I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump because of health issues, but I want to pass along some Paralympics coverage and commentary (partially because I just lectured to undergrad kinesiology majors about disability sport and physical activity, and partially because I did this for the London 2012 games when this was a baby blog)! I realize this is overdue as they’re over, but it’s something….
No lies, I’m bummed. I’ve been scooterless for a week now. Last Monday, we did my usual pre-class routine: my husband pulled the TravelScoot out of the car and I walked it down the driveway (the driveway is gravel and it hurts more to drive it down than to walk it)…to find that it wouldn’t turn on. No battery lights, no throttle, nothing. An electrician friend took a look at it, found a loose wire, but that wasn’t it. It looks like it might be the battery, but it looked like it was charging…
Anyhow, it’s been a long week without the scooter and I’m really feeling the effects of it. I miss being able to “walk” to campus. I miss being able to go to the library. I miss being able to have everything I need/want with me (the max I’m supposed to carry is about 10lbs). I really miss going to the campus gym. I was working out about four times a week…and now I’m down to none because I can’t get there.
My long days on campus end up being longer yet less useful. Today is my longest day on campus. With the scooter, I would zip to campus (no car!), go to work for a few hours, grab a bite & lay down somewhere for a few minutes if I needed, go to the gym, prep for my night class (sometimes while laying down, depending on how I felt post-gym), go to class, zip home. Today I had to drive to campus, pray for a close & accessible place to park near my office, hobble to office with my bag & crutch, work for a few hours while rotating ice packs because of inflamed nerves, grab a bite and lay down for at least an hour (likely several), then try to work on school stuff while laying down, then drive to the building my class is in (and hope there is parking in front of the building), then night class where I will be up & down & fidgeting & wincing & loopy from medication, then home.
There’s a pretty stark difference between the two. With the scooter, I sometimes have the spoons to go to the dance studio after night class (if I’m really careful in between work & class…and even then I might still end up spending half the class holding on to a wall to not fall). With the scooter, physical activity becomes part of my day because I haven’t pissed off the nerves that were damaged from my broken spine & spondy smashing them for years). With the scooter, my time in between scheduled events becomes more useful and more joyful (lying down with the scooter is a deliberate pacing of daily activity…lying down without it is more of a collapsing into a puddle, trying to not cry/vomit because I’ve walked a block to the nearest couch-like thing on campus).
Hopefully I’ll get my scooter back soon so I can get back to working out, kicking ass, and taking names….because a physically active Casey is a happy Casey 🙂
I feel like I’m bragging a little bit when I say this, and it makes me feel a little slimy on several levels. People tell me that what I do is inspiring. There’s a lot that could be problematic about this (take a look at this fabulous TED Talk by Stella Young about inspiration porn and disabled people to see some of the reasons behind this). There’s more to it though. Even before I broke my spine, I had people tell me that my presence in physical spaces, like dance, triathlon, swimming, in the gym, made them feel comfortable to try to find a way to be in those spaces too.
Even though there’s an undercurrent of “Casey, your body doesn’t really belong in those spaces but you do what you want to anyhow,” I understand that these folks are saying that I’m giving them the courage or even permission to find joy in their bodies in whatever way they find it. I’m uncomfortable by the attention and it’s why I never got to the point of being a professional belly dancer (one of my regrets honestly). However, being an adjunct professor this semester has shown me that I need to get over these hurdles of shyness and introversion.
On Thursday, I went with R, a doctoral student friend who isn’t a kinesiologist (she’s a kick-ass education scholar and we guest-lecture for each other) to a yoga class downtown. They were having a free class as a celebration of being open for two years and we’ve been wanting to find an off-campus yoga class to go to that we can afford. I’ve been doing yoga off-and-on for about ten years now and she’s a beginner, so finding something that works for both of our needs has been a bit challenging (plus we’ve been busy). As the room was packed with all levels of practitioners, the instructor reminded us to find where our bodies needed to be, even if that meant being in a restorative pose instead of holding a pose or going through a flow of movements (changing poses on the breath for Sun Salutations for instance).
Despite doing a lot of modifications, I ended up in a lot of pain part way through but I realized how much I learn from yoga practice. Although I was crying towards the end of the class, I found myself slowly learning how to be inspired by my body and inspired by all bodies. While my instructor that night had a body shape that people would associate with a “yoga body,” my body is also a yoga body. My body’s limitations gave other people permission to find the sweet point between pushing one’s limits and honoring them. I realized that perhaps this body ought to become a more formal yoga teaching body and fondly remembered my first yoga teacher and his not very limber body.
