Fourteen years ago, almost to the day, I was told I had Motor Neuron Disease (MND). MND is rare. There are two different types, the most well know is Lou Gehrig's disease. Simply put they are degenerative neuro-muscular diseases that cause your muscles to waste away due to loss of nerve cells in the spinal cord.
I remember that day well. It was two days before my 35th birthday. It had taken 18 long months for the diagnosis. I knew something was happening with my body but had no idea how serious it was. I noticed little things first, for instance I could no longer rise up on my tip toes, and my calf muscles hurt/ached even when I hadn't exercised.
Over time I developed drop foot (the inability to lift the front part of the foot, caused by muscle weakness and paralysis) and thus my gait became clumsy, much to the horror of this former ballet and tap dancer.
And the worst part of all; I could no longer wear high heels. Noooo! (-:
One has to have a sense of humor with this illness.
Joking aside I was devastated and scared. Scared because little is known about MNDs, no one knows what causes them. There is no known treatment/cure. And no one can tell you the rate at which the disease will progress and your body deteriorate, just that it will.
I asked my doctor what I could do to stop it progressing. There must be something. He had no answers. I asked if I should exercise. I was told, "Only gentle exercise. Don't exert yourself and stick to non-weight bearing exercises so as not to damage any healthy muscles."
THOSE WORDS PLANTED A SEED OF FEAR IN MY HEAD. "I MUSN'T DO TOO MUCH." SO I DIDN'T.
Thus the weight started to creep on. I can hear myself now telling friends, "I have trouble burning calories because I can't walk very far nor fast."
Now I know that that was all in my head! Just excuses.
Back to the CHALLENGE and the end of week 3. I knew that if I wanted to lose more weight and be a top competitor I had to burn more calories. And the only way to do that was with dreaded cardio!
In the past I used to do 20-25 minutes on an elliptical trainer set at a very low intensity a couple days a week, which would burn 180-200 calories. Not enough for this CHALLENGE.
So I gave myself a counseling session! "Sue! You have GOT to do more. You have GOT to go for longer! And you have to go HARDER!"
And that's what I did. Each time I went a little longer with increased intensity. I talked to myself - a lot! Sometimes even out loud (when nobody was around)! I had seen a slogan that I loved and repeated it to myself if I started to wane: "If you're not puking, fainting or dying! Keep going!"
It worked! I was losing more weight and could see the results. I barely recognized my own legs in the mirror. They were no longer frail looking but toned with muscle definition! Talk about a confidence builder for me!
After another week or so of these "new" longer cardio sessions Theo posted on our Facebook competitor page that it was time to crank up cardio and burn 500 calories each time. He suggested intervals of 4, 6, 8, 10 intensity level.
I though he's crazy! I can't do that. But the very next day as I stepped back onto the elliptical machine I told myself, "You're going to set an all time personal best today. You're going to up your intensity level and you're not getting off this thing until you burn 500 calories!"
52 minutes later I had done just that! Holy cow! Who am I?
It was an empowering moment. I was so proud! I had a smile from ear to ear. I knew then and there that I could do just as much as a "healthy" person!
I continued to do 50 minute cardio sessions (sometimes at 5:00 am) throughout the competition. I've done 6 miles on that elliptical, a distance previously unheard if for me!
I giggle to myself as I see the numbers rack up. Came home one day and told my husband I feel like Forrest Gump. Run Sue Run!
I have gained so much from this CHALLENGE. No longer will I place physical limitations in myself and these legs. I have pushed myself to places I haven't gone in 14 years! My friends have noticed the change in me too. A confident happier Sue.
My husband is now exercising and dieting. My co-workers are walking at work. And two of my friends have just joined gyms. They said I was their inspiration and motivation. Me! Who would have thought!
I celebrated my 49th birthday this week. I gave myself the best birthday present ever. I conquered my physical fears and took back my body! (-: Take that Motor Neuron Disease!