell DP not to worry about it.  "Treat me like any other person, and we'll find a way to work around any issues that might pop up," I said.

I think it's basic human nature for most people to want to limit you from the start out of a genuine sense of caution and concern.  I'm really not the least bit offended by this unless they're persistent and / or rude about it.  Hell, I know I've been guilty of it myself with others.  I honestly think it's a result of the other person being somewhat uninformed about your particular disability and / or overly concerned with your well-being.  Had my father gotten his way I'd never have played organized basketball growing up because I might get hurt.  He wouldn't have had any luck keeping me off a basketball court, and ironically my two concussions were suffered in inpromptu pickup games.

I'm usually at the gym 4-5 times a week and if I happen to skip on a particular day I'll alternate several different triceps & biceps exercises with pushups (100 minimum - total) followed by abs.

Truth be told there have been some issues that have cropped up as things have progressed. Because of poor balance I have to be extra careful when picking up / putting down weight.  My bum right ankle gives me issues doing squats, and arthritis in my joints, particularly my knees, hands and wrists is a constant source of frustration.  Since my right side is tighter I have problems getting into the correct position or getting proper full extension with my right arm.  Grip strength in that hand remains an issue. In short, sometimes my muscles just won't do what I want them to do. I work through those issues and adapt, just like I've always had to do.

 That said, I'm in pain regularly as it is, only now at least I'm getting something out of the pain. There are some exercises that I haven't tried yet because I'd rather not get hurt and my CP makes that more likely. I don't do any free standing squats with weights for example, since given my balance issues that'd be a great way to injure myself.  For the most part though, I've been able to do whatever exercises we've tried provided they didn't require significant balance.

Two of the major components of CP are muscle fatigue and weakness.  I'm simply starting from a point where I'm weaker than I'd be if I were a completely able-bodied 25 year old man.  My muscles are also going to fatigue faster when I push them.  I can't help that, all I can do is push my body past the point where it gives up and cries "uncle."  If there's one thing I know well it's pain, so pain from kicking my own ass doesn't bother me.  Mind over matter, if you will.

I'll admit, I tend to get frustrated about not seeing results to the extent I expect.  I think sometimes I give myself unrealistic expectations. I've gained about 15 pounds so far, and while I wanted to gain 25-30 by now 15 is still a lot of weight for me. The fact of the matter is that muscle growth depends on the stretching / contracting and breakdown / rebuilding of muscle tissue.  Since CP directly impacts the ability of the muscles to do such things it makes gaining muscle more difficult.  Since my right side is impacted to a greater extent and is already behind it becomes a real challenge to try to even things out.

I suppose I just need to stop being so damn critical of myself and instead just work my ass off and let my body respond however it's going to respond.  My goals coming into this were to get stronger, feel better, and gain weight.  I've accomplished all three of those to at least some extent.  If my chest is a little uneven or my left calf is twice the size of my right then fuck it.  I'm probably hypercritical of myself anyway.

Hey, if I can go from concentration camp victim skinny to actually having muscles in the span of 5 months then so can you, so quit making excuses and start kicking your own ass today!  You'll feel better once you do.  Trust me!

*This is a series of posts.  See part 1 here.


mike's spot said...

out of curiosity, do you do any grip training exercises? My dad had pretty bad arthritis that really impacted his hand strength- which limited his shooting of both guns and bows. It took him a while but he was able to power through it. I don't know if CP affects you the same way that the arthritis affected him, but it is worth doing some grip training (as well as hand opening exercises for balance).

Ellen said...

There is a saying that you learn something new every day. Well, today, I got a better understanding of CP. I just read both installments - very well done. Stupid people do ask some of the dumbest questions. I can't tell you how many people asked if Breda had broken her leg. When we meet again I have a story about the response of a little girl to a sales person.
Keep up the good work. Oh by the way, you just gave me the kick in the ass to get back to my exercises to build up the muscles in my arms.

Matthew said...

"Yes folks, I technically have "brain damage" and yet I'm not an ardent anti-gunner. Wrap your heads around that one."

I truly laughed outloud.

Thank you for writing your blog and also the posts concerning your "CP". I totally dig your mindset and self-ass kicking. Life as it should be.