469. A Successful Day

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Ed taking a breather at The Running Gym – 3.27.14, right before we went to OR I brought Ed everywhere with me.

 

A year ago my gait changed for the better after Trainer D introduced me to the Farmer’s Carry and his good friend, the kettlebell. The next week my PT noticed and started talking about throwing me out of rehab so I went to The Gym and had words with Trainer D for hastening the end of my formal Rehab career – a “job” I had gotten comfortable with since it’s the only thing I had known since waking up.

352.  Ed Says, "Well, that backfired, didn't it?"

352. Ed Says, “Well, that backfired, didn’t it?”

I felt like he owed me so I tasked him with helping me learn to run. However, his overwhelming enthusiasm for ORFR concerned me.  I soon decided that I’d rather trust a machine than another person, so I made an appointment to try out my local AlterG within the week.

 

Happily, the Traffic Cop at The Running Gym is Coach R. You have to get past him in order to use the machine, but I ascertained that he knew he could help me within minutes even though I am nowhere near his regular client population. I sensed favorable brain activity from his line of verbal questioning and physical evaluation. On that very first day he stood in front of me while I was on the elliptical machine and made the same exact form adjustments Trainer D had made a few days before. The second time it happened I figured I should start paying attention more.

Team Tanimal | Ann Ning Learning How

353. Team Tanimal

Coach R showed me around The Running Gym and as I did my first set on the leg press I tried to illustrate my teachable spirit by doing whatever he said and saying, See how well trained I’ve been, R? I know how this gig works. He left me with some papers explaining my two paths: (1) Just running on the AlterG, (2) Training – we’d incorporate the AlterG as my warm up. I indicated that if I were to train it would have to be with him. I waved my hand around the room – “I’m sure these people are proficient,” I said, “but I need you. At this stage in the game I’ve decided to be picky.”

 

Side note: I’m kind of mean like that but I also quail at my own brassiness.

 I considered my options over the next week and decided I’d try to get Coach R to help me if he was willing to take my case on. So I came in the following week and as I got ready to get in the AlterG I made my sales pitch and asked for his opinion on what to do. I really like people to “opt-in” and try to give them ways to demur gracefully if they choose.

385. Sales Pitch

385. Sales Pitch

This is when Coach R famously said, Well…if you wanna do this RIGHT….

 Snicker, snicker. Now that we have a year of Training under our belts I can freely admit that I was thinking, No, R, I want to do this WRONG.

Side note: Aren’t you thankful that we don’t have thought bubbles following us around over our heads?

After I “ran” he walked with me to the waiting room to meet Tanpo. I breathed a sigh of relief bc I was so pleased to recruit him formally for Team Tanimal.

“I would consider this to be a successful day,” I told him when we reached the desk.

“I would, too,” he said, and we shook hands solemnly.

Last week we celebrated a year of Fun and Games by doing a new exercise. It was a walking lunge – a partial version of a movement I saw him demonstrate for a rehabbing pro athlete on my first day.  My eyeballs almost fell out of my head as I saw him lunging, high-stepping, and twisting with a medicine ball in slow motion with astonishing control.  We were just walking to another part of The Gym and he stopped to demonstrate this in passing. I looked on with interest – this was one of the moments I knew I would benefit from Training with him. If Ed Blueberry had been there I would’ve said, We’re not in Kansas anymore…

He simplified the movement so I just had to lunge and step as low/high as I could, plus I had the benefit of a bracing handhold. Good thing Trainer D had made me do a walking mini lunge exercise while holding a bar (for resistance, not support) this summer that I practice at home. When I’m not holding on to anyone I lunge and step minimally, but with Coach R I could lunge pretty well. It helps that he stands right there, exhorting me to challenge myself, etc.

I lunged semi-respectably, except this one time when my right leg was in front and I went to pick up the left one and there was this loud s c r a p e as my left toe dragged on the floor until it got the message from my brain to lift off the ground. PS. This set of sneakers isn’t doing great. I couldn’t help giggling. Even Coach R chuckled. Pretend like you didn’t see that, R, I said, and we kept on going.

428.  Well-People Problems

428. Well-People Problems

I had noticed that although I was feeling better pain-wise I was having some left leg control issues. My left toes kept on hitting my right leg midstride while I was “running.” What was just some redness at first developed into a significant bruise that evening. It doesn’t hurt but I hope it heals before I see CMD. My left foot also kept on hitting the step when we did step-ups. It was worse than it’s ever been – Coach R actually had to adjust it mid-set.

