Thursday, July 13, 2017

[Before] Recording My Starting Point of Flexibility/Strength with Spinal Fusion

As you know, one of my resolutions this year is to develop a daily stretching/yoga/pilates habit. I'm excited to share an update which has propelled me a leap further this week, but first a quick recap of the situation if you're unaware.

I had a spinal fusion 12 years ago for scoliosis and have been living as everyone else since, with nothing more than a 6-month follow up at age 16. I want this hardware to last the rest of my life, so I'm making this my current focus as far as my physical health is concerned.

Why now, at 28? Until this past fall, I spent my 20s dealing with IBS-D daily, so my focus was always there. But over the years I have gradually paid more attention to my movement and flexibility. In 2014 in Korea I took on a 100-day challenge to try and touch my toes. I stretched my hamstrings for about 15 minutes/day for 77 days, then stopped. (This is when I noticed my left side is much less flexible than my right.) I took pilates classes back in Wisconsin that fall and winter, into 2015, which raised my awareness of the core work I needed (and still need) to do. But from 2015-2016 it fell to the wayside and my physical activity went back to ultimate frisbee while living in France. Last spring I did switch over to this ergonomic setup for my laptop, though, a good step in taking care of my posture/movement.

This year progress has been slow and gradual so far, but a few weeks ago I came across Forever Fused and Julie Wilkins's Alignment Paths, where she offers videos of yoga for spinal fusion, among other services. After using a few of her free videos on YouTube, I went ahead and bought her 10-video set tonight. I'll see how they are in August, as I'm not bringing my computer along with me for the two weeks I'm out of town (leaving tomorrow). 

This is just the tip of it, though, the real fun came on Monday. I had an appointment with a Physical Therapist and I'm happy to say it went well! She gave me exercises and stretches to build strength and flexibility in the specific places where I need them most, and answered the questions I've had floating around for years. I learned why my stress spot is in my upper left shoulder blade, and how upper body/pectoral/lats/traps strength will help my situation.

Knowing all of this made it much easier to make sure I do these new exercises daily, as the need is clearer and thus feels more urgent. As with any long journey whose results take time—like learning a language or painting with watercolors—measuring progress in monthly increments can be great motivation. For many of these stretches I won't be able to measure improvement, so I've picked a few to track in numbers and images.

First up, the plank. My PT said I should work up to doing a minute each day of each plank: straight, left, and right. I'm recording the times on this piece of paper (and I keep calling plank "core," which I just noticed is what I did on this sheet):

Then, I recorded a video today of a few different stretches and later took screenshots. These photos were all taken pre-stretching, so hopefully there will be more noticeable of a difference in my next check-in. ;)

I have very tight hamstrings—the left side very, very tight—so I'll start with that:

Next up is a lumbar rotator stretch, which my PT said would be very good for me to work on.

And finally, I'll close with a toe touch image—reaching just over halfway between my knees and ankles.

As of today I'm on an 8-day stretching streak—the only daily "thing" I'm tracking this month in my bullet journal.

I hope I can keep my attention on this focus and see notable progress this time next month. I'm taking my checklist, exercise printouts, and elastic bands with me to camp, so I'm on the right track to make it happen. Here's to new beginnings and starting where you are!
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