|Hiking through the rough back trails of Descanso Gardens.|
Now, when I say walking straight, I don't mean completely so. I now look like I might have some mobility issues, instead appearing drunk. The difference, however, is marked.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was despairing, as I was doing my physical therapy exercises, over when I would finally get rid of the unsteadiness and vertigo. It had slowly improved, but the advances had, um, stabilized.
Some of the exercises are clearly aimed at preventing falls. Now I wobble but I don't fall down, like a weeble. Others improve balance, and I think those are the ones that are best for retraining my brain.
As we've learned in recent decades, brains are plastic. Right now, my brain is rerouting functions around my stroke damage, just as an electrician might bypass a damaged circuit. Synapses are a bit different than electrical circuits, though. Everything I do to encourage those synapses to fire actually improves the strength of their connections.
But I think the main catalyst of this great leap forward (okay, so I'm not doing a lot of leaping just yet) is more active exercise. My six-days-a-week spinning is very important part of this, improving my strength and stamina. I spend an hour on the bike, and once a week we advance the tension one notch. I'm the strongest I've been since before my lungs were damaged when I was 11. Then I could roller skate as fast as I could for hours on end.
Still, I believe that the main driver of this current improvement is our rehab walks, which have become more and more like hikes lately. I had two strenuous hikes in the span of two weeks, and suddenly I began walking better.
That's no coincidence. I have a history of improving after a leg strain has healed. Exercise creates micro-muscular tears. When they heal, your muscles strengthen. That's how exercise works.
But that doesn't explain why my vertigo has lessened, you may say.
Recently, Luminosity was fined $2 million dollars for it's overinflated brain training claims. But every time I balance on uneven ground, climb up and down hills and stairs, and maneuver around obstacles, I perform another kind of brain-training exercise. Just as my physical therapy exercises help strengthen those rewiring synapses in my brain, so do my hikes.
It's fun...and it's free.
With all my concuritant problems, many of which are out of my control, it's gratifying to know that some of my remaining physical impairments are in my power to overcome.
There may be no higher power aiding my recovery, but I have the power in my hands...and feet.