As per previous posts, I've been working on walking using a specialized treadmill called the Alter G. The treadmill was designed by NASA and supports 25 percent of my body weight when I walk. I started very slowly and have worked up both my speed and time, so now I can walk 1.1 miles per hour (no laughing!) for 16 or 17 minutes.
I actually started at .6 miles per hour, because every step really has to be perfect. Both feet have to land on the treadmill (swinging of legs outside the treadmill won't work). Every step has to have a heel strike, because that triggers my Bioness devices to help my legs kick. To effectively do this takes a lot of different things. People where I go know that I need 100 percent concentration. No one talks to me. I count steps because it helps me focus. There's also a camera that allows me to see the front of my feet, so I can see if my steps are too short, if I'm not lifting my foot enough, etc.
For people who walk and have no problems, just take my word that a lot is involved.
At every speed, as I have increased my speed, I seem to reach a point where the speed feels too slow, walking is too easy, or walking is actually more difficult because I am going more slowly. When I increase the speed, and then have to push myself very hard to finish, at the end my legs totally buckle beneath me.
I reached 1.0 miles per hour not long ago. The last time I walked at that 1.0, late last week, I felt better than ever. I felt like my walking had a flow - it really felt like walking as opposed to feeling like kicking these things (legs) in front of my body and somehow moving forward. Walking felt natural... I had somewhat of a "runner's high" and there were no times when I missed a heel strike in the whole 17 minutes. It felt "the best." And so?
And so I knew I had increase the speed. That happened this morning. I increased the speed from 1.0 to 1.1 miles per hour (yes, this is a big deal if you are me). That would be pushing things too much. At first I honestly thought maybe I should just skip to 1.2 miles per hour. 7 minutes into this walk, I felt hot. Usually that takes until 9 or 10 minutes and I have to fight the heat that my body hates. 7 minutes was early to feel hot. My walking felt a bit shaky, not totally there, with some near misses that can result in having to stop. I kept counting and focusing I desparately wanted to it at this new speed - to push as hard as I could.
I made it, flailing in the final seconds before 16 minutes. In fact, my legs collapsed at the end, so we inflated the machine to hold me for a minute while my legs decided to hold me again. Even then, my legs were very weak but somehow I walked off the treadmill and collapsed in a chair - the chair they brought close to me because my legs were so tired.
What a mess. But then again, was it a mess? Or was it "the best?" I'm thinking it was "the best," because it meant I pushed to the very limit, until there was absolutely nothing left, my mind overcoming rubber band legs that had absolutely nothing left in them.
I have to think that all the times when I ran my fastest times years ago and amazed myself; all the times when I did well in music or well in school - those were great. They were "the best." But when it really comes down to it, the very best happens on a day like today, when no one is really there, except the people at physical therapy who help me, and they are probably the best cheerleaders of all time. Today was the best, and hopefully there are more best days to come.
On a sidenote, after I was done there was a realization that the air conditioning wasn't on. I don't know how hot it was in there, but I bet it was over my limit of 74 degrees, and it was humid too, so fighting those obstacles was an additional challenge.