As I’ve been toying with taking personal trainer certification classes, this really isn’t preposterous….and is likely a better choice for my body anyhow. As the TravelScoot has been opening so many fitness doors for me lately, I’m thinking that this might be a way to inspire people in a way that feels less slimy. The same studio I went to on Thursday is offering a teacher training class next month and I’m thinking about fundraising for it. I would love to be able to offer something akin to a Yoga for Queers and Misfits class that I used to attend…all levels, drop-in, all body types and abilities warmly welcomed and acknowledged.
Since I turned in one of my papers (the one for my traditional class, not the independent study), I’ve been on a bit of a kick of getting over to Campus Rec. This scooter has seriously made a huge difference in my life!
Anyhow, on Wednesday after work I decided I wanted to hit a spin class. A personal trainer friend was telling me that the Rec got new spin bikes fairly recently that were more adjustable (the old ones were too tall for my little legs), so I wanted to see if I could find an equivalent to a “runner’s high.” For those of you that might not be familiar, spin is a group fitness class where everyone is on a stationary bike that is built like a road bike. Some classes are different based on music, intensity, style, etc. Here’s a short clip with an instructor that walks & dances around while teaching (most instructors in my experience stay on their own bike and I’ve never had a class do the arm thing they’re doing in the video). One of the cool things about spin is that you personally have control of the tension on the bike, so if the instructor says to raise it, you can choose either to do it or not (in my more shy days, I would sometimes pretend to change it but most of the time the instructor isn’t going to comment whether you do or not).
I was running a bit late from work, so I changed into workout gear at the office (plus the locker room is faux accessible and obnoxiously narrow & hard to navigate with any wheeled device). As it’s finals week, the Rec was pretty empty so I zipped into the dedicated spin room to find the instructor and two students on bikes. I pull next to the closest bike (which was the furthest away from the instructor, but I needed parking space) and made eye contact with her. She looked utterly baffled and I think was frozen in shock. Thankfully I have a LOT of experience with spin bikes so I didn’t need any help getting the bike set up to fit me properly [if you have never done spin but want to try it, make sure to get the instructor to help you set the bike up…an ill-fitting setup is going to cause discomfort and can cause injury, plus will likely make you think that spin is awful].
Since this was an experiment, I decided to keep everything pretty low key. I’m about 40 pounds heavier than I was the last time I was seriously into spin & cycling (it was my year of triathlons, distance cycling, running, & a duathlon), so I had some biomechanics to work out. I also wanted to give my body a fair shot at saying “yay” or “nay” to it without more injury, especially as I’m recovering from a sprained foot/ankle (hypermobility stinks). I figured that I can always choose to go harder, faster, and/or with more resistance later…today was about whether or not the spin bike and I could be friends.
I was pleasantly surprised. I had some issues related to keeping various body parts aligned properly (spine aligned so it didn’t put pressure on cyborg bits, knees slightly bent in the proper direction at all times), but mindfulness along with ignoring the instructor when necessary worked. The main issues I had were things that were unrelated to my spine and all were fixable. My tennis shoes were not the right style for the pedals (I’ve been using nursing shoes, but they don’t have the right padding for the bike pedal). My hands kept going numb or tingly, but that can be dealt with using cycling gloves (cycling gloves are padded to keep pressure off the carpal tunnel & other major nerves). My rear end was getting sore as well, so if I plan to make this a habit I really could use some new padded cycling shorts as the ones I own from my super athletic days are a size or two too small.
Because the issues I had with the class are mostly in the realm of “normal people adapting to spin class” problems, I’m going to consider it a win. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to ride hard enough to get a cycling equivalent of a runner’s high, but I do know that I managed 14 miles in a 40 minute class and that I was able to get myself sweat soaked and happy. I have a feeling that it will be amusing to look at the various instructors’ facial expressions as I pull into the room with my scooter (I can’t wait for a blatant “WTF is this crippled fat chick doing in here and if she needs a scooter, how the hell is she going to spin??”…if someone asks, I’ll sweetly tell them that the scooter lets me have the opportunity to workout because I’m not wasting upright-time ambulating).
I just picked up a new pair of gym shoes at Target (which was fun with the scooter…the shoe department employee seemed confused by the scooter-rider talking about which shoes would work for the gym better) and it looks like I can find shorts and gloves on Amazon for pretty cheap (anyone wanting to help me on this fitness adventure can use one of those Amazon links to purchase anything they want…I have an affiliate account now, so anything purchased through links on my blog will give me commission, not just the linked items).