 

Overall, though, the tenor of our time has been positive. What was a successful day in February 2014 was the beginning of a successful year. This statement is in stark contrast to how I told Coach R that I was very close to declaring the entirety of 2014 to be a wash out” before Thanksgiving. Yes, I am still frustrated by the things I had hoped to accomplish that did not materialize, but I’m in a better frame of mind now to acknowledge and be thankful for the things that did happen.

 

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428. Well-People Problems

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Remember a while ago when I said I was “strong enough to keep on running even though my left leg was dragging pathetically on the belt”? “Strong” might not have been the best word. A couple of weeks after I wrote that post I decided I couldn’t ignore it anymore. This is what had happened (see the picture above – these were my Supple Leopard/World Cup shoes, but the left toe rubbed off entirely. This is hilariously symbolic. So ends my experiment with the minimalist style).

175.  Becoming a Supple Leopard

175. Becoming a Supple Leopard

Apparently bits of my shoe are stuck in the AlterG. Sorry, Coach R – my bad!! It took me a long time to admit that my stamina and mobility had taken a real hit. PS. I’m still “running” but I have unweighted myself so I’m much lighter and for the first time in several months I’ve noticed Coach R assume the “observing stance” common to PTs and Trainers out of the corner of my eye. Based on his comments he’s been observing all along, but I think he’s maxxed out the perimeter he’s willing to give me and is closing back in.

The fact that it took me a couple weeks to notice the uneven wear on my toes is funny but unsurprising. I often lack the self-awareness to give feedback – my Trainers have to be clairvoyant. One day I did an exercise on the right then on the left and Coach R asked me which side was harder. Left…no, right… I dunno! I thought out loud.

I got a good laugh.
Coach R: That’s the best answer ever.
Me: Seriously – how am I supposed to know?

I wasn’t trying to be funny – was that a trick question or something?

But when I showed my peeps how my pretty Supple Leopard shoes had gotten torn up they were ALL OVER the situation. Gen put her ortho hat on, made me feel better, and gave me some exercises to do. Coach R immediately instituted ankle strengthening moves we do all the time. CMD painted the herbs on really thick and has kicked the magic into high gear for the past couple months. Trainer D took a closer look at my ankle area while I was lying on a table and I saw him knit his brows and shake his head.

I asked him during the next session what that had been about.

Trainer D: You saw that?
Me: Of COURSE I saw that. I have two eyes. I’m not saying they work super well or anything, but yeah, I saw that.

So he told me that something was wrong with the muscles in my leg and ankle (surprise, surprise) and I asked what the consequences were if he just left me alone. I knew from experience that the remedy would probably hurt. Given the consequences I decided to ask him to go ahead and take care of it. It hurt like I expected but he knew I was nervous, which helped, and by then I was used to Gen’s superhuman strength and unwavering determination to put my muscles in their right places, so it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.

I’ve examined the set of sneakers I purchased in March/April and all of them have uneven wear on the toes. The Leopard ones are the worst since they have the thinnest soles. I wore them for a couple months for my leisurely (no treadmill) inside-the-house-exercises at Ai Ai and Tim’s and then I wore them for two months here at home. They were part of my regular rotation so yeah – it was two months of occasional wear. Two. Months.

So I’ve resigned myself to spending more money on sneakers now that I’m on my feet more and my gait is impaired so the wear is uncool. It’s October now, and the set I purchased in August is holding up okay. I was hoping to make it to October, and here we are! So now I’ve got my sights set on EOY 2014. Maybe it’s helping that I’m consistently “running” super light, and everyone is helping my ankle feel better. However, even though it’s no longer sprained apparently my Achilles and/or my posterior tibialis are messed up.

When Coach R was explaining it to me it was one of those times when I was like, Seriously, R, it’s like you’re not even speaking English right now. He then offered to “work” on it, and I said, define “work,” and when I understood his meaning I apologized beforehand for anything I might say in the ensuing 10 minutes. I survived, CMD covered everything with herbs after poking and shocking me, and charged me solemnly not to shower until tomorrow.

113.  Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

113. Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

So for now I’m going easier on my home exercises, concentrating on my balance and coordination, elevating the left foot whenever possible, and trying not to make things any worse. As it stands I’ve got plenty of supervision, and overall I’m glad to experience hiccups like these as opposed to the more serious setbacks that litter the road in RecoveryLand. Trainer D calls stuff like this “well-people problems.” For me, the fact that I’m well enough to have issues like this is a-okay. My shoe-wear problem stems from the fact that I had a stroke that impacted my left side more than my right, but it also indicates that I’m using my legs enough for it to show. I read LH to… Hope for the first time in a while and remembered that in March 2013 my back was acting up so badly I had to take time off, go lie on the Ceragem bed just to make it past 6pm and took painkillers before going to Planet Rehab even though they made me sleepy. M37 let me lie down once during that period bc she felt SO sorry for me. I had tried to grasp a stair railing during a rest break and completely missed. She then let me lie on a mat for 10 minutes before sending me to The Pool. But now my muscles are so much stronger, plus I know how to manage them and my energy better. Yay!

Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

Hey, Mommy, look – I have well-people problems!!

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

359. Running with Myself

Running With Myself | AlterG | ORFR | Ann Ning Learning How

When I emailed my PCP about the bruising I said I wanted to run for stress relief. She understood without further explanation. I promised to keep her updated, that I’d run on the AlterG at a lower % body weight, and she kindly reminded me that overdoing things in any context is inadvisable.

ORFR also proves that Recovery won’t end when Rehabilitation does. I told Trainer D that I’m going to learn how to run and you’re going to help me, and within days I had set up an appointment at The Running Gym.

Coach R directs traffic there and I knew I’d have to get past him if I wanted to use the AlterG so I set about building credibility as a patient/client and within minutes we both knew he could help me so I signed up to work with him, not just run on the machine. The first time I ran on the AlterG was great – that night I slept like a log.

At first Coach R told me he’d stay with me if I’d like but I tried to dismiss him cheerily: No, thanks…bye! Thankfully he stuck around anyway since when it came to the point I waffled. So he reached over the console, unweighted me some more and sped the AlterG up. Once I got off the ground he left me alone for a bit. Coach R “gets it.” I must still unintentionally exude the attitude of This is Me and Me time, NOT Me and You time.

Trainer D probably “gets it,” too, but Personal Training is “Me and You time” by definition. So he tells me things about running theory and bodily alignment and I ask things like, Is this an accepted practice, or is the Trainer D method?

One day I was safely zipped in to the AlterG bubble at The Running Gym and Coach R came over.
Me: What should I be thinking about?
Coach R: Nothing. Just relax.

Good answer, Coach R!

As our Oregon trip drew nearer the AlterG became one of the only “safe” places for me. When I’m zipped in I can’t be approached without prior notice – the machine’s perimeter large and I have extra time to note if someone is walking over, unless Coach R is watching my feet through the window in the back, in which case I don’t care. Also, I love that it’s impossible to fall out. If it were I would’ve done it by now, trust me.

Now that I’m at Boo Boo’s house I’m back at The Southern Gym and use their AlterG 3x/week. I asked God for an AlterG to use while staying with Ai Ai and Tim last year and He provided a PT practice 5 minutes away. True story.  PS. If a PT practice has an AlterG they often reserve it only for patients so it was wonderful for me to find one open for public rental so close by.  They had to move out of their building in January due to severe water damage and I was praying that A) the AlterG had survived the burst pipe and B) they’d move back in time for my visit.

229.  Flourless "Nutella" Bars

229. Flourless “Nutella” Bars

I was the first one to use the AlterG since the flood and their first day back in the building was also mine. Last year my Southern PT didn’t want me to run, but this year I told him about the progress I’ve been making with ORFR and the people helping me, and he was more amenable. The fact that he was also very busy moving stuff back into the office probably worked in my favor, too :).

It’s still a major stress-reliever and now that I’ve gone to Oregon I no longer feel like I’m trying to outrun something. On our first day we had a breakfast date with G, the “Pretty Nurse” in Learning How…vol 1 who pinched me and woke me up in the ICU. When I saw her I immediately recognized her face. Sniff. After that went to the Library where I pushed my chair around the lake in the back.

245.  I'm Rooting for You

245. I’m Rooting for You

 

As we made our way around the lake I could see the Old Me trotting along, blithely unaware of what was going to happen. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath for three years and now I’ve finally started exhaling. I’m not breathing regular-like yet, but it’s a start. I feel more tranquil and as I run on the AlterG at The Southern Gym I pretend I’m running alongside the Old Me and we’re talking. This is what I say:

Life as you know it will end on April 7, 2011. A mass of flawed blood vessels has been growing inside your skull since you were a baby. It will rupture and cause a huge stroke. You’ll be afraid because you won’t know what’s happening. You’ll be in the office – your boss, M, will be there, but you’ll ditch him in the hallway and duck into the Ladies’ Room intending to pull yourself together. You won’t make it out of the restroom on your own steam – you’ll collapse. Nobody is in the room when things start happening but the Lord will send two ladies to help you before your body shuts down completely.

