Perseverance Matters More Than You Think
I remember the first day I had the privilege of working with Isabel*, a client with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). I was still very new to the job. My first thought was “Am I really equipped to do this? I don’t have any special training for this! I’m new here – I don’t think I should be doing this!” I moved towards them, she in her wheelchair and her husband Fritz* standing beside her. I introduced myself and we got to work. Fritz was there to help get her onto the equipment so she could do an exercise with oxygen treatment. Once she was secured on the bike, her nearly paralyzed feet strapped in to keep them from falling off the pedals onto the floor, I strapped the oxygen mask on, and we began. When I realized she couldn’t actually pedal the bike, I was again doubting my ability to go through with this session. I thought to myself, “What would be the point?! Is this a waste of time? And their money?! WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?!”
Our purpose quickly became very clear to me. We were giving Isabel hope that what we provide could help slow down the ravages of ALS on her body and mind. Although she couldn’t pedal a full rotation on the bike, she could still work as hard as her body would allow. Her pedaling was more of a shuffle, back and forth. Her willingness to keep trying was inspiring.
Now, many sessions later, I can say that Isabel consistently works as hard as possible when she’s on that bike! She does sprints and puts every ounce of her being into them. Often, she goes longer than the typical 15 minutes, depending upon how she is feeling that day. And I let her go until she is ready to be done. We start each session with a reminder of how far she went the session before, for how many minutes. Her goal typically is to beat the previous time and/or distance. However, there are days when she lets me know she isn’t going to meet, let alone beat, that distance or time on that day. And that is ok, too. More than ok. The fact that she is even here on those days, when she doesn’t feel well or strong enough to even have a conversation, and still puts 110% into it is an inspiration to me! Her focus and perseverance motivate me to be my best, leave excuses behind, and encourage others to keep going. We finish each session with a damp towel to wipe the sweat off her brow, a bottle of water, and a big smile on her face. She tells us she feels energized when she gets off the bike. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to have met Isabel and to get to work with her. I reprimand myself for questioning why we would even bother doing this.
It’s a well-known fact that exercise is critical to our wellbeing – physically and mentally. We all should get at least 30 minutes of appropriate activity a day. If the most you can do is a slow walk or some arm circles while seated in a wheelchair, then do it…daily! The human body was made to move. The more sedentary we become, the less flexibility and strength we will have. And as the body shuts down, so does the mind. Both should be exercised regularly.
Here at A Mind for All Seasons®, we work with a wide variety of clients – a gamut of ages and diagnoses – Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s, ALS, to name a few. We also work with clients who have no diagnosis at all; they are here to help stave off cognitive decline altogether. The commonality is that they all want to make things better for themselves.
The story of Isabel is one example of how we work around diminished mobility. In the words of Clint Eastwood, “Improve, adapt and overcome!” How do we do this? By using teamwork – the client, their care partners, and me – we do whatever it takes to help them reap the benefits of the available therapies here in the studio. Sometimes it takes all 3 of us to get them on the recumbent bike to do exercise with oxygen and get their feet strapped in so they don’t slip off the pedals. Or help getting on and off the bed for red light therapy because they are unable to move their bodies themselves. Or extra assistance to get them into the sauna to ensure they are safely seated before closing the door. Sometimes, just the two of us can manage without other assistance. Regardless of how many of us or how long it takes, we will always be happy to help with movement or adapt therapies to allow and encourage all of our clients to take advantage of the many ways we boost mind, body and spirit at A Mind For All Seasons®.
I have a couple clients who can’t handle having the oxygen mask strapped onto their faces during a Live O2 session; they may be extremely claustrophobic or fearful, for whatever reason, of having that mask strapped on. That alone should not keep them from reaping the benefits of the Live 02 workout. They can hold the mask to their face, or I can hold it for them. The benefits of exercise with oxygen far outweigh any amount of time and effort put into an adaptation that is needed for a client and I am committed to making it work one way or another.
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking of your own limitations- all the conditions that might hold you back from trying to take charge of your brain health and overall physical health. Regardless of what limiting beliefs might be darkening your thoughts, I invite you to contact A Mind For All Seasons. My team members and I are committed to finding innovative solutions. The Enhance Protocol®, when implemented correctly, not only improves brain functioning and overall physical health- it changes lives!
I have another client who tells me the bike handles are always sticky. One day, he remarked, “I know you’ve told me you clean this bike after every person, but it is ALWAYS sticky when I’m on it.” The look of disdain on his face told me he really does not like that feeling. I’ve come to realize that his hands sweat and are always clammy, so while he’s holding onto the handles, it feels unclean and uncomfortable for him. I don’t want him to stop doing the Live 02 because he’s uncomfortable, but wondered, “How can I fix THAT, Gar? I can’t make his hands stop sweating. So, what can I do?” I thought and thought until it hit me…gloves! Yes- I’ll try gloves! I brought in a new pair of cotton gloves that I had at home. Now, he dons the gloves before getting on the bike and we proceed with the session. He no longer complains of the bike handles being sticky. They are his gloves now. I put them aside for only him. When I see the gloves on his hands, I hear Clint Eastwood’s gruff voice in my head telling me to “Improve, adapt and overcome, Gar!”
One afternoon, as I finished wiping down equipment and Isabel prepared to leave the brain therapy studio, she turned to me and said, “I wish I felt this good every day. I have so much more energy the days that I come here. Today, I was so exhausted that I almost didn’t come. I’m so glad I did, because I feel so much better now.”
I have understood what the phrase ‘to persevere’ means my entire adult life. Now I understand a little better why it is so important- and why what I do each day matters so much.
*Names are changed to protect privacy