Saturday, August 15, 2009

A New Exercise Program Has Really Helped – Part II

In yesterday’s post, I discussed why I feel exercise is important to those of us living with Kennedy’s Disease. In today’s post, I thought I would discuss the program in more detail.

Since I have lost a lot of confidence in my muscles’ ability to hold me upright, I tend to not stand totally erect. To counteract this tendency, I was asked to stand facing a wall or counter (in case I need support) and without holding on to anything ‘stand at attention’ with my butt and stomach pulled in, chest out, shoulders back, and chin up. Once comfortable with the position, I close my eyes and continue to focus on just standing straight. It is amazing all of the muscles that I use with this exercise. I can feel them firing all over the body. Then, I open my eyes and begin to move (sway) my hips and upper body left then right to put more weight on one leg and then the other. All of the muscles previously used are now being worked plus a few dozen more. One area that is particularly weak is the toes. They can no longer hold my weight if I lean forward. This exercise really helps in focusing attention on the toes and using them to keep my upright. I highly recommend it.
After I finish with the hip sways, I immediately go into my stepping in place. I lift the left leg as high as possible and count to ten. Then I switch to the right leg. I perform sixty steps. When I first started this exercise, I was having trouble performing twenty.

Another important exercise is standing up from a chair. It is amazing how many muscles are needed to perform that simple function. The chair push-up exercise is very good for working the arms, shoulders, back, and quads.

I never finish a workout without working my neck and throat muscles as well as my fingers, hands and wrists. They are often the most neglected and need constant work to remain strong and viable.

One of the "secrets" imparted to me is that when I exercise I need to improve my visualization of the actual working of the muscles. That involves focusing the brain on contracting and releasing the muscles I am working. Initially I could not feel anything, but the more I focus the better I can feel the muscles working.
As you can tell, I am pumped! It has been nine months since I started the program. Initially, most of the exercises were somewhat difficult. Fortunately, I have progressed to a point that I exercise for an hour every other day. On the ‘off days’ I have a short program that I do for about fifteen minutes. I am now using light weights and performing multiple reps with each exercise. I am definitely stronger and more confident.

I felt that if the program worked this well for me, it might help others so I published an updated ‘Smart Exercise Guide’. This guide is for beginners and can be ‘tweaked’ as capabilities improve. The guide (PDF) can be found by following this link: "Smart Exercise Guide". If you decide to exercise, remember to take it easy when starting out. You are not trying to rebuild muscles that have been declining in strength for several years in a few days. Work into the program gradually. It is better to have a daily (or every other day) routine than a once a week (or month) program. And, most importantly, “Enjoy!

Once again, repeat after me, “Exercise is good. Being a couch potato is bad.”

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