Thursday, January 9, 2020

New Year, New Me

At the start of the new year, many people will make resolutions to get healthier, but have a difficult time sticking to their plans. I’m no different. I always wanted to get in shape, but never thought that it was possible. Because I’m a quad-amputee and a power wheelchair user, I was always worried about my physical limitations. My own anxiety made me think that it would be impossible for me to get in shape. I was both overwhelmed, and was unsure of how to start. But with a bit of ingenuity and help from family and friends, I quickly realized that this goal was actually possible! If you’re in a similar situation, I hope that my fitness experience can teach you about adapting exercises to make them more accessible.

Making the decision to work out is the first step. Before beginning, you should determine your ultimate fitness goals. Is losing weight your top priority? Maybe you’re looking to strengthen yourself to increase your mobility? No matter what your expectations are, your main goal should be an overall, healthier you!

Now, to lead a healthy lifestyle, I didn’t realize how committed I needed to be. Fitness requires you to pay attention to a few things, simultaneously! Firstly, you need to make sure that you’re eating healthy food. Most people don‘t realize how important it is to eat healthy, and to consume the right amount of calories. Qualities like your weight, your body type, and your weight-loss target, will impact the amount of calories you should be eating. 

All of these factors can be very confusing. Honestly, I still don’t understand all of them. Luckily, there are a variety of tools that can guide you along your journey. Apps like Under Armour’s MyFitness Pal are extremely useful. Based on your current weight, height, and weight loss target, MyFitnessPal calculates the appropriate amount of daily calories that you should eat. Just type in the food that you’ve eaten for each meal, and the app will keep track of everything. It can even factor in the calories that you’ve burned from your exercise routine. For those who have dietary restrictions or diabetes, be sure that you talk to your doctor before planning out a proper diet plan.
In addition to healthy eating, exercising is the second piece to solving the weight loss puzzle. This part can be particularly challenging for people with physical disabilities, myself included. If you are unsure about your limitations, and to prevent you from sustaining any injuries, it might be a good idea to ask your physical therapist, occupational therapist, or primary doctor, to provide you with a bit of guidance. It’s also important to remember that it takes time to get in shape. When you begin working out and dieting, this process may seem frustrating. Please remember to be patient with yourself. As long as you stick to your routine and continue to be persistent, your hard work will absolutely pay off.

When I began my weight loss journey, I started by focusing on cardiovascular health. My brother, who is currently in school to become a physical therapist, helped me to develop a program. Based on the concept of circuit training, he created a series of exercises that would allow me to burn an optimal amount of calories, which would then help me to lose weight.

For my cardio work out routine, I perform the following exercises:

  • 1 minute of trampoline jumping
  • 30 seconds of crunches
  • 30 seconds of crawling
  • 30 seconds of rolling
  • 30 seconds of hopping on the ground
  • Rest for 30 seconds and repeat

One area of exercise that concerned me the most was weight lifting. Though I’m a quad-amputee, I’m fortunate to have great motor skills. However, when I decided that I wanted to build muscle, I had one, glaring question: how could I lift weights without hands? A friend and I visited a sporting goods store to see if we could piece together a solution. Because my arms are so short, many straps would slip off. We finally found a set of ankle straps that would fit, which also had metal rings attached to them. Next, I bought 55 lb. and 100 lb. weight bands. These bands were perfect because they could easily attach to the ankle straps. A door anchor was the final piece of equipment that I bought, which gave me a safe way to secure the weight bands.
Purchasing the right equipment was yet another starting point. After working together, my friend and I discovered a number of ways to arrange the bands. Even though some exercises might look funny, they allow me to work different muscle groups. If you also have a physical disability, your exercises might look strange to the average person. Adapting these exercises to fit your own needs and limitations will be important for your own success. Who knows, they may even help you gain new strength, or help you function in ways that you never thought were possible.
My original goal was to learn how I could independently lift weights. If you want to work out but think that you may need help, there is nothing wrong with asking for assistance! It became very clear that I’d need help to weight train, at least at my current stage. Whether you can employ the help of a knowledgeable friend, or need the added guidance of a personal trainer, there are a variety of options that are available to you. Just remember: you’ll never know until you ask.
Regardless of your abilities, it can be very stressful to begin a fitness and diet routine. The most important step, and probably the most difficult, is starting. Accomplishing this goal can be very difficult because it might require you to make significant lifestyle changes. But once you set up a routine, sticking to it will become second nature. More than anything else, please remember that results won’t show over night. Patience and dedication are key to living a healthier life.

Want to see all of my work out equipment? Click the following links to learn about each piece:

Kyle Romano

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