Are disabled athletes more mindful?

Barbells might be my new obsession. Remember my new shirt from the Fitness Tee Company in Michigan?

“Let’s hit the bar.”

I bought it after my first bench press with the barbell. I have always wanted to lift barbells. I’m fascinated with power lifters, and admire women like Meg Squats. She recently had a baby, but to stay on topic, here is one of her lifting videos: 5 things I wish I knew before I started lifting.

So when my trainer first put me on the bench with a barbell, it was in part to evaluate me. What he didn’t know was my secret burning desire to do it. And it did not disappoint.

Those first couple lifts I learned so much— about form, about using “power zones” in the body, and how a simple bench press uses most of your muscle groups. Fascinating. To see other people do it hints at the complexity, but to do it yourself is a true lightbulb moment to the depth of the interactive mechanics of the human body.

Today I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. Pretty much because my trainer said, “You could totally lift that,” and pointed to the barbell on the floor.

And I said, “I’ve always wanted to.”

You could totally lift that.

Dan, my personal trainer at Apex

So he let me deadlift the one-plate (on each side) barbell. I mimicked his form, which appeared to be underhand and it was a totally different kind of effort from the dumbbell deadlifts I previously completed. Those seemed very concentrated in the butt and legs, these included more of the body in a fluid way.

I did three in that first set and returned to my dumbbell circuit— 10 lb dumbbells in a swing style motion up to a press, 10 reps, followed by 10 bicep curls— before back to the bar. This was my cool down set of the day. And I did 3 more additional sets at the barbell— a set of five, another circuit with the dumbbells, then eight at Dan’s urging, another circuit, and he asked for another eight, but I tapped out after five.

I determined that I prefer underhand grip. Overhand grip puts too much stress on my lower back. Mixed grip is awesome, too, but I think that may require some work before I can up my weight. Mixed grip forces a certain instability and requires more focus on balance, which as a balance exercise would be stellar.

But what does any of this have to do with athletes and disability— the idea I propose in the title?

I have no athletic talent what so ever. My coordination is awful. I tend to walk “all done f*cky” when my health is poor or I am fatigued. I also deal with a myriad of aches and pains from walking crooked and associated issues with my S1 joint.

But my trainer often comments on my form, well, once he reminds me to point my toes for a squat or perfect that lean for a row. He’s even commented that I’m “built for that” while we do certain exercises. That once I correct manually what my brain can’t make my body do automatically, that I use a very deliberate form.

As I’ve mentioned before my weight training is very meditative for me because I am counting (something my trainer and the teenager were discussing because she said even with a decade of band she can’t count) and my trainer said I was good at keeping count, but that many of his clients needed assistance. I am also thinking about control in every motion of the exercise— from each body movement, to pace and control.

And on top of that, I try to note feeling and body function. Though that is touchy. In a “leg day” session a week or two ago, Dan said he noticed something strained about the lift I was doing. He wanted to know if it were legs or back bothering me.

I had to do an extra rep of the exercise to answer him. Because I hadn’t noticed.

“Ankles,” I answered. “My ankles are stiff and shaky today.”

All of this makes me think, and question, how those of us will a mild physical disability like cerebral palsy might be better athletes because we don’t have talent or physical advantages. But we know our bodies and we are accustomed to acknowledging the details of our bodies and their functions.

Does the fact that I am required to concentrate on every motion make me more prone to perform that motion closer to perfection than someone who can breeze through it without thinking about it?

Compelling idea.

Stress, leg day, wins for the cat cafe, taste testing and EZ Pass Drama

In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.

The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.

Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.

In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).

This brings our list of supporters to:

  • Many individual bakers
  • Easton Baking Company
  • Philly Pretzel
  • Wawa
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Keystone Snacks
  • Chocolate Works
  • Target
  • Just Born

Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.

So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.

Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.

Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.

The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.

I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.

She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.

After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)

And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?

Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.

So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.

I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.

So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.

I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.

My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.

I never did.

At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.

This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.

Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.

Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.

They cashed the check.

Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.

I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.

A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.

It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.

And you can’t just pay what you owe.

I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.

Week Four of Physical Training at Apex and more thoughts on Disability

When I turned up at the Apex Gym today for my first session of the week, I was accompanied by the teenager and her dog. They were both impressed— and in the dog’s case confused— that my trainer Dan was wearing his baby.

I am always impressed with the different bodies I see at the gym and the attention both trainers give to their clients.

