Ways to get and stay in shape
Following are ideas for ways to get and stay in shape. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does cover the things I do (or want to do) to stay active.
Find a trail, park, golf course (most will allow you on the cart paths when they are closed), or sidewalk and get going. If you have a dog, take him/her with you!
While I was never a huge fan of “going for a walk” when I played sports, I have found it to be a great way to be outside and get active. I do it most often when it’s cool or even cold here in Alabama. After I finish, I open up my Thermos® of hot tea and warm up. I go faster when it’s cold, too, because I’m trying to stay warm. My favorite place is down by the river; it’s relatively flat with just enough incline to keep me working. I have also found some nice multi-use trails in our parks that allow me to head into the woods on hot, sunny days.
Happily a lot of ramps are available now. Find one or a set of them and do intervals. I do these in my backyard, but you can do them anywhere a lot of people aren’t coming and going.
I sprint up, check the time, rest for 30 seconds (including going down the ramp), and go up again. I usually strive for about 30. It’s easy to start, and by the time it begins to get really difficult, I’m halfway through.
If you have long leg braces and a walker, dust them off and put them on. I did this the other day and could not believe how hard it was. Perhaps it was because I haven’t walked in years, or because walking really is harder than pushing. Either way, I was covered in sweat by the time I finished.
I have a couple of yoga DVDs that are a nice change of pace from other exercises. The one I like best is Carol Dickman’s “Seated Yoga.” It’s about 40 minutes long and is a great core-strengthening workout. She also has a “Bed Top Yoga” DVD that is great if you have some lower-body function but can’t really stand. I could do most of it, but it was not as good a workout for me as the seated yoga. It’s $40 for both. You can get them at www.stretch.com / 888-YES-YOGA / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join a Gym
Once at a gym, you have a lot of options for a moderate price:
– UBE: Most gyms have upper-body ergometers you can use in or out of your chair. I recently visited a gym that had a fancy new UBE with a TV, and I learned all about potatoes while I worked out!
– NuStep: Some gyms may also have a NuStep machine, which anyone can use regardless of lower-body function. You sit down, strap your feet in, and move your arms; this moves your legs. When I go home, my parents’ rec center has one, and I love getting a lower- and upper-body workout. If you’ve never seen one, visit www.nustep.com.
– Swim: If you like to swim, many rec centers have pools. You can swim on your own or do water aerobics classes. The great thing about the classes is you do not have to be a swimmer to join them; as long as you can stay afloat with a flotation belt around your waist, you can do it.
– Classes: There are usually other classes at rec centers you can be a part of as well. I’ve tried a few—yoga, pilates, and spin—and been able to adapt the activities to fit my needs. Meeting with the instructor to get ideas can help, too.
– Weights: Typically machine and free weights are available at gyms. You can lift in or out of your chair or even hire a personal trainer. Cybex has a new Total Access Line of weight machines that has larger benches to transfer on, or you can, with just one hand, move the bench out of the way to lift from your chair. While many gyms won’t have this line, it is certainly worth telling the owners about so if they order new equipment they can think about better meeting your needs (www.cybexintl.com/products/ta/default.aspx).
– Punching bag: There’s nothing like hitting a bag over and over to get you feeling good!
– Ride a bike: I have a handbike and love to take it out for a ride. I prefer to go out in my neighborhood so I don’t have to put it in the car. Many options are available for types of handbikes; it’s all about what you want to spend and what type of setup you prefer.
– Get a sledge: This is a piece of equipment I would love to own! It’s a 3-in-1 setup: cross-country skiing, ice skating, and road riding. It’s made in Canada by Ergolab and costs about $3,500
(http://ergolab.ca/en/spssortif/luge_intermediaire4/html). It’s a big expense, but you can use it year-round for different activities.
If you’ve been sitting around for a while, getting back into the swing of things can be challenging. But if you get involved in a variety of activities, you’ll find it is fun—and you will look and feel better.