This installment highlights how changes in my routine reflect the ever-evolving nature of recovery.
Last September, I discussed an abdominal ‘sit-up throw’ routine I had just recently been able to do on my own. It was my attempt to really get a handle on managing the forward/backward tilt of my pelvis, as the abdominal muscles pull up on the front of the pelvis, thus tilting it backward. When standing, I, along with a majority of those with a spinal cord injury, have trouble engaging the network of abdominal and hip muscles required to keep my pelvis aligned properly (center image here is my tendency). So, my idea was to exercise my newfound sit-up ability in large doses to see if I could notice a positive effect on my pelvic positioning.
I can say that those thousands of sit-ups made my abs really strong, but the key missing component was my need to coordinate strengthening my back at the same time, and through the same motion. Remember, a muscle can only work well if the surrounding supporting muscles hold the primary actor in a proper position. In this case, my pelvic positioning did not improve greatly because my back was not trained in harmony.
Recently, my understanding of the importance of this opposing-muscle synchronization has broadened immensely. I have a completely new appreciation for the elements missing from my previous routine, and thanks to working with my therapists and particularly Ale (description here), I now also have tools to work on those previously overlooked areas.
In the last post, my mother discussed the rearrangement of our living room to accommodate some new equipment: the Pilates Springboard. Firmly attached by my father to the wall studs using way more steel bolts than was called-for, it is an incredibly adaptable piece of equipment, with the real secret to its brilliance lying in the metal coils. Springs have variable resistance, whereas a medicine ball or weight-stack exerts a constant pull (its weight, thanks to gravity). This means that when I am doing sit-ups, as you will see below, I can pull a little more or a little less on the springs to receive more or less help – a terrific solution for improving my independence. Though I need assistance to adjust the spring configuration and attachment to the wall for different exercises every 20 minutes or so, I can work effectively by myself on each routine.
I can do a wider range of exercises with the Springboard than with the medicine ball, and the additional support it provides suits me better at this stage, given my body’s current strength – and it allows me to focus on inter-muscular coordination, which, again, is a critical skill to develop.
This is very often the pattern: I have to continually reconsider and then modify my exercises in light of my new understanding. If, after patiently giving a routine a fair trial, it still doesn’t seem to benefit me, then something ought to be changed. The process necessarily takes time, because I must, through trial-and-error, figure out for myself the best approach for my particular needs. I have found, time and again, that creativity is crucial here, as is learning to be flexible in the process...
Recent exercises using the Springboard: the over-arching goal is to coordinate opposing muscles – abdominals with back extensors in the first video, back extensors with abdominals in the second, and left-side obliques with right-side obliques in the third.