Posts Tagged ‘Exercise’

I put together a little video about my latest skiing adventure. I hope you get as much chuckle from watching it as I did making it!


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I just got home late last night from a week of skiing with NEHSA (New England Healing Sports Association).

This was the first sports clinic that I have been too and I now realize how much fun I have missed for the past 20 years.

This particular clinic was held at Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire. I cannot say enough good about the organization, the location and the Veteran’s Administration for putting on such an event.

The skiing was SO much fun! But the bonus for me was meeting so many great participants and volunteers to make the week a huge success.

A special thanks to my ski instructors, Mark and Kevin! They were phenomenal to work with and get to know. And to Ken who joined in with our group and let us use his Go-Pro to capture one of my “finest” moments! lol

The plaque on the trophy that I was awarded says it all! And here is a link to a video to show my comedic moment. Skiing 




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fruitWhen we left the port of Haifa, the next day would be another full day at sea. Days at sea were nice because there was no set time to wake up. Wendy and I got ready for the day at a nice easy pace. We left our cabin and headed to the breakfast buffet. By now we had settled into a routine of where we enjoyed sitting best (a window seat) and the order of the things we ate. Once seated, the waiter would bring us a cup of steaming hot coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. I love the smell of coffee. Even if I didn’t drink coffee, I think I would want to smell it each morning to start my day off right. Then we would get a plate of fresh fruit: pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, bananas and strawberries. It was always fresh and delicious. Then Wendy would usually head to the hot cereal bar for a bowl of homemade oatmeal. I on the other hand would get some scrambled eggs, bacon and a sourdough roll. The waiter was always nearby to refill our coffee cups when he noticed they were getting low. After all of this, I would sometimes get myself a bowl of raisin bran cereal and Wendy would explore the endless assortments of new foods. We certainly never left hungry.

Since it was Sunday we planned on going to church. The ship had a beautiful chapel but our group had a conference room where we met together for services. It was a great time of fellowship and we even attracted some visitors along the way to join us.

Since we were at sea, all of the stores in the mall area were open for business. We enjoyed browsing the shops, sidewalk sales and listening to allmall the many languages being spoken around us. One of my favorite things to do in life is to buy gifts for Wendy. So I had fun seeing what would catch her eye and then go back later by myself to get it for her. I love surprises!

We would usually meet up with more people from our group and head to deck 11 for the lunch buffet. I’m sure that most (if not all) of you have been to buffets. I believe that I would have to have tried very hard to think of some food that was not available. Everything looked delicious, smelled delicious and was delicious. All of us seemed to try different items and then rave about it to the others. Of course that meant I had to then go try it also. I certainly am glad that I do not eat like that every day or I would have a serious weight problem! So many choices…so little time.

Mid afternoon we attended a lecture series of our next port of call. What we would see, why were going to see it and how it related to the Apostle Paul. This was also the time when our phenomenal EO representative would lay out the logistics for the next day. She was a champ and kept everything running smoothly.

deck 12Then the rest of the day and evening was ours. Wendy enjoyed going to deck 12 and walking with a couple of other ladies on the outdoor track or going to the workout center. This was when I would sneak back to the mall and start buying! Then I would go to the track and do a few laps around in my wheelchair. Deck 12 was always alive with people dining roomwalking, swimming, sitting in hot tubs and joining in the many activities available. This particular day, our group went and saw an Ice Capades show which was great fun. I also did my best to squeeze in an afternoon nap. Dozing off to the sound of the sea outside our balcony was wonderful.

ship1Our days at sea always ended with a formal dining experience in the grand dining room. So everyone would dress up and just have a lot of fun doing something out of the ordinary, or at least out of the ordinary for Wendy and me. We tend to be a lot more casual at home. We do have a formal dining room at home but it gets imagesCAWWXT1Edusted more often than used.

After dinner we would head back to our cabin and sit for a while on the balcony enjoying the moon shining over the water. Then Mr. Sandman would wind down our day as our eyes got heavy with sleep. We were eager for morning to come so that we could visit Turkey and see sites that we had only ever read about in history books.