There was a woman at the gym finishing her session when I arrived. She was working hard with some dumbbells, with her back to me. She was older than I was, and overweight, probably at least obese by BMI standards (because I am overweight by BMI standards).

But she was uneven, with 80% of her excess weight in her legs.

And just like with me, Dan supported her and challenged her as if we were athletes. You could tell she was proud of herself, and I was proud of her.

And I couldn’t wait to tell my trainer Dan that I can already feel my body moving better. In his eyes, he calls it “a little increased mobility” and to me, I feel like my knees are moving the correct direction.

I told him that I got to pick at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and covered about 6,000 steps and pulled 216 items in less than three hours. Now those aren’t stellar numbers, but I haven’t left QC in months. And I didn’t hurt.

If this Apex experience doesn’t teach me to participate in exercise and strength training daily, nothing will.

Today’s workout t-shirt was “let’s hit the bar” by The Fitness Tee Company and my trainer Dan let out an enthusiastic battle cry. We did hit the bar, and we added weight to it. I really enjoy bench press.

In other news, I listened to the latest podcast from the NYT Daily Sunday Read, “The Man who filed 180 disability lawsuits.” It looked at the “industry” of people hired by lawyers to find non-ADA-compliant businesses. And sue them.

I need to digest this more, but the reporter interviewed a small restaurant that almost lost everything because of such a lawsuit, in what seemed a situation where a new restaurant just had everything go wrong.

But the reporter also interviewed the litigant who said businesses have a responsibility to know the law better (my note: it’s almost 300 pages) and that being disabled is expensive so these lawsuits help pay for his equipment and care.

Link to the podcast on Spotify.

Luau luncheon at the Bizzy Hizzy

Changes are brewing at work. Tomorrow I learn the infamous mailer machine and QC Valley 0 has been transformed into a test site to see if QC centers can prep their own boxes as they fold each fix.

I’m terrified of this. I have a really awkward relationship with packing tape.

Middle of the Night Ruminations Providing Insights and Honoring Success

First, the exciting news of the day… our new gym shirts from The Fitness Tee Co arrived a day early. The teenager presents an unboxing on YouTube here.

I couldn’t resist the doughnut tank and the other witty slogans. They were about $20 each and there was a BOGO 50 % off sale on the day I ordered. Shipping was $10.

Update on the progress with Apex Training: As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my trainer, Dan, and I worked core and lower body hard. (Read that here.)

Today my thighs and maybe my hamstrings hurt. Everything hurts. But when I went to work in QC tonight, I emptied every fix from the carts with the same squat form I would use if he were watching. That’s more than 125 times. And here’s the tidbit to consider about my quest to learn more about my body and my cerebral palsy, even though my thighs and hamstrings hurt, my knees moved much easier than I recall. Is it true? Or just my perception? And I came home without any back pain.

Three cheers to my trainer Dan at Apex.

In other Bizzy Hizzy Stitch Fix news, my supervisor has asked me to learn mailer machine. This is a work center only a few people in each shift know how to do. I have heard stories of the finicky and evil mailer machine. But, of course, I said sure.

As my supervisor walked away, I started to get a panicky feeling inside. Yesterday I was moved from my normal spot in QC to a position on the warehouse floor consolidating items in the flat pack bins. Then I got moved from that to men’s returns processing.

On Wednesday, I trained a brand new temp on women’s returns processing.

And now next week the mailer machine?

A few weeks ago it was a brief exposure to style carding.

My insecurity flared— thanks past employers— and I wondered “do I perform so poorly they keep moving me around to a place where I fit?”

And I chastised myself because I know the metrics, I’m not a bad employee. I hope they see I am reliable, flexible, smart, and enjoy learning.

To calm my insecurity, I texted my talented and lovely friend Joan. She retired from a place you might know, Martin Guitar. She worked, I believe, in human resource stuff. And she has some fancy jargon to toss around like Sigma and stuff.

I asked her, texting on my final ten minute break of the night: “I consistently achieve 96% of goal. They constantly train me for new things— spending a day here and there without mastering anything.
Am I someone they can rely on?
Or are they trying to find something I can do?”

I could hear Joan’s sigh across the night.

She replied, “They recognize that you are smart, and they don’t want you to get bored. They are cross training you to keep you flexible… They know you will catch on fast and do your best, even if it’s not 100% against their numbers. Does the job get done fast and well? Can they rely on you to do it? Of course!”

Everyone needs a friend like Joan.

