Written By Guest Blogger: Melody Lay COVT
This morning, on my exercise jaunt outdoors, I was reminded of an exercise “motto” I’ve recently embraced, “walk uphill, run down!” In all honesty, I do not like to run. In general, I really don’t enjoy exercise, but I like the way my clothes fit and the health benefits I reap when I regularly perform this ritual. For the past 9 years, I have lived in an area of the country that is completely flat. I’m talking pancake flat, which meant that I never had to face a hill when cycling or running. Recently, my family relocated to the “hill country” of Texas and my neighborhood is plopped right in the middle of some terrific hills. Well…they are terrific for Texas! If you originate from the Rockies or the Great Smokey Mtns. (where I do) the hills may not be so impressive, but for a girl that’s been in the flats for 9 years, I’ll take ‘em! Now, my exercise has changed from summer swimming to winter running so I’ve been forced to condition to the hills. They present me with a physical challenge as I lumber to the top. So, I figured out how to resolve this challenge. I decided to walk up the hills and run down…problem solved. Running down gives me the momentum I need to cross the flat section and up just a little of the next hill. I like to think of it as a little interval training 🙂 I reason that I will eventually have the stamina to run up and down, but until then, I think it’s a brilliant plan.
I thought about my new “motto” when I faced those hills again today. It brought to mind a patient who is quickly becoming a person I look forward to seeing. This particular patient is an adult with an acquired brain injury. In our time together, we have built rapport and developed trust. One reason I’ve become endeared to this patient is because she always tells me what she needs. She isn’t afraid to let her needs be known so she can achieve success. She works hard and is determined in spite of her circumstances. She faces a particular challenge when it comes to integrating her auditory and visual systems. In the past, she worked her auditory processing with great frustration and little success. When I presented her with the challenge of reading a Hart chart to the beat of a metronome, she quickly shared her frustration. I realized I had to lower the demand in order to give her a reasonable challenge with little anxiety. We decided one line would be our goal. She took time to watch the red light on the metronome as it blinked in sync with the sound. She physically held the metronome to get tactile feedback. This worked for her, and she tackled the first line. We repeated it again and again to give her practice and success. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, and she was on beat 50% of the time. With a bit of reluctance, she agreed to take it home and practice. Last week she returned and asked me to check her progress. It is difficult for her to self-assess, but she shared her thoughts on progress. With anticipation, I turned on the metronome. It seemed like a minute passed before she actually started to read, but when she did, she was spot on and read half the chart! My goal was one line, and I was uncertain we would see progress even at that pace. Her face lit up! I was thrilled because her practice running down, so to speak, gave her the momentum she needed to run up the next hill!!! What previously started out as walking up hill, led to the run…first downhill and then back up. As therapists, we often walk our patients uphill so they can have success running down. Eventually, we realize that they have gained the momentum needed to run up and downhill. After that win, my patient commented, “Thanks for making me feel comfortable enough to try.” Wow! I think I’ll try to run up my next hill. 🙂