How To Stay Fit When You're Dealing With A Disability

Written by Shelley M. White

Running has always been one of my greatest pleasures. Not in a competitive way — no, always alone, outside, with the wind hitting my face. Running has always been my preferred form of meditation. Like all things I cherish, I kept running to myself and did it as a pastime.

For me, the serenity I received from it would be tainted if I were to run competitively in marathons, or in track or cross country when I was in school. I always felt it was crucial to keep running from becoming a chore, or an act done solely for a gold medal.

Imagine my surprise the day I rolled out of bed, stood up to brush my teeth, and fell to the ground, unable to move. And the day I brought my first wheelchair home. When I reached remission from Lyme disease, I ran daily again. To be honest, I started too fast. My body wasn't ready to hit the road yet.

That was just a few months ago. Now that I'm once again battling Lyme disease, though, running is a rare occasion. Nevertheless, there isn't a doubt in my mind that I will once again sprint through the woods, with the wind hitting my face, the sun warming my skin, and the feeling of my heart pounding its way to freedom.

Until then, I must stay fit, even when I don't feel like moving a muscle. The same goes for you. Of course, any disabled person must take precautions before exercising. To exercise correctly and successfully while disabled, it's best to talk to your health care professional about your plans beforehand. He or she will not only be able to inform you if the exercise you are intending to do is safe for someone with your disorder, but may be able to inform you of exercises designed for your specific illness.

In the meantime, here are some additional tips for you to consider, situation depending:

1. Get a physical trainer.

He or she will ensure you exercise properly without harming yourself.

2. Consider water aerobics.

Water aerobics can be especially helpful if you suffer from spinal or nerve problems, or if you have limited mobility in your limbs. The buoyancy of the water promotes a gravity eliminated environment, which helps improve movement of problematic limbs.

3. Find out if there are any disabled sports teams your area.

Chances are good that there are. And chances are, being a part of a team of others who are disabled will empower you by reminding you that you are not alone.

4. Try strength resistance training

You can do this with a strength resistance belt, or under the supervision of a trainer.

5. Do yoga!

Yoga is beneficial for just about everyone, including you. Can't get out of your wheelchair? No worries, there are plenty of "chair yoga" workout videos circulating on YouTube.

Most importantly, though, don't focus on your disability. Be kind to yourself. Rather than brooding about the things you can't do, be happy about the things you can do. Be proud of yourself each time you make an effort to exercise. Even if you were only able to do a small amount, you at least did all you could, and that's something to be proud of.

Also, check out organizations such as the American Association of Adapted Sports or Disabled Sports USA. Their websites may further assist you in developing your exercise routine.

Remember to have fun. Working out doesn't have to be a chore if you can remind yourself it's a privilege.

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