My Exercise Journey
This week, we are pleased to feature a post from guest blogger, Mary Stores:
Hello. My name is Mary, and I live in Indiana with my two cats, Daisy and CAS – short for Cat Amuses Self. I have been blind all my life, and I also have mild cerebral palsy and scoliosis. I spent my childhood in physical and occupational therapy, although I hated the exercise routines.
My hatred of exercise continued into my adult years. I have had a full time job at Indiana University for about 15 years, where I sit on my butt all day in front of a computer. Last October there was an email sent out to all the employees who work in my building saying that Healthy IU was starting some initiative. If staff members were willing to pair up with students from the school of Public Health who were learning to become movement coaches, we'd receive a Fitbit at a discounted price and we'd learn to become more active during the work day. So in short, I learned just how inactive I was. :) Then I started to realize, with my movement coach's help, just how beneficial even a five minute walk every hour or so could be to help me work more productively. Sometimes this is hard, because there's so much work to do and tight deadlines to meet. Seeing the numbers was motivational, and I found myself wanting to exercise more...
Two things happened in November that really cemented my commitment to change my life. First, I discovered BlindAlive and bought the Cardio Level 1 workout. Second, I had a conversation with my mom that changed my thought process about health.
A few years ago, at age fifty-seven, my mom graduated with her nursing degree and works in a cardiac unit. She told me that she wasn’t trying to nag, but that she was really concerned about my health. Had I stepped on a scale lately? If I hadn’t, that’s all right, but I should really start thinking that in addition to the exercise I was starting to do, I should change my eating habits as well. Heart disease and diabetes runs in the family. And, Mom said, if I became so overweight that I couldn’t do much, what would I think about myself? How could I be independent and value my freedom? She said one of the best things she loves about me is my spunk, and she never wanted me to lose that spunk.
Because of the approaching thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I did not go on a diet until January 1. Mom had encouraged me to research low carb diets and decide for myself which one I was going to choose. I picked the South Beach diet for several reasons.
1. For the first 14 days, I would eat nothing but lean meats and veggies. I already had a lot of those in my house.
2. I needed to clean out my pantry and get rid of things I wouldn’t be eating. Giving my Velveeta shells and cheese to the food bank would make someone’s day, I’m sure. After all, I can’t be the only person who loves the stuff.
3. I ate a lot of healthy things anyway, and I would have to learn to eat less bread, different and less chocolate, more salads.
4. I could eat oatmeal again after the first 2 weeks, just not the instant kind.
5. I didn’t have to give up coffee, and I could drink wine occasionally after the first 2 weeks.
6. I could eventually eat some Velveeta shells and cheese, once I learned how to exercise some portion control and self-discipline. (I did eventually eat some again in March, after starting South Beach in January. I think it tasted better, having to wait for it and earn it.)
On December 31 I weighed myself and ate a really high carb trashy meal, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, knowing that I’m not quite five feet one inch and weighed 165 pounds didn’t make me happy.
As a kid, I thought that exercise just makes you tired. However, once I started exercising regularly, I discovered that it really gives you more energy. I now have Cardio Levels 1 and 2, along with the first Sculpting with Weights, and the 20 minute gentle workout bundle from BlindAlive.
One important thing is that I can’t compare myself to other people when it comes to exercise. After all, most people don’t have CP, and they didn’t go from mostly not exercising to trying to exercise at least five days a week. My movement coach taught me about working my way up in increments, setting goals I can reach. For the longest time, due to work demands and such, I could not reach 6000 steps five days a week. My movement coach suggested I set a timer and walk five minutes once per hour. After that first day, I threw the timer on the floor and ran out of the office in tears. I did write about it in my journal, and realized all I could do was try my best. As long as I tried, it was a far better result than doing nothing at all. And two weeks later, I completely skipped over 6000 steps a day and got 7000 steps instead.