Tell your insecurities to go f*ck themselves

The wise and effervescent Joan Z

She goes on, “Remember, they’re putting you where they need you. You are a willing pair of hands and pretty good at it. As I used to tell the people at the guitar factory, the more stuff you know how to do, the more valuable you are to the company.”

But here’s my favorite advice, “Tell your insecurities to go f*ck themselves.”

So a big thank you to Joan!

Training Update: Finishing Week Three at Apex Training

My body turned to me as I went to my car after work today, and as I fiddled with the radio (calling up Natalie Merchant on Spotify singing Space Oddity), my body said to me,

“Jesus, woman, what are you doing? We need to talk.”

But seriously.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? But we can’t spend too much time on all this as it is 1:30 a.m. and my aching body craves sleep.

The teenager was up fairly early today so I suggested she and our almost 1-year-old pit bull/mastiff/black lab puppy walk with me to the gym, about 5 blocks away.

Now if you’re new here… I’m 46 years old, a former newspaper reporter. I have an amazing 17-year-old daughter. Her father and I separated two years ago but he lives nearby and is still an important part of our household. I have cerebral palsy. He has a club hand. I have recently started a quest to learn more about my body, restart my bodybuilding commitment (I was really into it six years ago) as an alternative to traditional physical therapy, and hopefully lose the 20 pounds I gained stress eating to cope with the toxic workplace of the last nonprofit I worked for.

So, the teenager, the dog and I walked up to the gym. F. Bean Barker is learning new manners everyday and the guys at the gym thought she was a beautiful dog.

And then the focus changed to leg day. Now, on upper body day I get to train like a normal person. On lower body day, my poor trainer has to balance my physical deficits with my desire to kick ass.

Or maybe I’m just as awkward both days, and I just never noticed.

Today was session six. It’s the last week of two sessions a week and next week we increase to three.

Please note: I have been in gyms lifting weights since college, which was about 25 years ago, and in recent years I’ve been in physical therapy to learn to walk, for balance, for the strain of my lumbar region caused by trouble with my S1 joint and my broken ankle. Every body is different. Every ailment or disability is different. It is a quest to balance what works for you, what your body needs and what hurts.

I firmly believe that nothing fixes the body like the right exercises. But for people with disabilities or health issues, it’s hard to recognize what pain you need to work through and what hurt is bad. As a weight lifter, I know muscle recovery pain. As a person with a disability, I often experience burning pain.

As a society, I feel like we invest so much money in medical tests, mental health, drugs, organic food, but we don’t want to pay for a trainer.

My trainer is getting to know me. He knows how to observe me. He asks questions about my mobility. We test exercises by going easy at first and adjusting them based on my performance.

And he reads me well.

There are times I can tell he’s afraid of pushing me too far and then I do the exercise and he makes it ten times harder because I surpassed his expectations. This makes him a good trainer because it means he’s testing my basic form and strength so I don’t get hurt. And he reads my body language to see how I’m doing— not relying on my words.

A good trainer has to push you out of your comfort zone. But he also has to make sure everything’s executed for best impact and in a way that you don’t get hurt.

I have to admit, I hated him a little today. But I also love his full body approach. But when he tells me to do sumo squats with a 15-pound dumbbell and my toes pointed out AND make sure my knees “follow” my toes… I don’t know whether to cry or punch him.

It’s the gym— both those feelings are valid.

But let’s examine the issue. My knees face in.

This means to perform the motion he has requested, I need to move one foot at a time carefully into position. I need to really concentrate on balance. As I move, I need to keep my head up, focus on stretching the knees to position in line with my toes (which is not the way they go) while holding a weight and trying not to fall.

I was dripping sweat by the end of this session— before he hands me a kettle bell to end the work out with kettle bells swings.

When I got home, I made a massive high protein vegan pasta. See me make it here (this can also be my official “before” video.)

I ate 90% vegan today. Only animal products I had were half and half for my coffee and a pack of beef jerky at work. I almost had iced tea with local honey but the teenager spilled it when I left it on the dog crate.

This was dinner:

Speaking of dinner— tonight at the Bizzy Hizzy my team competed in the Stitch Fix olympics. We won the gold medal in the egg toss. I was relieved they weren’t real eggs.

In other news:

  • I almost started editing William Prystauk’s latest novel in the Kink Noir series.
  • My Poppy Z. Brite books have arrived.
  • I hurt. I hope it’s the good hurt.
  • My friend Joan not only brought us old linens, but scored a cat carrier and animal crate at a yard sale.

