This month, we are focusing on featuring inspirational females and their amazing stories. We are starting with Hazel, a woman living with Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsey who has found a new outlet for exercise and building strength stuck at home during the Pandemic. We are also going to learn about how she has been able to exercise at home with Cerebral Palsy and keep up her mental and physical health through the help of Excy.
Michele Mehl, CEO and Founder of Excy, created a line of lightweight, full-body stationary bikes (that work on the ground, in bed, and on tables for arms workouts) to break the fitness stigma that working out is only for the fit or to lose weight. She is fighting to help those with disabilities on bed rest or dealing with physical therapy to get moving.
How Did She Exercise at Home with Cerebral Palsy through the help of Excy?
Some Background Before We Dive In…..
Meet Hazel. Furbaby mom to two dogs (Bentley and Frosty). Wife of Doug for 20 years. Traveler and adventurer who has traveled worldwide from up and down the East coast of the United States to Russia, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and more. She has a giant heart who spent 10 years working in social services to help people who need social care. Hazel also has cerebral palsy, specifically quadriplegia cerebral palsy–meaning all four limbs are affected, including head control.
Cerebral Palsy in Strides: COVID Life Surfaces New Challenges
We met Hazel last summer, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic. She was looking for a way to exercise with cerebral palsy at home while sheltering in place. Like so many, Hazel and Doug’s life has been turned upside down with COVID. The things they enjoy doing — taking Bentley to dog agility and flyball competitions, walks to get fresh air, dining out, enjoying the cinema — have all been brought to an abrupt halt. Besides limiting their exposure to getting COVID, the couple had to stop many home service providers who assist them in day-to-day life, with Doug having Addison’s disease and being disabled.
The Obstacles of Exercising at Home with Cerebral Palsy
Hazel wanted to prioritize home exercise with being home so much and having less access to care providers. Not only for general health, mobility, and independence but also to help keep her immune system get strong should she get COVID-19. But it can be challenging to exercise at home with cerebral palsy.
Stiff Muscles, Wheelchair, Access a Struggle
Hazel’s cerebral palsy causes her to have spastic movements. Her muscles are stiff and tight, which causes retraction of the muscles. But, she finds that stretching and movement can help and assist with flexibility in her limbs. Hazel also has weakness in all her limbs, but particularly the left side. She can grip with her left side, but it’s hard due to poor dexterity and weakness, so she feeds herself and does most things with her right hand. Hazel cannot walk or move her legs without help. Nor can she sit independently due to poor trunk control that requires lateral supports to help put her in a correct seating position. In short, access to exercise is difficult, but Hazel refused to give up and found us.
Knocking Down Barriers to Exercise for All
At Excy, they believe everyone who wants access to physical fitness deserves quality access. This includes people with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cords, and more. In fact, the Department of Human Health and Services suggest that those with disabilities and health conditions get the same level of exercise as able-bodied people. However, for many people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, these recommendations may be quite difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, depending on the severity of the disability.
Hazel Exercises Independently with Excy
Other positions suggested for pedaling Excy with hands in bed or at a table for those with reach challenges couldn’t work due to the configurations of her wheelchair. So, Excy created a custom table hand bike system for Hazel, and the results have been dramatic in less than two months. When Hazel shared a video with them the first time she pedaled Excy. The joy on her face says it all.
Hazel is Making Huge Strides to Exercise at Home with Cerebral Palsy
At first, she could only hand cycle for 5 minutes. Anyone who has ever hand cycled–able or disabled–knows that hand cycling is a challenging workout. Hazel is now up to pedaling Excy 20 to 30 minutes per day and can feel her heart pumping. She does interval workouts where she pedals forward 20 revolutions, then rests, then pedals in reverse for 20 revolutions. She then repeats the process. When she first started pedaling Excy, she could not talk and pedal simultaneously, but now she can. When she needs more intensity as she gets stronger, she can turn up the resistance. You can see the progression of her range of motion in watching the videos, but improvements in her reach and flexibility are substantial. She feels fitter.
Look at People for Who they Are, Not at The Disability
We asked Hazel what she wants people to know about those who live with disabilities.
“I want people to know that we might have physical limitations, but it doesn’t mean that we are any different than anyone else. We all really have some form of disability, ours happens to show on the outside, but we’re all normal. I always invite people to look at the person for who they are vs. the disability. Disabled people have so much to give. It’s really a win/win when we all think outside the box of what’s possible.”
She also can’t wait for the day when COVID-19 is over, and she and Doug can travel again, dine out at their favorite restaurants, see friends, and more. But she also hopes some of the changes brought on by COVID-19 stay the same. For example, having some flexibility to work from home is a dramatic benefit to those with disabilities. Using Zoom also has opened some doors for more inclusion for those with disabilities to participate.
Hazel’s Tips to Exercise at Home: Great Advice with or Without a Disability
During this time of uncertainty due to COVID-19 and all the stressful situations it can bring to our lives, exercise can support your physical well-being and your mental well-being. Movement can help take away the worries of the day, if only for a few moments.
We asked Hazel to share her tips on what inspires her to exercise daily. Here’s what she had to say!
- Setting goals you want to achieve during a workout can be a fulfilling, positive experience, which can make you feel good on the inside as looking good on the outside.
- Be kind to yourself and don’t pressure yourself. Your efforts will show improvements in the end. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
- As you exercise, remember to enjoy yourself, it’s as important as becoming fit.
Excy is a Seattle-based company creating quality portable exercise equipment and on-demand training for those who want to safely and conveniently enjoy the benefits of full-body cycling and resistance training without the barriers of big, expensive, and hard to access exercise equipment. Excy also provides a free mobile coaching application for Android and iOS with live, on-demand, and guided training from physical therapists. All Excy systems ship in recyclable packaging. For more information, visit http://www.excy.com.
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