Pretty much every year since I was a teenager, my new year's resolution has been to hit the gym and get into shape. Unfortunately, the determination and drive would only last for a few months and I wish so badly that I could go back and tell my old self to suck it up and just do it. Looking back it was easy.
I could go grocery shopping at anytime, cook anything I wanted, drive to the gym and workout on any piece of equipment. Three years after a serious accident, my resolution remains the same, but much more difficult. I used to have this resolution because I wanted to look fit. Now I'm working out in hopes of regaining my independence.
Virtually every aspect of getting healthy is somewhat of a struggle. At my level of injury, I can't just get a membership to any gym I want. Those $20 monthly fees look great but I need a specialized gym and working with a trainer can cost upwards of $100 an hour.
Special equipment for the home is outrageously expensive. The FES (functional electrical stimulation) bike is at the top of the wish list for many with a spinal cord injury and costs about $17,000. So while you can go on a walk, do squats and many other leg workouts, this bike is the only way we can preserve our leg muscles.
Lack of transportation and finances, pain and many other factors can make working out very difficult for someone with my injury level. But many people with SCI do it. They fundraise and save money for special equipment, travel to participate in adapted sports, push their chairs around the neighborhood and do their research on how to adapt various exercises at home. They don't do it just to look better. Many people with spinal cord injuries do it because they are preserving their lives. Arm strength is important for pushing the chair and transferring place to place, while endurance is important for long distances and a healthy heart.
Everyone's diet and mobility affects their life expectancy, but for us, it can be a very real, in your face issue. Without a healthy lifestyle a heap of medical problems can plague us that can be potentially life threatening. Many people with spinal cord injuries work out because we need to do it despite the difficulties.
I'm a little envious of people who can just hop up and go to any gym they want but I also love seeing people use their bodies; taking advantage of the mobility I so desperately wish I had. I miss the days when it was easy. I miss jumping, running, squatting, crunching, pulling, pushing, kicking and dancing. I can't believe I complained. And I hate that I didn't use my abilities to the fullest.
I really don't mean for this to be a guilt trip, but more of a swift kick in the rear to get you moving! I learned a very hard lesson at a young age and hindsight truly is 20/20.
We all need to get healthy; able bodied individuals and the differently-abled. The problem is that people make their goals too all encompassing. It's best to make smaller obtainable goals on your way to your ultimate desired outcome. Don't only think about what you want, but also lay out a realistic plan to meet that goal. Don't start tomorrow. Start today. I know all too well that tomorrow isn't always predictable. You are in control of this moment right now so take advantage of it.
As for my resolution? The ultimate goal is to get independent and have a family. This might take longer than a year, but I'll continue to set smaller obtainable goals along the way; like mile markers on a rocky road that still leaves me feeling a little unsteady at times. But I must have hope that I'll regain my footing someday.