Getting Back on That Horse

We all know the saying that if we fall off the horse, we gotta get back on.  I’m about to get back on that horse named PT.  PT is not physical therapy; in this case it is Personal Training.   I am fortunate that where I work they offer through the wellness program the opportunity to work one-on-one with a personal trainer.  These are university students who are studying exercise science and many have plans to go on to physical therapy school when they graduate, and they complete their internship as a personal trainer as the final grade in their program. 

I’ve had a student trainer several times in the past few years – each one is advised  in advance that I am not their ordinary client.  I am upfront about my Multiple Sclerosis and my limitations - there will be no jogging around the track, doing hundreds of pushups or any of those other typical gym moves.  Unfortunately I haven’t charted my trips around the track on PT because it would be interesting to see where I am now compared to when I first started, although there is no doubt I have declined.

My first PT ride was uneventful – the student was interested in training buff athletes and not gimpy old women.  We made it through the semester, she graduated, and I stopped exercising.  I gained strength and lost a few pounds in the process, and then summer arrived and I fell off that horse in a big way.

The second lap around the PT track was with Jamie, who has since gone on to finish her doctorate in Physical Therapy.  Jaime has a self-admitted OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) personality and she had detailed lesson plans complete with illustrations, assembled for each of our sessions. There was no looking at each other and wondering what move was next because she had her plan for me and used every minute of our time wisely.  I gained a lot working with Jamie, but then the season was over and I stopped being in the gym.

The next year I was assigned a trainer who happened to be a Division I soccer player, here on scholarship from the UK. Josie cut me no slack and we became fast friends and she converted me into a soccer fan but not necessarily an exercise aficionado.  It was much more fun to watch Josie run up and down the field than doing crunches myself.  Her favorite torture  exercise for me was doing planks and we did them every session.  My core strength didn’t improve much but we had lots of laughs as I strained to hold my body erect off the floor.  Do you know you lose muscle strength when you laugh and it is impossible to hold a plank position with the giggles?  More than once I collapsed on the floor while laughing at my attempts. I may not have been getting stronger, but I was having a good time in the gym.

The PT race wasn’t yet over because the next academic year I was asked to work with a personal trainer who needed a substitute client when his first one didn’t work out.  I didn’t work out so well, either, but it was not Brandon’s fault – during our third session I tripped on the workout mat, did a face plant into the concrete and required multiple stitches after a ride in an ambulance to the emergency room.  I got a DNF – did not finish – for this leg of the race. I barely got started.

This fall I pulled another ticket to ride and it was another soccer player.  She took tips from Josie long distance via Facebook, who told her how much I love doing planks. Meghan took a lot of ideas I had about my needs with Multiple Sclerosis and worked on things that would improve my balance and mobility – we decided focusing on strength wasn’t the most important thing for me.  I slowed as the semester wore on and every step, or kick of the ball, and especially those planks up on my toes made me wince a bit more than the previous time.  After we were done with the sessions, I saw my podiatrist who declared I have developed a hammertoe and the bones in my toes are pushing into the ground with each step I take.  So much for my thinking no pain, no gain.  I had lots of pain and very little gain.

If I were a horse I should be put out of my misery. Instead, I picked up my orthotics to wear because I pulled up lame from my left foot hammertoe and I can’t blame this on my MS. The new semester has started, and again I have been paired with another PT.  We haven’t met yet to discuss our plan, but I have warned her via email that I will be unable to do any weight bearing exercise, and that may be her biggest challenge in designing my next laps in this race.

Little did I know a few years ago I would be doing this personal training thing as a marathon and not a mere quick jaunt once or twice around; there is a lottery to be assigned a personal trainer and my number keeps getting pulled. Perhaps I am meant to keep getting paired with a trainer until I get it right.  It feels a bit like a scene out of the movie Groundhog Day and I’m stuck repeating personal training over and over until I get it right.

I remain hopeful that one of these times the motivation will stick with me – if I weren’t willing to try again and again, I would not keep putting my name into the lottery for another trainer.  Next week I go back to PT, but slower, weaker and heavier than I was when I began this several years ago.  I have to wonder if instead of personal training being beneficial, I am destined to continue to slide despite these efforts.  I keep getting back on this horse, but the time might come to say whoa and get off.

How do you stay motivated to stay active and in the race to beat MS, especially if your condition is still declining? I would love to know your tips to staying finishing strong.

Wishing you well,


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