Category Archives: Exercise

Footless Fitness

Usually the phrase “sitting on my ass” conjures up images of TV, dips. fried foods, laziness — in essence, Superbowl Sunday syndrome.  For people with mobility impairments, however, sitting on one’s ass can be a gateway to exercise.

Here are 3 examples:

1.  Wheelchair basketball.  This sport is emerging as a trendy choice amongst disabled and non-disabled people alike.  Players must become adept at navigating their chair and the ball.  Wheelchair basketball requires manual dexterity, upper body strength, and multi-tasking.  You would likely have trouble finding a player who could eat a churro or dip a chip into guac while playing this game.

2.  Exercise-ball physical therapy.  This option is less exciting than #1 because it involves the word “therapy.”  However, using a firm yet bouncy gym ball can bring back fun childhood memories (Gymboree?).

Could you do this exercise without falling on your face and/or ass?

Staying on the ball without using one’s feet requires balance skills and attention and provides toning of the core.  I thought that using a gym ball was mere child’s play…until my parkour-practicing roommate tried to do my exercises and fell flat on her ass within 5 seconds.

3. ” Sit and Be Fit.”  This award-winning television show, broadcast on public TV with the energetic Mrs. Mary Ann Wilson, is geared towards the senior population — a downside for young people with disabilities.  You can be youthful and fit and still need to exercise while seated.  Nevertheless, I have yet to bite the bullet and join Mary Ann for a workout.  I’m working on it.


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Feeling Cranky: The Arm Ergometer

The arm ergometer, also known as a hand crank, is an exercise apparatus that provides the cranker with a muscle toning and cardiovascular workout.  The target population for this gym device is disabled people with lower body impairments, but several able-bodied people have incorporated the arm ergometer into their workouts in order to bulk up those biceps.

The cranker sits upright — in a chair, wheelchair, or on a gym ball — with the cranks at shoulder height and then proceeds to “bike” with their upper body.

Have you seen one of these machines?

Since I can’t fully extend my right shoulder due to scapulothoracic bursitis (also known as ‘snapping scapula syndrome’ — how upbeat and downright snappy) from a year on crutches and extended time compensating for an injured right ankle, I cannot use an arm ergometer in the traditional way; however, my orthopedist has suggested that if I can find a way to immobilize the injured joints in my foot (likely by wearing a customized brace), I could stand in front of the machine, possibly elevated on an exercise block, and crank at waist level.

Next step:  to find a gym with one of these suckers.  Any ideas?  They’re 10K a pop, so individual purchase is not an option.

Please crank out some suggestions.

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The Scoop on the Hoop says it best:  “Hula Hoops from the 50’s were small colorful plastic tubes made primarily for children to play and exercise. Today, hula hooping has come full circle. Children still love them and adults have begun using stronger, larger, heavier hoops for fitness and fun.”

When a friend’s mom recommended that I hula hoop for exercise, the second thing that came to mind (after the physical feasibility of hooping on a bad foot) was how I would ensure that no one would see me with my large, weighted, bright pink hoop.

Today’s hoops enable us to get a sustained cardio and core workout; they stay at our waists (usually).

My first hooping session was exhilarating:  I put on an upbeat playlist, went outside, and hooped for 20 minutes in each direction.  After the burst of endorphins, I realized that I couldn’t walk — too much pain.  I was laid up in bed for several days.

Hula hooping is great, but it’s not worth being stuck at home writing papers in a supine position as you elevate your injured leg.

How can we make hooping more ankle friendly?  

I'm not (too) embarrassed to hoop, but haven't found a way to make it ankle friendly. Any ideas?

Some suggestions:

  • wearing ski boots to limit motion of the foot joints.  result: ski boots tilt you forward.  They are somewhat helpful but end up straining your hips.  Also, it takes about 10 minutes to set them up with your own orthotics.
  • hooping on 1 leg.  result:  I am not dumb enough to try this.  Today’s hoops are heavy, and symmetrical body alignment is crucial to happy hooping.
  • hooping on a cushioned pad.  result:  ankle moves as much as on solid ground.

People who used to hoop in the ’50s (hi, mom!), contemporary hoopers, Burning Man enthusiasts, UCSC alums…please share your hooping stories and ideas!

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This Week’s Theme: Exercise

Thank you to everyone who has provided me with ideas on how to get a workout without flaring up my foot.  Your comments here, on Facebook, and via email have been insightful.

Here are some suggestions I’ve received:

  • Indoor rowing while wearing a brace that would lock the ankle and subtalar joints
  • swimming with a pull buoy
  • walking in a pool
  • cycling while wearing a solid brace

Swimming with a pull buoy was my main form of exercise until this summer.  A lot of time on crutches, an uneven gait, and a year+ of upper-body freestyle caused a severe strain, and subsequent limited mobility, of the right shoulder/upper back.  The body is indeed one interconnected system.

I have realized the importance of exercising routinely and am hoping to find 4 or 5 activities that I could alternate between so that no body part gets too taxed.

Aside from a year of intermittent upper-body swimming, I have not exercised in 4.5 years.  My orthopedist lauds me for staying (somewhat) thin despite my sedentary lifestyle; my heart and lungs are telling my orthopedist to shut up…they need a work out.

Shoulder problems have pulled me away from swimming. What are other creative modes of exercise?

Please exercise your minds to help me find exercise!  At this point, I do not care how silly something might sound or look.  I am willing to tinker, tailor, (soldier, spy) any form of exercise.

Next post:  body hooping.


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