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We sailed from Civitavecchia, Italy on a beautiful evening. Wendy and I were on our balcony watching the city lights disappear into the night. The only sound was our ship slicing through the water, the light tropical smell of the ocean breeze blowing over us and a beautiful moon above us – one of those perfect moments in life.

We were on our way to Alexandria, Egypt which would take two days of sea travel. We were looking forward to life on the ship and exploring the many activities available. Sleep that night came quickly, and when I woke up in the early dawn, the view I saw from our room was beautiful. We were sailing along the northern coast of Sicily through the Aeolian Islands, and front and center was the still active volcano of Stromboli. Now that was a view worth waking up for! Even though Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, there is still a town of about 500 people that live along its coast.

We were not far now from sailing through the Strait of Messina. This is a narrow channel between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of Italy. It connects the Tyrrhenian Sea with the Ionian Sea and is about two miles wide at its most narrow point. So from the open Deck 12, we had amazing views of both Sicily and Italy.

Today was Sunday and our group had the privilege of hearing Dr. Bob Jones and Dr. Craig Hartman preach. All of us were eager and excited to see the many places that we were now going to visit. Our mode of travel was certainly much different than 2000 years ago for the Apostle Paul. I must admit that I appreciated ours!

After sailing through the Strait of Messina we headed for open sea – just sky and water until we would reach Alexandria, Egypt. Wendy and I started our days early, 5:00 AM, by going to the mall on deck five. Here we would sit in one of the cafes and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and sometimes indulge in one of their many pastry choices. Then we would head back to our room to get ready for the day. The breakfast buffet opened at 6:00 AM every morning and we would show up around 7:00 AM to explore the hundreds of breakfast items available. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say that we did not leave hungry. One of our favorites was the amount and variety of fresh fruit available. I love pineapple and it was some of the best. And the fresh squeezed orange juice was perfect. I believe that breakfast foods from every country were available and it was fun to try the many different ones from around the world. I may not have this number exactly right (poor memory at my age), but I think the captain said that 62 countries were represented in the staff. It was a really unique experience to sit and hear the many languages being spoken around us. I of course would talk with anyone who would listen, so we have many new friends now from around planet earth.

The mall opened at 10:00 AM and it was great fun to visit the different stores, shops and sidewalk sales. We also saw an Ice Capades show, used the outdoor track and enjoyed the sunshine, coffee shops, ice cream stations and so much more. Then we had the difficult task of deciding where we wanted to eat lunch. The Windjammer Buffet was always a viable option, or one of the many restaurants on board, or we could go to the dining room. So many choices, so little time! Since we did not want to slight anyone, over the course of the cruise, we tried them all! And then our evening meals were a wonderful delight. The main dining room was spectacular and the service was impeccable. We left feeling like we were the best of friends with our waiters/waitresses and that we were their only customers to wait on.

We went to bed Sunday night with the moon shining brightly all prepared to wake up in Alexandria, Egypt.



Remember to check out Amazon, CBD or your local bookstore to get a copy of my book Better to Be Broken.

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As we drove into the Italian port of Civitavecchia for our first view of the Mariner of The Seas, my first thought was WOW! This was the first cruise that Wendy and I had been on and we certainly started out in a very grand way. Just as a comparison, the RMS Titanic had a gross tonnage of 46,000 tons and a length of 883 feet, compared to Mariner of The Seas with a gross tonnage of 138,000 tons and a length of 1,020 feet. Our new home for the next 14 days was literally a floating city.

Luxury was everywhere and every aspect of the ship was accessible right down to a hydraulic lift in one of the pools for disabled people. On board there was a mall, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, health club, banking and postal services, day spa with massage therapy and even acupuncture, a jogging track, multiple pools and hot tubs, a chapel, meetings rooms, movie theater, ice skating studio, casino, arcade, children’s play area and the list goes on. It has rooms enough for 3,114 passengers and an amazing dining room complete with three levels, balconies, a grand piano (with live music each night) and of course a grand stairway.

The ship’s personnel and attendant services were impeccable. Our stateroom attendant was TOPS and completely spoiled Wendy and me. He was almost always present, immediately learned our names and would come running down the hall to open our room door for us. If he even thought we might need something to make our time aboard ship more comfortable, he made it happen. He personally saw to the cleaning of our stateroom which happened twice a day. It was always fun to go back to our room and see what “towel creation” he had done and left on our bed. I know that Origami is the name for paper art, I wonder if towel art has a name…hmmm. When we left we wanted to pack him in our luggage and bring him home with us!

