Finding Joy and Self-love Through Movement
It’s definitely not a universal truth that every person with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) has negative associations with athletics and grade school gym class. However, because many of us with CMT have limited mobility and weak ankles and hands, we tend not to excel in many sports or gym and playground activities. And this can sometimes lead to feelings of inferiority.
At times, I’ve had such feelings. I have memories of anxious school mornings spent wondering what sort of embarrassment I’d have to subject myself to in gym class or on the playground that day. And looking back, it’s a bit of a shame.
It’s a shame because exercise can be a great joy. It’s a shame because some of us with CMT bodies continue to carry negative associations with exercise and going to the gym — associations that may hamper us from giving certain sports or activities a try. This is despite the fact that many exercises and movements have a lot to offer CMT-affected bodies.
I now hold quite a bit of regret, as I’ve come to realize how feelings of inadequacy and insecurity have prevented me from moving a bit more and trying a few new things in the gym. It seems like I inadvertently learned all the wrong lessons from early gym classes.
I didn’t learn the proper form of exercise movements, which exercises work which muscles, and how to appreciate and celebrate growth and progression. Instead, I developed a perception that anything less than mastery was a form of failure. For many years, I thought physical strength was something you just innately had — or didn’t.
I’m definitely still learning and developing my understanding, but I’m beginning to view things a bit differently these days. I never thought I’d get to a point where I actually crave going to the gym most days, but, at least for now, I’m there. And it feels good.
Granted, it’s certainly true that I can’t do everything I’d like to because of my limited mobility due to CMT, but with the guidance of a personal trainer, I’ve come to find at least a few exercises and movements I like and enjoy. And from that, I feel like I’m learning, growing, and progressing in ways that make me proud and happy.
I’m growing to appreciate more fully the fact that everyone has a different body with different traits and quirks, and the more we move our bodies, the more we each learn about them. Movement and exercise can be as much about self-discovery as meditation, reading, and quiet contemplation. And ultimately, self-discovery can lead to a deeper sense of self-love.
It’s unfortunate that due to my own fears and feelings of inadequacy, I may have denied myself such things. It’s unfortunate that sometimes sadness and mourning can also be a barrier to rewarding oneself. And it’s unfortunate that many others, I suspect, also have felt unwelcome in the gym and other areas where physical activity is at the forefront, whether due to self-doubt or how others have made them feel.
At the same time, I think it’s important not to ignore some problematic things that commonly come up when folks talk about exercise. For example, I don’t think anyone should feel forced to move and exercise at the cost of other aspects of holistic well-being. Looking back, overemphasis on the weight-loss potential of exercise is something that actually kept me away from the gym for many years.
Gym accessibility and the lack of investment in exercise for folks with limited mobility are other important matters I don’t see discussed as much as these topics deserve.
I like to believe that one of the most rewarding reasons for living is so that we can each learn to more effectively spread love and appreciate being loved. And because of that belief, I feel like each of us has a right to access and feel welcome in places that concentrate feelings of love, life, and connection. This includes places where folks can commune with nature, enjoy music, and appreciate art — and yes, also work up a good sweat.
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.