“I wasn’t waiting for the prosthetic leg to resume my life, I was out living it.”
My view is very different than most. For 6 years my burden was dragging around a painful useless leg, so I amputated it. Now, not having that leg is liberating. I am now a one-legged man, freed of pain and ready to resume an active life, and I wasn’t going to wait for a prosthesis to live again. While most might find losing a leg disabling, for me being freed of the burden of that leg was enabling. I am by no means saying that life with one leg is easy or not challenging, but I am empowered by the loss of pain and ready to live actively again with or without a prosthetic leg.
Two years ago, after 4 years of ankle surgeries and months and months of downtime, I had gained weight and had a scare with some other health problems. I had been so focused on trying to fix the ankle that I had neglected the rest of my body. I decided to give up on the bum leg and get the rest of my body in shape. It was after my sixth ankle surgery and I was using crutches full time to walk at that point. I signed up with a trainer for a few sessions to get myself on the right track. I was very specific in telling the trainer that I was not doing anything that would put pressure on my left leg and cause me more pain. This was not a problem, as I soon realized that the gym was full of exercise equipment that I could use without standing or causing any stress to my leg. I found plenty of ways to push myself and I did, but avoided anything that would inflict any further pain on my left leg. I found that pushing myself physically helped a great deal in helping me come to terms with my disability. I also lost the weight and nipped the other health issues in the bud.
For the next two years, while at the gym I envied people who had two working legs as I watched them moving about the gym so easily, doing things I never thought I could do. One of the workouts that kept peaking my interest was TRX Suspension Training. TRX is a workout system that uses your own body’s weight as opposed to a traditional workout using weights. Instead of using a machine or weights, TRX is strength training using a system of ropes where you work against your own body’s weight. Hundreds of exercises can be done that give a full-body workout. TRX develops strength, balance, flexibility, and joint stability simultaneously. To those doing TRX it was a strenuous workout, however to me it looked like a way to break the monotony of my sit down workouts. Every time I was at the gym I would find my eyes fixated on the classes doing TRX. I would rack my brain trying to figure out how I could manage the TRX workout without increasing the pain I already had. Ultimately I would give up, chalking it up to just one more thing I would never do.
Fast forward to two weeks post-op leg amputation, I take my self off to the gym. Due to my weakened body from the surgery and recovering from pneumonia, I cut my workout routine in half. I found that while working out I had no phantom pain. So, back I go a second time, and then a third. I am embarrassed to say the third was not a charm. The day before the surgery I proudly pushed to do 70 pull-ups. Wanting to still prove my physical abilities I got cocky and awkwardly climbed one legged up to the bar and accomplished 30 pull-ups. That landed me back in the emergency room later that night, with massive back/side pain that turned out to be a pulled lat muscle. Needless to say I stayed away from the gym for a while.
When I returned to the gym several weeks later, I decided to work with a trainer to ease me back in, fearing I would re-injure the lat muscle. Interestingly, now standing in the gym with Holly, my trainer, balancing on my one remaining leg, freed of the painful leg, I found my perception very different. I now was asking my trainer to challenge me and gave no limitations. I no longer had to worry about the leg; it was gone and I felt like I could conquer anything. I found myself wanting to push myself to the next level. So, while chatting with Holly after a workout I say, “Once I get my leg do you think I can do TRX?” Her response was, “You don’t need to wait for your leg, we will do TRX next time.” Music to my ears – finally, someone was telling me I didn’t need a prosthetic leg to be active.
So the next workout I find myself on the floor with my foot suspended from the suspension strap. I find myself balancing on one leg with my hands in the suspension straps, my body contorted in positions I didn’t know were possible, and most of all I find my body working muscles I never knew I had. Most of the exercises are rigorous and very physically challenging. Unlike most workouts using exercise equipment, the TRX adds in instability; you have to stabilize the ropes, so your body becomes the weights and the machine. After a half hour TRX workout my body was exhausted, but I was exhilarated. I had just accomplished something physically that many two-legged people couldn’t accomplish, and something most in my situation wouldn’t even try. Better yet, I accomplished something that most people would have never thought a very recent, 49-year-old leg amputee could possibly do. My TRX high was better than anything a drug could do for me, and from then on I couldn’t wait for my next TRX workout.
The TRX workout is actually an excellent workout for a leg amputee. The element of instability builds the core muscles, which are very important for your body’s stability. The core of our body provides strength and stability to the rest of your body. The core is your abdominal wall, your pelvis, your lower back and your diaphragm. In a nutshell our core strength is essential to our daily living and regular activities. The one thing that I found extremely beneficial as a leg amputee was the balance. For many of the exercises I had to not only focus on the task at hand, but on balance. The second I took my focus off balance I was toppling to the floor. This made every TRX workout an intense whole body workout that would have otherwise been very difficult to get with one leg. Building balance is also an extremely important necessity in dealing with daily life as a single leg amputee. The other thing that I really like about the TRX workout is that I could drop my crutches and still get a workout while remaining vertical, which is something I couldn’t have done independently with free weights. There is no doubt that my TRX workouts put me far ahead of the game in living an active full life as an amputee. Leg exercises such as the Hamstring Curl and Single Leg Squat worked out my leg like no other exercises I had ever done. This made a huge difference in my leg tolerance in returning to skiing now with only one leg.
For me it was more than a workout; it was me proving I still could do anything that I set my mind to. I didn’t need two legs and I didn’t need the prosthetic leg to accomplish physical things and live actively. I was living more actively and doing more than many do with their two legs. For Holly, my trainer, I became inspiration and I hope; while in the gym, I show everyone there that there are “no excuses”. So when Holly asked if I was going to use the prosthetic leg to do TRX once I had it, my answer was instantly no. “Why would I when I can do it with one leg?” She agreed.
My own TRX training system went on my Christmas list and I received it Christmas morning. I soon plan to get certified as a TRX trainer and yes, I plan to do it all without the prosthesis. Imagine the power I will have to help others attain their physical goals when they take a TRX suspension training class led by a one-legged instructor.
Hey, that is just how I now think and live! Make 2015 the year you commit to a healthy lifestyle and remember, “No excuses.”
Happy New Year!
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