Our room was on Deck seven and I could not have asked for better accessibility. Being in a wheelchair, bathroom accommodations can be a concern. Many hotels believe that a blue sign and a grab-bar on some erroneous wall make the bathroom accessible. There was also plenty of space for me to go anywhere in our cabin. I assure you that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines understands accessibility. And our room balcony was wonderful! We didn’t spend a lot of time in our room because of a busy itinerary, but when we did, we had the balcony door open and enjoyed the sounds of the sea as we sliced through the waters. We saw beautiful sunrises, sunsets and the moon shining its magical path over the sea at night.

Meals were fantastic! There was food available 24 hours a day in one of the many restaurants, and all of the rest were open from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM. We usually ate breakfast in a mammoth buffet called the Windjammer. I say buffet, but even here, we were waited on. Attendants would see me in a wheelchair and offer to get anything I wanted and bring it to the table. Wendy and I would usually get our own since there were so many choices and we wanted to peruse them all before deciding. But a waiter would always be available at every table for assistance and drink refills. The waiters got to know us by name and within a couple of days they felt like good friends. We tried out several of the restaurants for lunch and loved them all. One favorite was Johnny Rockets. I had a cheeseburger, fries, onion rings, rootbeer float and ended with a strawberry sundae. And we even had live entertainment here as the workers would occasionally break out into line dancing for everyone. Our evening meal was in the grand dining room. Let me add here that we had three formal nights on our cruise and Wendy was the “bee’s knees.” She was gorgeous as always! We had eight people at our table with two waiters. There were at least seven appetizers to choose from (or all of them if we wanted), five or six main courses (or once again all of them), and multiple desserts. And yes, you guessed it, we could have all of the desserts if we wanted. Lol Of course eating that much food was quite impossible. Someone told us that a person could average a six pound weight gain per week! I believe that without a doubt. Fortunately our touring gave us lots of exercise and something else to do other than eating. And Wendy of course took full advantage of the exercise equipment and jogging track. When on board I would often join Wendy in the afternoons walking/rolling the track. It was on Deck 12 with warm sunshine, a wonderful sea breeze and an amazing view.

When we sailed from Italy, our first port of call was to be Alexandria, Egypt. On this post however, I believe I will end here and let you enjoy the pictures of the ship. But make sure you come back to read my next post about our two day trip to Egypt which even included an erupting volcano!

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When I was a kid I heard the expression, “Can’t you sit still? You must have ants in your pants!” I heard that expression a lot, especially from my parents. It may have been in church, school, the grocery store or the car, but some part of me was always moving. I smile when watching my youngest daughter sit anywhere because she does exactly what I use to do. Whether bouncing her knee or ankle, or tapping her toes, some part of her is always moving.

But prior to my injury, I did have control over my muscle movements if I chose to. After my injury the term “spastic” took on a whole new meaning for me.

People with spinal cord injuries will have muscle spasticity ranging from mild to severe. My spasticity is very mild and doesn’t create many problems for me. Mine usually occurs when lying down. For instance, I am lying in bed typing this blog on my laptop, and my legs will occasionally jump, or spasm.

There are many forms of spasticity. “Extensor spasms” are when the legs straighten out and become rigid. I was in college with a man that would experience extensor spasms so severely in his back and legs that he had to be strapped into his wheelchair because his spasms would literally through him to the floor. There are also “Flexor spasms” which act just the opposite, pulling the legs upward toward the chest into the fetal position. Then there are “Clonus spasms” which are repetitive jumping of muscles. These often occur in the ankles which will cause repeated bouncing of your feet on the wheelchair foot rest.

According to doctors, there are both beneficial and detrimental effects to spasticity. On the detrimental side of the scale, spasms can interfere with quality of life by throwing off balance, working against transfers, disrupting sleep and contributing to pain. There are some beneficial aspects to spasticity also such as maintaining muscle mass, stimulating blood flow and lessening the inevitability of Osteoporosis.

