Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Post: Working Out Made Me Feel Athletic Again

Here is a post from a friend of mine who has Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP). It was originally posted on October 18, 2010 on Sam Patierno's website. It is a story of inspiration and persistence. Enjoy!

I played every sport imaginable growing up. I was always obsessed with playing sports. I loved to compete. I excelled in basketball and tennis. I was captain of the tennis team in college. Unfortunately after I graduated college I started having trouble with my balance and coordination. Like anyone would do I went to my doctor to see what was wrong. 8 years later, about 8 neurologists, 1o MRI’s, spinal tap, and many more uncomfortable tests I was diagnosed with a very rare hereditary neurological disorder called HSP. HSP – Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia refers to a group of inherited disorders that are characterized by progressive weakness and spasticity (stiffness) of the legs. Early in the disease course, there may be mild gait difficulties and stiffness. These symptoms typically slowly progress so that eventually individuals with HSP may require assistance of a cane, walker, or wheelchair. I couldn't run anymore. I have difficulty walking because my legs are so tight and stiff. I lost one of the most important things in my life – The joy of competing in sports and feeling athletic. I would have done anything to feel athletic and healthy again, like the way I felt after playing tennis for 5 hours or playing pick up basketball all day. The problem was simple, what can I do safely to feel athletic that doesn’t require running, jumping, kicking etc… The answer I came up with was lifting weights. But, I had no experience with weight training. I was a skinny kid who never thought about the many positives weight training can give you. Luckily I had a few close friends who brought me into the gym and showed me many lifting exercises and more importantly showed me the proper form. I even learned a weight training program where I worked on a different muscle group to target each day. I would do chest, bi’s and tri’s, shoulder’s, and back followed by 15 minutes of stretching 5 days a week for 10yrs. I would write the name of the exercise, number of set’s, and number of reps for each exercise I did in a notebook after every workout so I could make goals for myself and see improvement. I have been working out like this consistently five days a week for the past ten years.

At first it was very hard. I was extremely sore and I wanted to quit everyday I was in the gym, but I kept at it. I got every ounce of stress, frustration, and anger I had that was built up because of my illness out in the gym for an hour five days a week. After time, I didn’t get as sore anymore and really became obsessed with working out. I loved the way it made me feel. I admit it was nice to see myself with muscles that I grew because I worked so hard in the gym, BUT the best benefit about working out was the way it relieved all my stress and anxiety. I never thought in a million years I could feel so good physically by just sticking to a routine in the gym and make sure I eat and sleep well. Other than than the psychological benefits, working out makes me sleep better, increased my immune system (I am rarely sick), and in time it changed the shape of my body. I can honestly say I am no longer angry or frustrated because I can’t play tennis or basketball anymore. In fact, I am very thankful because going through it all caused me to find my new love – Physical Fitness. I plan on taking care of myself and going to the gym five days a week for the rest of my life. And if anyone is reading and is going through an illness like HSP or knows someone who is, please start a weight training program. It will change your life…….

Dave Hawkes is 34 and has worked in the hospitality industry ever since graduating college in 2001. He has been going to the gym 5 days a week for over 10 years, primarily lifting weights. He works a different muscle group each day and finishes his workouts with 200 to 300 pull ups and push ups a day. When he is not working or at the gym, you can find Dave playing fetch with his puggle at the park, at the beach, or intensely watching a Red Sox game. He lives a very happy, simple life and takes a lot of pride in living a healthy lifestyle. He is completely addicted to exercising and staying fit.

1 comment:

  1. Her story is so inspiring. Even if she had the disease and could no longer do her favorite sports, she took it with optimism by focusing on physical fitness. I hope she creates different classes such as toddler gymnastics class for my kids.

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