A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis 20 years ago has taken a lot from me, but the thing I miss the most — the thing I grieve the most — the thing I want back the most — is being able to walk where I want and when I want, without a cane or other aid.
Don’t get me wrong. I can still walk a little. But I have used a cane for almost 10 years. My neurologist insisted I start using the cane because MS had made my legs weaker and had adversely affected my balance. But even with the cane, I can’t walk far. When I take trips or do other things that require walking long distances, I use a mobility scooter.
I was never much of a runner, even before my diagnosis. After my diagnosis, when running was no longer an option, I began dreaming I could run long distances — that I could run for miles. In my dreams, I felt like I was gliding effortlessly through space, floating on air, almost flying.
Last year, I found something that gives me hope that I can walk again without an aid. It’s an online fitness community called the MS Gym. This community provides help to counteract MS symptoms, train the brain to move better and get support and encouragement along the way.
With the help of the MS Gym, I am strengthening my core, improving my balance and minimizing my foot drop. My hip flexors are getting stronger, and I am learning to walk correctly again.
I have already swapped out my cane for trekking poles. And while it’s more difficult at first to walk with trekking poles, they are already helping me walk better.
I’ve been doing MS Gym exercises consistently for about two months now. In addition to exercise programs, the MS Gym offers motivational and informational podcasts to help you make the most of the program. Other members offer feedback, answer my questions and encourage me to keep exercising, even when I feel like giving up.
I admit I have made mistakes. First, I started doing an exercise program that was too advanced, and I couldn’t finish it. So, on the advice of someone who had been an MS Gym member for a long time, I changed to a less advanced program, and I started alternating every other day with an even more basic program to further strengthen my core and legs.
Second, I haven’t always paid enough attention to the instructions for the exercises, and I have done some of them incorrectly. That’s when the feedback from other members was so helpful. If you have a problem, you can ask other MS Gymers for help, and they will come to your rescue.
Third, I tried to exercise too much for too many days in a row. I didn’t listen to my body when it told me to stop and rest for a day before my next workout. But now I pay more attention to the way I feel, and it makes a big difference.
I’m sure I will make other mistakes as I continue to work out with the MS Gym. But I won’t quit.
My MS Gym membership has already shown me it’s possible to walk again without an aid. I may not be fast, but I can already feel my strength returning. And I’m just getting started.
To learn more about the MS Gym, you might want to check out http://www.themsgym.faqs.