You’ll spend over a month fading in and out of consciousness (mostly out). Your dreams will be troubling but no harm will come to you. Your family will fly in ASAP. They’ll be afraid they won’t be in time to see you but they will – it will be sad but there will also be great joy when it becomes clear you’re going to make it. They will take care of you as you heal – you’ll discover that you can still make them laugh and they can do the same for you. It will also be your privilege to regain some skills that will make you feel like a normal part of a functioning household.

As you begin waking up, be assured that everyone around you is trying to help you. Pretty soon, before you think you’re able, they’ll expect you to get out of bed, sit in a wheelchair, and go to Therapy. They know you can do it even if you’re doubtful, and you need to know the things they are teaching you because you won’t be able to walk (or even hold your head up at first) and will have lost many motor skills you used to take for granted. These people were Divinely selected to work with you bc of their kindness and expertise. They will prepare you to fly home to Maryland.

Once you get home the fog will begin to lift and you’ll realize the implications of this event. You’ll need to decide whether or not you still think the Gospel is true, especially given the timing and severity of what happened. You will pray for signs and wonders, but you do not need signs and wonders to believe. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe. Everything you need to know is publicly available information you knew about before getting sick. You’ll be cognitively intact – just physically disabled. Use your noggin and tackle the Big Question that needs to be decided before you can begin Recovery in earnest.

113.  Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

113. Going Backwards (Why I like Ps 34)

Once you begin Recovery at home be assured that the Lord will continue to bring you to people with skills and personalities you’ll respond well to. You will be thrilled when you learn to walk (There’s no crying in baseball!) and assume this pace (of healing) will continue until you’re back to normal. This is not true. Professionals will inform you that you’ll never be like that again – don’t worry about it, though, bc the Lord will decide the degree of your healing.  So you needn’t be concerned about the timeline, but it’s safer to make the mental adjustment to saying “goodbye” to your Old Self, anyway. You will face material setbacks but will learn to manage. When you’re out of options the Lord will lead you on a new path that will allow you to pursue Recovery more aggressively. Remember that many people live in greater discomfort and/or have conditions they will not recover from. You have been blessed with the opportunity and resources to get better – use them well.

Work hard – the biggest gains come in Year 1 but you’ll get better to the extent that the Lord has planned for you. Your job will be to find gifted professionals to help you push the envelope in a safe way. Invest time and money in this process – this is not how you will spend your leisure time – this is how you must live. Learn to identify and recruit talent effectively. I know you like to have things your own way but show respect for their skill and be guided by their expertise.

284.  Outlier 2.0

284. Outlier 2.0

Recovery will be hard work – you don’t get time off. You will not be able to enjoy most of the things you used to – but it’s important to celebrate the small stuff to keep your spirits up and cheer those around you.  Mom and Dad will take primary responsibility for your daily care.  Now that you’ve re-entered their Empty Nest the least you can do is keep things “interesting” for them.

There will be times when you acknowledge that death would have been a lot easier than the business of living. The official stance is that you were very close to Eternity on that day – but even though this scenario seems outlandish and very extreme the fact that God kept you alive by orchestrating the right kind of help for you just in time points to the fact that RecoveryLand is actually a highly controlled environment. True, it often doesn’t feel like it, and there’s a lot of tough stuff to grapple with. You will routinely be afraid and unsure of yourself – this is to be expected given the nature of your injury. But be on the lookout because although the Lord gave you difficult circumstances to deal with look at this is as the situation He chose to trust you with – He’s responsible for seeing it through and has sown seeds for your encouragement along the way. As these seeds grow and come into bloom you’ll be surprised and delighted that the details of your New Life have been so carefully and lovingly planned. Remember to thank Him that you can trust Him with your happiness.

Don’t be scared. It’s going to be okay.

354. How and Why to use an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Using an AlterG | Ann Ning Learning How

I’ll refer to an AG Treadmill simply as an “AlterG” bc in my mind it’s like how “Band-Aid” is considered synonymous for an adhesive bandage. The only other kind of AGT I’ve used is a ZeroG (the giant Baby Bjorn) at Planet Rehab. I don’t know of any other ZeroG’s anywhere else so for convenience I’ll talk about the AlterG. I’m not affiliated with this company – I’m just providing information I wish I’d known before I started.

