I love looking at the WordPress page that tells me the terms people have entered into a search engine and that’s how they find me. No one finds me (as far as I can tell) because they Google, “What is an AVM?” People are more likely to search for really random stuff, e.g., What is a folk hero, Gabby Giffords, the nuances of ice cream, parting the wild horse’s mane, acupuncture and cupping, and this week, someone searched for “learning how to walk again.” So I figured I’d take the bull by the horns and write down some things my PTs have taught me as I’ve been learning to walk again (Caution: this is a work zone). If I forgot anything important I’m sure M will tell me.
Please remember what I said Monday: my condition is in flux, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to regain (some) skills that I’ve lost. I have dear friends who do not have this privilege and are learning/have mastered the art of wheelchair living, how to deal with a degenerative condition, or how to deal with paralysis that enters your life in the blink of an eye and stays. Forever. If you fit this bill, <3. Come back tomorrow because this afternoon I practiced my kitchen mobility and made something just for you in celebration of your hardcoreness.
In the meantime, here are some of the tricks that have helped me learn to walk again. Some of them are ideals I have not attained yet, but a girl can dream.
Tips for learning how to walk again:
1) Use your core: I have only a vague notion of what my core is, but all this time I’ve just imagined that I’m an apple and I have to focus on my core, or I’m supposed to engage the trunk of my tree. I make jokes about it, but seriously, the core is where my stability begins. Strong core = steadier sitting, standing, walking.
2) Dig in with your toes: If you’re working on balance, use your toes for all they’re worth. If you’re falling forward, press your toes into the ground and fight to remain upright.
3) Tall Tall Tall like a Tree Tree Tree: Resist the temptation to hunch over your walker because you’re leaning into it at full strength. Normal walkers do so in an upright position.
4) Midline: This goes with number 3, but again, posture is key. You also want to stand/walk so if someone saw you they could draw an imaginary line down your middle and you’d be symmetrical. Evenly distribute your weight on your legs – don’t lean to one side, like I do.
5) Breathe: PTs have an uncanny ability to tell when you’re not breathing, even when you’re not aware that you’re holding your breath. Also, M (37) has informed me that breathing in is not enough. I have to exhale, too. She’s so demanding!
6) Stance = Hip Width: People like me often use a wide base of support when walking because we think it helps us balance better. (What do you do with a drunken sailor?) But a more natural gait includes having your feet about hip-width apart.
7) Rotate your hips: Well, don’t sashay out of control or anything, but there is an element of hip-rotation to normal walking. I imagine the hip joint rolling around in the socket, and then when the hip moves forward you’re supposed to “drop” the hip in front as you plant your foot on the ground.
8) Heel to toe: Speaking of planting your foot, get a good heel-strike, then roll forward, shifting your weight from the heel to the toe of the foot.
9) Swing your arms: Step with left foot and swing right arm. Step with right foot and swing left arm. Repeat. Yes, I seriously have to think about this. And no, it isn’t looking fabulous yet because my left arm still looks like a chicken wing pinned to my side more often than I had hoped.
10) Know how to fall: Falling is a part of learning how to walk again, so accept it and don’t be scared. I have prepared myself for falling by habitually keeping my tongue on the roof of my mouth so I don’t bite it if I lose my balance, and I will be getting some nice veneers if I knock all my teeth out. At one of my first gymnastics classes as a young’un, we learned how to fall. We lined up on the mat and our teacher would give us a shove from the direction of her choice. Our job was to draw our arms in and roll around on the floor like a ball. Try not to put your arm out if you fall – it might break, or get otherwise hurt. Also, try to have wall radar – know where the walls are and if you fall, try to break your fall against a wall.
UPDATE August 2018 – thank you for reading this. It turns out that there are a lot of mobility seekers out there who land on this page. WELCOME! I survived a cataclysmic medical event in 2011. Gait training will be my way of life. It’s been almost 7 years since I learned to walk. I still think of these tips daily. Here are some additional resources that will be helpful to you. Happy Walking!
Help Matt walk again at ShreddedGrace.com – click on the magic wand!
This is part of my Shredded Grace: Reaching Higher Series.
You can buy the book here: Learning How Vol. 5 on Amazon – everything is ALWAYS non profit.
Book Description: Welcome to Survivorship 101 If you didn’t die and you’re wondering what to do next, this book is for you. Specifically, it’s for Marlene – because she survived TWICE and there’s still a whole lot of living left to do. I got my friends to help me write this book to prove a point – Recovery is a Team Sport. I survived a Cataclysmic Medical Event in 2011. When the dust settled I looked around me and began my adventures in RecoveryLand. Over the past 7 years I realized that “Learning How” has grown into “Shredded Grace.” FYI, we’re all Surviving SOMETHING. But even if you wouldn’t call yourself a Survivor you know one, or you will. Learning How books are always Non Profit. Learning How to Reach is a Survivor Handbook. This is what’s inside: 1. Introduction – Welcome to the Club 2. Is it Ok that you lived? Decision Day – Ruth 3. There’s No Crying in Baseball – Why walking is SCARY but you should do it Anyway 4. How to Cultivate Survivor GRIT – Matt Hankey 5. The Problem of Pain 6. Best Foot Forward – How to Use a Medical Resume 7. I’ll Fly Away – Mental Health Issues – the Marine 8. The Power of Possibility – A Practitioner Pep Talk – Coach Randy 9. How to Find Help – Trainer David 10. Why Survivors Have Body Image Issues – Jessica Smurfette, RD 11. The Measure of Success – Matt Hankey 12. The Bossy and Sassy Show – How to Choose a Medical ID – Megan 13. We Can Hear You – What to do when Someone You Love is Asleep in the Hospital 14. Champion If you cannot read, please watch the vids on YouTube @shreddedgrace – there’s also a lot of other content online. ShreddedGrace.com @shreddedgrace