The BlindAlive workouts have helped me exercise so much! It’s hard to convince myself to go walk in the snow, but since I could do workouts at home, I’d exercise and stay warm (and sweaty) instead of cold and lost. I also had to set incremental goals with Cardio Level 1, some of which I still have not yet reached.
When I first started doing Cardio Level 1, those side step outs would almost make me fall over, and knee twists weren’t much easier. However, with time, patience and practice, I have been able to do them without falling over and with the pace of the music. Shana’s encouraging voice really helped motivate me to try.
The one thing I have not accomplished in the Cardio Level 1 workout is the squats. Ever since I was a kid, I have found squatting to be very difficult. However, I used what I learned from last fall to set incremental goals. I modified the squats by sitting in a chair and standing up again quickly. For a while that really wore me out. About a month ago, I decided the chair was getting easier, so I began to squat lower to the ground and back up again. that is success. And as long as I keep trying, I will eventually do full squats – maybe a couple at a time at first, but it will be better than I was doing before.
I was excited to learn that the 20 minute Gentle Workouts could be used at work, especially because a lot of the exercises could be done sitting in a chair. So now, I can do some exercise, even when I can’t leave my desk. If I am in a webinar, no one has to know that I am marching in place or using a resistance band to stretch. I was not at first motivated by Mel’s style of voicing the workouts. I almost felt relaxed when I first listened to them, not in a mood to exercise at all. However, when the projects pile up and there’s a lot of stress at work, I have found Mel’s gentle encouragement makes me feel less stressed as I exercise.
Early on, I started sharing my exercise results with the Fitbit and another app called “Zombies, Run!” To Facebook. I researched healthy recipes and asked people how to prepare spaghetti squash. I discovered new foods and bonded with other people who were eating healthy or who wanted to start to do so. I learned I was not alone, and I also inspired other people to start moving as well.
In March I traveled to Seattle to meet some people I had been corresponding with through email, Skype and telephone calls for over 10 years. One of the people I met is a friend who is over a foot taller than me and walks really fast. He showed me around Seattle, and by doing so, helped me get Fitbit achievement badges I never thought I would get. I am pretty sure that if it weren’t for the Fitbit and the BlindAlive workouts, I might have passed out in Seattle. However, besides earning badges and bonding with people who made me feel welcome and happy and who also exercised and ate healthy, I gained more belief in myself and my new lifestyle.
There are still some hard times with my new lifestyle. For instance, the last time I went to the grocery store the guy helping me kept saying how he couldn’t afford all this expensive healthy stuff, because he had bills to pay (he wasn’t buying my food, but I guess he felt like he had to say something.) then he finally asked if there were organizations that could help “you people” shop. And even though I was angry and frustrated with him, his comments did make me think: It has been 8 months since I’ve adopted this healthier lifestyle. I did have to invest more in the beginning to buy things I needed, such as a blender to make green smoothies. I had to pay a higher price for really lean meat and steaks. However, in looking at my budget, I realized I spent just as much eating junk food at work or going out. Now I prepare almost all my meals and bring my lunch to work. The financial cost does balance out. Besides, If I didn’t take care of myself and had a heart attack, then I could really talk about some expensive bills to pay.
There are also several people that I go out with on Sundays after church, who can’t believe “you’re still on that stupid diet.” However, when they order their pizza and breadsticks, I am just not tempted anymore to eat all those carbs. I have learned to listen to my body and what it tells me. Even though those people aren’t happy with my diet, I know I am.
I continue to bond with people while exercising. This summer I have gone out on the trail both by myself to talk to God and with other people. My entire outlook on exercise has changed. I miss it if I don’t do it. And I have people who are willing to encourage me if I slack.
I’ve lost about twenty-five pounds so far. I still have a ways to go, but I know if I keep moving, I’ll get there. I will also enjoy having more energy and more self-confidence. I feel more in control of my life, and I feel better about myself.
I am so grateful for the many blessings in my life, including the workouts from BlindAlive, which have helped me reach this point, and will help me to move forward.
If you like you may contact Mary on Facebook. When you do, why not mention that you read her article?