I have spent 2.5 years perfecting my outpatient persona – e.g. to accept the Therapist assigned to me, learn whatever I can, and make his/her day go by fast. I’ve tried not to be picky. It’s been easy bc I have consistently been given real winners. I made a genuine effort not to harbor unreasonable expectations (esp. after M37) but one of the marks of God’s care for me throughout this process is that everyone keeps on being a highly proficient practitioner. So now as I near the end of my outpatient career I’ve gotten choosier.

I’ll get back to the AlterG in a minute – this is related, I promise. As I transitioned to Medicare via Kaiser I chatted with a Rehab Receptionist to set up my eval and told her I needed someone with an appropriate skill set. When I went to The Gym I indicated that my work ethic would be strong but I needed my trainer to know what (s)he’s doing. When I started talking about core strength during that initial “interview” Trainer D’s eyes almost fell out of his head in a retrospectively hilarious moment of resonance.

33.  *Are you using your core?!?!?*

33. *Are you using your core?!?!?*

This is a central tenet of long-term Recovery: signal to the market. Let people know you’re in this to win it by having the forethought to indicate what you want, what you can do, and what you need. Making your intentions clear increases the likelihood of getting your goals met and (if an issue) gives the organization a chance to assess the risk-level they are taking on when you come in.

84.  I Come in Peace

84. I Come in Peace

I did this with Coach R. It paid off bc while I was expecting a simple transaction (time rental on the AlterG) I ended up signing an important ally for ORFR. I told him I was going to get picky simply because at this stage in the game I can and if I was going to get treatment it was going to be from him. When advising me on what to do, I think Coach R used the phrase, If you want to do this right… We’ll work on balance, strength, and spatial awareness so I won’t always have to depend on an AlterG. But while we’re working on it I am SO thankful to have the opportunity to use the equipment available to me. This is why and how you can, too:

Why to use an AlterG

  • Choose the body weight % you want to load (20%-100%)
  • Great for rehabilitation of injured athletes, or those who wish to keep training (e.g. pregnant marathoners) without high-impact workouts
  • Eliminates falling risk (!!)
  • 59.  I'm not doing that.

    59. I’m not doing that.

    There are harnesses you can put over a treadmill making it impossible to fall out, but most do not have anti-gravity/unweighting capabilities. Even if it does M37 explained that a harness allows the practitioner to move your legs for you if you need it, but the AlterG requires a higher level of mobility bc your legs are sealed in the bubble – training is eyes-only. People usually peer through the large “windows” around the bubble and offer feedback. Some machines come with cameras and a screen in front so you can watch your feet. I used to watch mine all the time at The Southern Gym (the PT practice where I used the AlterG last summer) bc my left leg strays beyond the confines of the belt when tired. I must rein it in intentionally.

How to use an AlterG

  • Find one: Go to AlterG.com. On the top right and side-bar there are zip code fields that yield a list of local AlterG’s. (I think this is a U.S.-based service presently – sorry, international friends!)
  • Weed through the list: Many of the places will be clinics requiring you to be a patient with an Rx – the machine is not for public usage. Some boutique gyms or running stores have an AlterG. Sports teams might have one, too, but this is not helpful for most. I prefer PT practices that rent time on the AlterG. If you can’t tell from their website, give them a call: 1. Confirm that they have an AlterG on site. 2. If yes, do they rent AlterG time to the public?
  • Make your initial appointment and think of the package you’re interested in – e.g. # of minutes per week. Some places give you an initial training on how to use the machine (this could be an extra fee). Others have their own people always on hand to help you in.
  • Be prepared to wear funny shorts. Some places ask you to purchase your own if you’re going to be a regular user (around $75) and others keep an assortment of sizes on hand for your use. They are like neoprene bike shorts with a narrow rubber tutu around the waist that you slip over whatever you’re wearing. The tutu has a zipper around the edge. When you step into the deflated AlterG you’ll step into the circular hole in the middle. They’ll pull the frame up to your waist (Coach R prefers it to sit slightly lower to allow for greater freedom of movement in the arms). It locks into place and then you/they connect the zipper on your shorts to the one on the AlterG. Now you’re zipped in to the bubble.
  • Turn the machine on, or your practitioner will do it and advise you on arm placement to promote an accurate weigh-bearing calculation by the device as the bubble inflates. Choose your % load, speed, and enjoy your walk/run!

PS. The title picture is me at The Southern Gym with my niece Hannah. Ai Ai was reluctant to let me walk the 50 feet inside the building to the Southern Gym but occasionally allowed H to accompany me – but she had to hold my hand. I haven’t held Hannah’s hand since she was 3-4 and we’d zip around town and have fun in general. I had no idea my sister took this picture. I was too busy looking at my feet on screen.

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