Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Exercise - Do It For You!

Before the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease {Here is a photo of me in December 2007 a year after the diagnosis}:

I was a stranger to exercise. My body was a stranger to me.

I had to dissociate mind from body in order to survive the ordeal of childhood paralytic polio and severe trauma at the hands of family members, but I paid a steep price for this adaptive way to cope.

Once the diagnosis was made, I went back into a leg brace only rather than the long metal leg brace I needed as a child, this was a toe up leg brace to give my left leg support to diminish the limp as I walked:

I was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, adapt our Cape house or move to a Ranch.

I was also told that if I used it, I would lose it! Yes ... you read that right!

Fortunately, I was led to an earth angel of a physical therapist, Allison Lamarre-Poole who did not subscribe to that philosophy for the treatment of Post-Polio Syndrome.

From "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":
“I have your records from the Framingham clinic Mary but I am going to need to do an assessment that specifically focuses on your upper body,” Allison told me during our first appointment.

She had a warm smile. There was something compelling about her presence that let me know I was not destined to be on a course of a progressive illness. She inspired a desire to heal within me. As she massaged my cervical spine, her cool hands were in sharp contrast to the heat of the pain I experienced for the past 10 years. We moved through passive range of motion exercises. She wrapped an ice collar around my neck, and sat with me. She asked questions about how I was functioning in different areas of my life. She told me about adaptive equipment we could order to ease the stress on my already overtaxed muscles. After the session we set up 3 times a week therapy sessions.

“Take a deep breath and lift your hips,” Allison cued as I lay on the physical therapy table.

“Now slowly lower down vertebrae by vertebrae. I want you to really concentrate on making that connection to your spinal column. Can you feel it? Move slowly. How does it feel?”

I lost my connection to my body after collapsing from paralytic polio. I had to dissociate from my body to survive years of abuse and torture. It was a strange experience to reconnect with my body, yet one that I hungered for. I wanted to find my way home and Allison was my first tour guide as she provided the map I needed to reconnect with myself.

The first day I walked into the outpatient gym and saw all of the equipment and machines I thought to myself, “I’m going to be able to do this. I can get stronger. I know it’s not going to be easy. I know it’s going to take time and I have to be extremely patient with myself.”

I wanted to feel better and I wanted to feel whole. Three times a week we worked together using Pilates, isometrics, weight training and cardiovascular exercise to bring my body out of its withered state.

At my last session with her she said, "You're going to keep working at your rehab right? You don't ever want to go back to where you were do you?" I emphatically said, "NO!"

In October of 2007, I hired a personal trainer wondering if she could help me build on the home program Allison gave me. Her response was:

I couldn't even do the initial assessment with her but after working with her for 6 months, having decided that if I were going to experience pain, I'd prefer to feel pain on the side of recovery rather than the pain of decline, I passed the assessment and I was on a path to healing, health and wellness!

I went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon and exercise became a way of life for me.

After running 3 consecutive Bermuda Half Marathons in 2016, 2017 and 2018, my health and fitness goals focused on recovery from the grueling rigors of training for an endurance event and to enjoy my workouts and running again.

Since January of 2018, I have consistently worked out or ran 5 days a week and had no goal races.

I ran a comeback race at The Becca Pizzi 5K and Kids Fun Run and will be running The Finish at the 50 5K in just a few weeks.

I am very excited to be doing a race where there is no time pressure yet I get to push myself to be the very best I can be on race day.

I must share with you that occasionally, not very often, I have to motivate myself to get my workout in, Yesterday was one of those days.

The alarm went off. I meditated and it took everything I had to clear the energy of stress anticipating our daughter's discharge from her 9th psychiatric hospitalization since January of 2018. I knew that once I started moving, cranking up my playlist and Tom and I encouraging each other as we worked out, I would begin to feel better.

I countered the thoughts of "I can skip one workout. It's no big deal." with knowing how important it is to be consistent loving myself enough to maintain my health and wellness regimen.

This morning I was energized after meditation eager to go to the BU FitRec Center to get in an early morning swim in their Recreation Pool.

Today, this article came into my inbox, "Ten Ways to Make Exercise a Daily Habit."

If you struggle with making exercise a regular part of your life or just need a boost of ideas to ensure that you stay on course for your exercise regimen, be sure to take a few moments to read it.

And please...make sure you take time to exercise ... do it for you!

From my heart to yours
In Health and Wellness,

Be sure to visit my website at

Hear my interview with Kendra Petrone on Magic 106.7's Exceptional Women Show by following this link

My books are available on Amazon and at Paper Fiesta in Natick on Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon route. Proceeds of book sales for May through July are going to Tom McManus's Falmouth Road Race run for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation. You can also make a direct donation by following this link.

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