Embracing the heat

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on September 15, 2020 # Lifestyle

In the years following a jet ski accident that paralyzed me from the torso-down, my mother and I spent my summer and winter school breaks in Southern California. We went there to not only escape the weather on the East Coast but for a gym that focuses on rehabilitation for people with neurological disorders, like my spinal cord injury.

Our California vacations lasted no less than one month at a time, and rest assured, I fell in love with it. I was in love with not only the atmosphere of the gym I went to, but the people I was with every day, and the overall feeling of hope I had when I was there. In my head, I was a California girl through and through. The only flaw in that logic: my home is on the East Coast – directly on the other side of the country. Kristin Beale

The consistent and long-lasting trips to the West Coast resulted in friendships within the disabled community in that corner of Southern California. To every person who stood still long enough, I declared that “when I graduate college, I’m moving here!” It was a dream, but at that time, a very plausible one.

The year 2012 came, I graduated from college, and it was time to follow up on my California promise. That would mean packing up my life, moving to the other side of the country, and isolating myself from everyone – literally everyone. I couldn’t do it; I don’t know why I ever thought I could live so far away from my family and my comfort zone. Call me a mama’s girl, daddy’s girl, or just a homebody, but I have no desire to be that far away from my people.

So, on the East Coast, I’ll stay. That means giving up year-long Spring weather, settling for heavy snowfall in the winter, and 100+ degrees in the summer. I just had to find a way around it. In this current season of humidity, air conditioning, and a perpetual sunburn, I must change my routines a bit. Throw quarantine in the mix, and I’m rewriting all the rules.

In working out, I gravitate toward activity and sport-based exercises. These first suggestions are for my friends who have accepted a few things: you’re not going to be cute, you’re going to sweat, and your face will probably turn the color of a stop sign. You can either go for it and say a prayer that you won’t run into anyone you know or pace yourself. I’ve never been good at the latter, so all my kudos for those who are.

If you live in a neighborhood or near a park, roll your wheelchair or walk your legs around it. Put on a podcast, and zone out. I use that time to pray out loud, listen to my music out loud, or talk to someone on speakerphone from my lap. To anyone watching me from a distance, no doubt I look like a lunatic talking to myself, but remember, I’ve already accepted this. If you have a dog, this is a chance for both of you to get some exercise. I take my dog, Achilles, with me. Some people might think I’m talking to her.

For my friends who don’t feel like sweating, want to preserve their good looks, I have something for you, too. If you use a wheelchair, practice transferring on and off surfaces in your house. Depending on your ability, that could look like an even transfer, an uneven transfer, or a floor-to-chair transfer. Transfers are a necessary skill and, if you challenge yourself, they’ll get your heart rate up.

You could also clean. This seems very unexciting, but everyone must do. You might as well make it beneficial, right? For my able-bodied readers, lunge while you vacuum, squat while you load the laundry machine, and double up on stairs. For my friends who use wheelchairs, challenge your core by rotating to clean the countertop, use your non-dominant hand to wash dishes, and pay attention to your posture/leaning.

Do as I say, not necessarily as I’ve been good at doing.

Last week, I felt my heart rate zooming after a fast transfer from my bed to my wheelchair. I take that as a sign that I have lightning-fast bed transfers we can all be impressed with, or I’ve let quarantine put me way out of shape. Start to pay attention to your daily routines and notice when you can fit in some exercise. In a time when our country feels like it’s full of hate, show yourself some love.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.