Sunday, October 25, 2015

Practicing Balance - Literally!

Balance = Practice

In order to improve balance, we must practice it - like it's a skill set.  It is something we once had, now it is lost or compromised and we must FIGHT to regain it!

So, practice!  Practice each day standing on one foot and then the other.  Set a timer or count and try to hold the balance for a few seconds - increasing the length over time.

Hold on if you must (or use the touch-point balance technique described in the BALANCE tab).  Be safe - but push yourself to really hold the stance.  You will be working on both the neurological part of balance and the muscle part.  When the little muscles don't get used, they quickly atrophy.  Then, as you practice, they regain their strength (and you, your confidence).  

You can even kneel to practice balance - it's closer to the ground and a bit safer.  Kneel on a soft surface:  a rug or even a padded yoga mat.

If the force of gravity is too much and you can't stand on one foot, try just shifting a higher percentage of your weight to one side, and hold that.  This keeps both feet firmly on the ground and reduces the risk of a fall.

Finally, if even that is out of reach, get into a pool with chest deep water.  If you are not comfortable in the water, wear a life jacket or a water running belt to assure that you will float if you cannot maintain an upright position.  Practice the one-footed stance in the water.  If you fall, no bumps or bruises!  Gradually reduce the depth of the water over time as you progress.

I find that progress meets setback which cycles around again to progress...  It's not always a linear progression, but continuing to fight for balance will be worth the effort.  Pay offs = mobility, safety and hope!

Saturday, October 24, 2015


I was mildly called out as being irrelevant for encouraging exercise for many who struggle with limited mobility.  Point taken.

Struggling to fully comprehend limitations is always a struggle.  Your limitations and mine might be very similar - or, frankly, very different.

What I do know is that limitations should not (and for health's sake) cannot lead to a sedentary lifestyle.  Movement is important to retain quality of life and quality of overall health.  That movement may be limited in its type or scope, but we must together find ways to explore movement that is both accessible and meaningful.

That's what I promote.  And, I hope that is relevant for us all.

Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I could tear up sharing this with you!
From BadYogi (with a focus on Yoga for everyone - not just the skinny, pretzels of the world!)
 It's a 90 second video about failure so you'd never guess that it took over a year and a half to make and spans 4 countries. Whether it’s handstands that you’re working on or something else, we all know the feeling of working endlessly at something, failing, and getting back up to work on it again the next day. 
Effort and even failure are spiritual experiences and anyone who’s ever tried for something knows them well.
It's no secret but always needs reminding:  even “failure” is welcome here.

Share with someone who could also use this reminder. We all need a little boost once in a while.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Water running / walking details

So, what is this water running??

Time to get more specific.

Compromised balance and elevated body temperature side effects are two foes MSers face. Additionally, gait abnormalities can make it difficult to use the basic act of walking as exercise. Aside from the obvious hurdle that it's hard to walk, the neurological challenges fatigue small muscles and challenge basic alignment of the kinetic chain that is necessary to walk with efficiency.

No leap here, but folks with MS tend to get less exercise than they need.

Enter the water running belt.  This foam device is worn snugly around the waist and allows the body to float vertically in the water.

AquaJogger Active Water Exercise Buoyancy Belt
This photo is just one of the many choices of brand and shape.  I've spent as little as $15 on a basic version at my local sporting goods store.

Don the belt before entering the water.  It's designed to be used in water deep enough to not have your feet touch the bottom.  Then you simply walk or run (or go through any number of range of motion activities) in the water.

  • no swimming - walk, jog, or run
  • no skill necessary
  • no balance needed
  • the water helps keep body temperature low
  • no impact from running/walking with a funky gait
You can choose your activity intensity by your current fitness level and your activity goals.  It can be a relaxing "walk in the park" or a serious run!  You are in control!

Warning:  water walking/jogging can become very boring!  Music helps some; company helps even more!

Intervals, long runs, pyramids...  They are all at your fingertips.  Your legs will enjoy the freedom; your heart will thank you; and you might even get a mood boost from the activity.

Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fight the good fight - consistently!

Faithfully following a plan of action that helps you feel better and be more active seems logical, right?  So, what happens when you have a "good streak" and take it all for granted.  Slack off on the plan?  Symptoms come back with a vengeance!

Lesson learned over and over and over again!

If it is working, stick with it!  Find someone to nudge you in that direction - even when you're feeling better or worse.

Stay the course!  Fight the good fight!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Water Fitness

On Tuesday evenings, I lead a water fitness class.  Using specific flotation belts, the participants are able to run in deep water.  No swimming ability is required,  There is no contact with the bottom of the pool, so the workout is essentially zero impact.  Additionally, the water is cool (rarely cool enough for my tastes, but plenty cold for everyone else), and the cooling effect allows me to exercise at higher intensity for longer periods of time.  No balance is required!!

We generally work for between one and two hours on cardio fitness, some muscle strength, range of motion, and gait/form.  I get great feedback from the participants, and we have a blast.

Simultaneously, in the shallow end of the pool, there is another instructor leading a water aerobics class.  This session targets older participants, many with arthritis, joint pain, and weight issues.

Both groups are benefiting from the joys of exercising in water:  young/old, strong/impaired, fit/struggling!

I only wish I had a way to specifically invite participants with MS or other movement challenges to join my classes!

If you have the opportunity, please do some research on water fitness activities in your area.  I wish you could ALL come to my class!!

If you have access to a pool, but need advice on what to do once you get there, comment and I will be happy to communicate some ideas on getting started!