A small thing recently that made my day was trying a rowing machine at the Stanford gym and getting a good workout. This was a culmination of several small threads that all came together. First, I visited the Palo Alto VA to talk to a couple of people in the spinal cord injury unit. I learned about a climbing program they are starting for the veterans… and volunteered to help. I also learned about an ongoing clinical trial to reduce or reverse bone density loss in wheelchair users. The participants showed improvement with the use of a rowing machine and functional electrical stimulation on their legs. Rowing was the only exercise that had a positive effect — perhaps because the loads through the legs are so great. Biking, standing, etc do not do enough. Talking about the issue made me think hard about my own health. I think I’m safe… given how much walking I do. But learning about the trial made me interested in trying rowing.
The activation energy to do so was dramatically lowered at the Abilities Expo, a convention for vendors and groups to show off everything adaptive for the disability community. I went this past weekend and tried some new, highly-engineered crutches. I also talked to the Bay Area adaptive rowing club. They had a machine modified with a nice, cushioned wheelchair seat for people to try. That went really well! So I was ready for the next step.
The rowing machines at the Stanford gym have tiny sliding plastic seats. It felt a little bit like trying to hit a moving target. But I managed to get on, strap in my feet, and start rowing. It takes a huge amount of concentration right now to keep myself balanced and to keep control over my legs through the range of motion for the press. But it was a great exercise for arms, back, abs, and legs. I’m excited to add this to my PT rotation.
Hopefully I’ll have updates soon on Adaptive Climbing at Stanford. Mark Wellman is coming to teach a clinic. I’m looking forward to having some climbing in my life again. The current plan is to just belay… but I doubt that is going to be true for very long. I have a entire head full of named and unnamed doubts and hesitations about trying climbing again. We’ll see. I’ve already learned that post-injury I’m not very good at predicting the future.
Another positive development… revealed only by the recent cool weather of California “winter”: temperature sensation in my feet and ankles has gotten a lot better. I’m struggling to keep them warm, just like before the injury. Perhaps “positive” is not the right word. It was an interesting sense of invincibility while it lasted. I’m enjoying the novelty of the foot feeling, though. There are so many simple pleasures in life, like sitting in bed writing with an electric blanket heating your feet.