Level unlocked: Bench Press

I have been strength training on and off for the last 20+ years. It definitely makes my muscles easier to manage and allows me to fight the control issues and long range effects of cerebral palsy.

Today I did my first bench press in my session with Dan of Apex Training.

And that’s my first bench press ever.

At other gyms, with other trainers, we never did bench press. At home, I never had the equipment to bench press.

I found it exhilarating— I never realized how much coordination and full body balance a bench press requires. I always thought it was purely upper body.

I can’t wait to do more.

We did various upper body exercises including some newer movements I hadn’t seen before but I am perpetually pleased with Dan’s knowledge. And he has chickens and we share some tastes in food.

Occasionally during the workout, he asked if I could do one more.

I can always do one more.

That isn’t bravado — that’s my mentality for life. That’s how I survive my disability. I have to push my body to do what it needs to do.

My success and “feel good”-edness continued through my work day. I QCed 132 fixes (goal is 130).

I suppose there are two ways to approach life with a disability… One is to do nothing, and give up.

The other is to do one more. And grow stronger.

I chose one more.

Lower body & kitten bodies

Today marked my first lower body work out with Dan at Apex. I did something I rarely do and wore a little tennis style athletic skirt to the gym. I don’t like wearing shorts. There are two reasons why.

1. I honestly don’t like my flesh touching various surfaces: hot car leather, wooden chairs, the concrete if I sit on my steps, of course “thigh rub.” You get it.

2. But I also don’t like to see my lower body in motion. It’s a visual reminder of my physical issues.

So exposing my legs to a relative stranger was a way of me making myself vulnerable. But if Dan is going to monitor and critique my form, he can see my knees.

Lower body. I was so… not anxious, not scared. Maybe trepidation? We did pretty standard upper body exercises. Easy starting point. Dumbbells. I was happy with it. Very happy. (See more here.)

Dan brought his six-month-old son. What a happy, charming, beautiful baby. He didn’t mind seeing my knees.

And right away, Dan put me at ease. I’m impressed by the depth of his knowledge— my physical therapists have explained the same info to me so I know he’s done his homework on normal physiology.

Our exercises yesterday included a supported squat using some overhead ropes (that was amazing! I felt like I could move like a normal person. I could have done that all day.); some mild lifts with a plate that was like a full body deadlift, slowing stretching out the whole self; and some squats with a resistance band moving up and down from a bench. Many of these movements required great concentration on my part but I knew from past physical therapy that he was nailing it.

He apologized for not working me harder but he wants to focus on getting everything moving and flexible again so I don’t get hurt.

That is exactly what I need right now. I shouldn’t be working out hard. I just want to establish the habit, get my metabolism working again, and oil the machine, so to speak. I am so thrilled. Giddy.

And I walked slowly home with no falls.

As my rest period at home, I finally wrote the solicitation letter for FURR’s Coffee and Kittens pop-up cat café August 15 at Forks Community Center. The organization is working hard, my former employee and friend Janel and I are brainstorming away and reaching out to potential sponsors.

I hope to have FURR volunteers give five minute talks or demonstrations on various cat topics: TNR, basic cat care, how much cats can reproduce, declawing and cat scratching behavior, working with hissy spitties, cat body language, trimming nails, seniors for seniors, why kittens aren’t easy.

Activities will include live kittens in play pens to cuddle, cat story time (I will read cat stories), and musical chairs with cat-themed music. We hope to have some raffles— the chance to name some kittens, hopefully some prizes. And cat merchandise for sale.

And of course refreshments.

Did I mention live kittens????

The teen and Bernadette

Owning my personal fitness

It’s Monday. And wow is it a Monday!

Before I continue, let me get the usual disclaimers/introductions out of the way.

Like many people, I had a rough 2020– I’m actually grateful to Covid for slowing down my life and allowing me to survive some severe emotional stress that caused me to have high blood pressure, develop a bad comfort eating habit and end up anemic. I had a difficult job experience, lost that job, and now work in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and deal with my daughter’s crazy dog, my stubborn cockatoo and a bunch of foster cats. I’m forty-something, a single mom, 20 lbs overweight and struggling to understand my body, specifically my cerebral palsy.

My day started with chasing the “pig pony” dog Bean (we call her that because she snorts like a pig and is the size of a small pony) around the neighborhood because she decided to jump the fence and ignore her recall commands.