Since I know many people in wheelchairs, I see all types of spasticity and all levels of severity. Relating to the spasms that I have, I consider them mostly to be a nuisance. For instance, if I am pushing my wheelchair over rough terrain, my legs will often start to spasm bouncing my feet off my footrest. So I have to stop, pull my feet back up, and then continue on again. There are straps of course that would keep my feet in place, but I look at that as just one more hindrance to deal with every time I want to transfer into or out of my wheelchair.

There are many treatments for spasticity. Doctors usually start with the noninvasive procedures such as medications or stretching exercises. Speaking for myself, I try to incorporate stretching exercises into my daily routine, as a means to control spasms. For one thing I look at exercise as the most beneficial method without any negative side effects. Depending on how severe a person’s spasticity is, stretching may or may not help. The one thing to remember about stretching, for it to be the most effective, is that it needs to be done almost as a yoga exercise in length of time, and become a consistent part of your daily routine.

Medications given are usually the type to lessen pain–the less pain, the less spasticity a person will experience. Any medications should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor to learn about all possible side effects. I have chronic back pain which may or may not be the result of muscle spasms. I have tried numerous medications to lessen my pain: however, in my thinking, the minimal reduction in pain I receive is not worth the side effects.

There are also more invasive treatments available such as an “intrathecal catheter and pump device” which is implanted under the skin. These pumps contain pain medication that directly targets nerve cells in the spinal cord and can be administered in smaller doses with less severe side effects. Of course this would mean more surgery, ongoing maintenance and even pump replacement about every five years.

There are also procedures called nerve blocks and trigger point injections. Believe it or not, Botox injections may also help reduce spasms and pain by paralyzing the muscle. I know people that have had nerve blocks done with some good success for muscle spasms and pain. In my case, because of the way I was put back together, nerve blocks are out of the question.

So when it comes to spasticity that a person experiences, yes there are many options to help lessen them. I say go for the therapeutic stretching exercises and only use meds or surgery as a last resort. But once again, the choice is yours.

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I hurt. I’m tired. I’m disgusted, and no I do NOT want to do 5 more reps! I felt those feelings so many times during the first 6 months after my injury. The therapists also heard me express my feelings on numerous occasions.

I hated therapy. When I was in the hospital, I just wanted to be left alone. Six days a week I had physical therapy twice a day, occupational therapy once a day and swimming for an hour each day. “What’s the point?” I thought. I’m never going to walk again. I’m never going to feel again. Just put me in my wheelchair and leave me alone.

Slowly…very slowly in my case…I started to understand the benefits and necessity of therapy. If I wanted to regain any form of independence in my life, therapy was the key to that happening. My arms now had to serve as my legs. Transferring into and out of my wheelchair, pushing my wheelchair or just getting a glass of water from the fridge to the table had to be learned.

So I listened and started to push myself. I did the free weights, the cable pulls and the stationary bike. I learned how to transfer my body from my wheelchair to another chair, or the car. I learned how to drive using hand controls. I had to learn how to balance sitting up. I would transfer to a mat, the therapist would hold me in place and then let go, and over I would go. I would hear, “Try again!” And again, and again, etc. I had to learn how to cook for myself, clean up my own messes in the kitchen, take a shower, go to the bathroom and the list goes on.

As the weeks went on, I also realized many other benefits from therapy. I have chronic back pain. Therapy helps keep my muscles flexible which helps some with the pain. Some people in wheelchairs, like me, also gain weight more easily. Working out and exercise helps keep the weight off. Therapy/working out is also a great way to fight off depression. And the cardiovascular activity became a huge must to prevent artery or heart problems since I was now forced to live a more sedentary life.

Fifteen years later I still work out on my own. Wendy and I belong to a gym and we work out together. We use the track, free weights, cables and even the nautilus equipment now. As I get older, working out is crucial to maintain my independence. I must admit that Wendy does spoil me rotten. She takes care of the inside of the home, prepares meals and, more often than not, cleans up messes that I make. But I do many small projects around our home, inside and out, that I would not have been able to do if I had quit trying in the beginning.

Therapy is such a critical element in recovery from an injury. Listen to what Kevin Mather has to say about therapy.


So keep exercising! Keep pushing yourself! And never give up!


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