When I used to practice walking in the hallway with Willow (my rollator/the rolling walker) I could hear her wheels bumping over the tiles/grout outside of the kitchen. One day Mommy was sitting at the counter and I was walking in the hall. “I can hear you,” she called to me, “Too fast.”
Apparently I have a need for speed. I used to be like, “Oops,” when I realized I had passed all of the other cars on the highway in OR and found myself driving all by my lonesome. “Slow down,” was the theme of my inpatient life, since I didn’t think of doing anything differently – I just tried to do them in my normal way and was surprised when I couldn’t. By the end of my first outpatient stint the theme had become, “Faster, Ann,” which was a huge paradigm shift, and proved harder than I thought.
The exception was walking on my treadmill. When I first started walking on Cliff (the treadmill) I’d give a scant 60 seconds for my warm up time and then ramp the speed up to whatever I was working on. Mom would hear the “beep” coming from the console and tell me I was naughty. By the end of 2011 she didn’t have to worry anymore since I started avoiding the treadmill due to my weird leg spasms (that’s why I wear the air cast – to protect my ankle in case it rolls).
I stopped using the treadmill at The Place during my break between OT and PT and favored the recumbent bike instead. I fondly hoped PT6 would not notice, but he did and extracted the reason from me one day. Of course as soon as he heard I was nervous about it he informed me that I was going to walk on the treadmill with him standing next to me so I’d get my confidence back and be able to do it at home. We did practice at The Place, and Mommy told me I should walk on Cliff, too, even if it was just for a minute. So when I was discharged I did try to walk as much as I could.
That didn’t last too long. Moving my legs was noticeably harder for me, and one day I stopped and cried out of sheer frustration. On other days I stopped because I could feel my left leg starting to turn or I had trouble controlling it enough to keep it within the bounds of Cliff’s belt, so I got off before I fell off. When I was hurting enough to seek serious professional help (the consensus from all the scans/tests was that nothing is physically wrong) I stopped walking on Cliff entirely and just sat down.
2012 was about trying to get back to walking on Cliff. One of my Eye Doctors recommended that I engage in aerobic exercise daily – 30 minutes at a minimum of 3 mph. When he said this I stared at him, aghast. Did he realize that I was currently at 1.5 mph (and considering that quite a triumph)? Well, he explained, what you do is that you start at whatever speed you want to, walk at it for a week then increase the speed by 0.1 mph next week. After a few weeks/months I’d reach the goal.
Well, I lost some speed/time when I kept getting sick last month, but I’m getting better and am combining the speed recommendation with PT37’s advice re. slowly ramping up the distance, too, since my leg has started to protest with more usage (this is new). I think it’s working because this week I’m at 2 mph, which I haven’t walked at in a year. Yay! I know you’re probably appalled that I’m celebrating 2 mph, but let me just make sure you understand that walking at any speed is difficult for me. Disregarding the required leg movement, it makes my arms tired, too, since when I walk on the treadmill I hang on with everything I’ve got. Mommy put those foam trellis shelf-liner things on the handrails so my hands won’t slip off because I get all sweaty. PT29 once coaxed me to let go with one hand, but I only lasted about 45 seconds. They were the longest 45 seconds of my life. I think the last time I saw PT37 before Christmas she had me heavily weighted on the treadmill and I let go entirely (she stood behind me and held my belt). The memory is kind of fuzzy, though, since I’m trying to block it out.
As I’ve adjusted to walking with my peg leg (and concentrating really hard to minimize its appearance) I’ve had to change the way I do things. I no longer ramp up the speed after a minute. I start relatively slow for 5 minutes, then watch the clock and increase the speed by 0.1 mph every minute until I reach my goal. I think the warm up time is good for me. Tanpo told me to warm up more, and he was right. Grrr. I think Mommy prefers this method as well.
I’m happy with my new warm up technique since spending those few minutes at the beginning increases my walking duration in the long run. So now I’m a great advocate of warming up. I know everyone always says you need to warm up to keep your muscles safe, etc., but I’ve always been too impatient to do it properly, I think. But now I’m forced to, so this is probably a good thing.
In retrospect, I think my entire life pre-AVM was a warm up for the exercise of recovery and Learning How. It’s a good thing I had no idea what was going to happen – but then again I had enough trouble believing it when it did happen, so I probably wouldn’t have believed the story if I had known it before-hand, anyway. This is all part of my insistence that my injury was purposeful and not coincidental. I’m confident that time will show that my confidence has been well-placed. In the meantime I’m going to keep on doing my warm up routine so I can walk more. But first I have to go eat my Cheerios.