I’m in my kitchen now, eating a public-school issued bowl of Cheerios with an out-of-date white milk leftover from the teenager’s recent school dates. I met with my trainer today (and my friend Janel who is helping me set up the FURR Coffee and Kittens event at Forks Community Center August 15).

I headed up the hill to Apex Training to meet with my trainer Dan. I finally remembered to ask Dan if it’d be okay if I wrote about him and our work together and he said yes, so I no longer have to be sneaky.

I’m comfortable with Dan. He’s laid back but he knows his stuff, understands the movements and the physiology, and keeps a careful eye without making you feel stared at or inadequate.

He almost seems apologetic that we’re going slow and using 5 and 10 pound dumbbells and not lifting at a pace that makes it a cardiovascular event. But that’s what I love! The anemia, when combined with the cerebral palsy especially, makes it so easy to get tired and clumsy and hurt oneself.

Today, we did some upper body work. 30 minutes, slow and steady. 3 sets of 2 exercises each. Pretty standard way to set up a 30-minute work out hitting the triceps, biceps, chest and upper back.

Five years ago when I did this, I did a lot of cardio, did calisthenic ab exercises every day and did ten to fifteen minutes of lifting focusing on just one muscle (i.e. biceps or triceps) not the whole group.

Like I said, I know what to do, but I’m a person and people get lazy. I need Dan right now, as I’ve said, for several goals:

  1. Restart the consistent habit of training.
  2. Increase energy.
  3. Improve strength, flexibility and agility.
  4. Build muscle and tone body.
  5. Lose weight.

Many of us tell ourselves we can save money and do it ourselves but the reality is there is a big difference between we are able vs. the commitment of we will.

I fully intended to eat a banana every day to get more nutrients into my body as I recover from anemia. Did I?

Does it look like I did?

But back to the training… I find the actual activity of lifting, when I am working with a class facilitator or fitness trainer, meditative. Everyone should focus on their movements when strength training, but I really have to with my disability. Focus is required to make sure all the body parts move as they should. I have to count the reps, remember to breathe, and control the motions all at the same time.

When you are doing all of that, your mind empties. And you just flow with the movements of your body and the feeling in your muscles.

Like today was “oh hello triceps, are you still under all that arm jiggle?”

When I left Dan I was sweating. I was limber. I felt invincible. I was walking home reminding myself how powerful I am.

I fell.

I lost my balance on the sidewalk and just fell about half a block from my house.

My right arm is scraped from the back of my shoulder almost to my wrist. The upper shoulder stings the worst. It’s been two hours and it still stings. I also bounced on my hip and upper thigh— so that is already starting to bruise.

I called out from work tonight. Based on where I’m at in my menstrual cycle and the summer sun, I’m going to blame anemia for this lapse in balance especially since all day yesterday I had no energy. Anemia is awful. Anemia with a mobility disorder is a nightmare.

But this is why I’m working out.

I own my weaknesses. Let’s fight!

Meeting my fitness trainer, let the work begin

Today I woke up at 8:30 a.m., before my alarm, ready to start the laundry, unload the dishwasher and check on my split pea soup. I had my initial meet-and-greet, evaluation session with my new local, small business fitness trainer at 11 a.m.

At 10:30, I went down to the basement to get the linen wash and hang it on the line.

Oz, the big, scared and stupid cat bolted through my legs and out the door. In his mind, he was going to go eat some grass and relax in the sun.

Except the dog saw him escape. So he ran around the house and into our neighbors yard where our other neighbors were breaking up cement manually.

I was focused on catching the dog and they were very keen to tell me there was also a cat. I knew that cat would be sitting and waiting at my neighbor’s back door.

I catch the dog and clip her to the neighbor’s tie and turn my attention toward retrieving my daughter’s cat.

Grab the cat while the dog yowls in confusion. Toss him in the house, grab the dog’s leash, walk the dog across our small yard, and then watch her corner Oz and jump through the open window to chase him around the house while still wearing her leash.

By the time I crated her, I was already dripping with sweat.

And I barely had time to eat (after all, the wet laundry is in the basket in the yard) so I spoon some of my current favorite Cabot cottage cheese into my mouth and grab a pack of salt and vinegar almonds (both from the Grocery Outlet, of course) and an unopened bottle of plain seltzer.

I walk the five blocks to the trainer’s gym.

He’s practicing his golf swing when I arrive. He knows my name. We chat. My seltzer explodes all over but I manage to minimize the disaster. His name is Dan. He has an infant. And dogs. Both trainers have kids and dogs.

