Before my spinal cord injury, I was an avid runner. I started off as an athlete on my HS track team, and later participated in a few 10ks and a half marathon. Despite the physical damage my body has endured, I still consider myself a runner.
Among the many gratifying experiences of a runner, I sill get that “runner’s high.” When I’m moving in such a fast-paced motion, all the bullshit clears from my head. Like in meditation, my mind is stiller, less wandering.
I bring the focus to the breath while staring at an alphabet letter on the wall that doesn’t move to maintain my balance and center of gravity. Keeping that focus, I follow the rhythm of fast beats in the Spanish reggaeton music blasting through my headphones.
As a runner, I never enjoyed being on a tread-mill. I always wanted to move through an outdoor space. I despised the feeling of being locked in the same position for so many minutes.
Little did I know that I would spend so much time on this machine throughout my recovery. Maybe it hasn’t taken me on an exciting journey through the Amazon, but it’s taken me further than I ever expected in my transformation.
While serving as a great visual indicator to track my progress, it has helped me develop my locomotive abilities. When I first started using this machine in November, I needed a therapist or aide on each side of my body to manually move my legs with their hands. See the video below (excuse the mask, it was flu season).
December 1, 2016
As you can see from the video, I had very little control of the positioning of my feet. They were all over the place. If someone let go of one, it would fly off the tread-mill.
I also lacked upper body strength. Notice how my trunk is falling forward. Keep in mind that the machine can be adjusted to lift my torso higher so that I’m standing taller. However, this would require less use of muscles to keep my body upright independently.
Over several months, I’ve found more independence on this machine. First, I began moving my legs without the assistance of a therapist or aide. I only needed someone to stand behind me and clasp onto the harness from the backside to control the hips from swinging right to left.
Nowadays, I’m doing most of the work myself. Since I gained a lot more control of my quad and hip musles, my aide, Glorian no longer clasps onto the back of my harness. She stands behind to catch me in case I trip or lose my rhythm, but that’s been happening a lot more rarely. According to the video below and my current status, the only supporters keeping me lifted are me and the harness.
I still have a long long road ahead of me, but I take pride in this milestone. It’s encouraged many of the other patients at my PT and myself to just keep going. As I said earlier, the tread-mill serves as an indicator of my progress but may not necessarily be the main reason for my improvement. I believe it’s helped with a combination of all the other exercises and therapies I’ve been doing, which I’ll talk about in later posts. 🙂