He has similar problem areas in his hips and back from an accident. He gives me the usual rundown— we’ll start slow so we can build a foundation, results take time. We talk more. I tell him my most recent experiences with strength training/weight loss/anemia. I show him pictures of ripped, underweight me five years ago.

“So you know what you’re doing,” he says.

“I do, but I need someone to watch my form so I don’t hurt myself and motivate me as I’m still struggling with the emotional repercussions of a really bad work experience.”

“I can give you some guidance and a kick in the butt,” he says.

That is what I need,” I reply.

I tell him my hopes: I want to start with light workouts to develop the habit and rebuild my energy as I recover from anemia-related fatigue. Then, we focus on full body weight training at so I can be as strong as the woman in the picture, but I don’t care what the scale says. And maybe we’ll work toward running a 5K. And if the relationship works out, I might pursue my dream of a bodybuilding hobby. Not competitive. Just for myself.

I think I saw him visibly relax. He liked that I understood what realistic expectations are and that I want to put in the work long term.

He gives me weights. He increases them after the first set of shoulder presses. He mentions that we’ll be able to capitalize on my muscle memory and that I have pretty good form.

I explained my lower body issues, and we did some body weight squats. He seemed pleased with my form and my concentration.

We talked about different things we could do, and he evaluated me in several exercises including one compound set I really liked, best described as moving from a sumo squat (with dumbbells) to a bicep curl using the hips instead of the back and finishing with a shoulder press. It loosened all sorts of muscle groups.

I felt invincible.

He explained that he would use this observation and discussion to build my program as he didn’t design anything until he met the client. I chuckled.

“If you did, I wouldn’t trust you,” I said.

I return Monday. I’m very excited.

The next phase: Reaching for Body Builder Status

This is an informal update vaguely and disorganizingly (that’s probably not a word, but I like it and it’s how I’m feeling) connected to my series about my cerebral palsy.

It’s not as “official” and well-crafted as I would like as some household/parenting issues greeted me as I walked in the door and I found it hard to recover once the dog started refusing to get in her crate and I discovered the teenager’s floor with multiple piles of kitten vomit, into which I stepped barefoot.

I finished the sequel to Karen by Marie Killilea today— With Love From Karen. That is another blog posted which I started but have postponed due to other events of the day more personal.

Late last night, I reached out to a local personal fitness trainer.

For those of you unaware, the average physical therapy can cost $350 per session, with the uninsured paying $125. If you have, like I do, high deductible medical insurance, this can add up to several thousand dollars in as little as a month.

Been there. Done that.

My amazing chiropractor (Nicole Jensen, Back in Line Wellness Center) bills me $125 a session when she gives me some brief physical therapy, advice and cracks every f*cked up bone in my body.

The high end of average cost for a personal fitness trainer is $70 per session, according to Google.

Six years ago almost to the day, I embarked on my first weight loss journey and shed 30 lbs in six weeks and looked like a skeleton.

By autumn, I looked like this:

Yes, the shadow of a person lifting two pound weights with me is the now teenager as an eleven-year-old.

I have two fitness dreams:

  1. To run a 5k
  2. To be an amateur body builder

A local business, a fitness trainer only a few blocks from my home, has a summer special and good reviews on the internet.

Goofy crop is to obscure the identity of the trainer until I get permission to post.

I reached out with this message:

“I have quite the history of on again/off again weight training.

I went through a very emotionally traumatic loss of job experience in 2020 and turned to stress/comfort/ just plain bad eating and have gained 20 pounds. And stopped training.

I need to regain my discipline so I am hoping to see if you might be a good fit as a personal trainer— theoretically one session a week and I could maintain the effort at home.

I have already improved my diet, but the damage includes anemia so that makes it hard to work out especially in this heat.

I work second shift in a warehouse.

And perhaps the most important issue— I have mild cerebral palsy in the lower body so it’s super important that I keep my body strong and flexible.

I have two dreams— to actually run a 5k and to perhaps pursue amateur body building.

Please respond if this is something you might be willing/comfortable with/knowledgeable enough to undertake.

Peruse my web site http://www.angelackerman.com to learn more about me if you have concerns.”

I am tentatively meeting with a trainer at this business at 11 a.m. Thursday for an assessment and to see if it’s a good fit.

This is a good way for me to improve my health and fitness as I’ve done so much physical therapy, I know what to do. I just need someone to make me do it. And check my form.

Who knows where this might lead? Maybe my dreams of being a body builder with cerebral palsy will come true.