Here’s how I use a chair to safely do floor exercises
Living with ALS requires adapting and adjusting to safely maneuver
“Oh my, are you OK? Did you fall? Can I help you up?”
Walking into the living room several years ago, my adult daughter was startled to find me on my hands and knees on the floor, huffing and puffing. Twisting to look in her direction, I replied, “Thanks, but no. I’m just down here exercising.”
Visibly relieved, she still gave me a quizzical look, so I gestured to the chair behind me and said, “That’s how I get down and back up again.”
She had every right to be worried. I have ALS, and because I need a rollator to help me balance when I walk, seeing me on the floor it was logical to assume I had fallen. But she knew me; she was aware that I used to teach fitness classes and followed a healthy lifestyle. Now that I was living with ALS, I was applying all that knowledge to my current situation. That included exercising on the floor.
But because of ALS, I had to figure out how to safely get down on the floor and then back up again. So how do I do it? And why?
Why do I get down on the floor?
Avoiding falls is a high priority for me. My age, plus ALS, put me at a higher risk of falling. Suddenly finding myself nose to the ground is scary enough, and I don’t want the getting back up part to be dangerous as well. So if by chance I take a tumble, I want my body to instinctively know how to curl up into a ball, roll sideways, and push myself up to my hands and knees. From there, either someone can help me the rest of the way or I can crawl to a nearby chair and pull myself up.
Also, exercising on the floor is comfortable for me. I draw on my early years in gymnastics and my knowledge of yoga and Pilates to practice modified versions of each of them. To me, the floor feels safe, offers me room to move, and lets me focus on muscles that I can’t engage when sitting in a chair or standing with my rollator.
How do I go down and get up again?
I use a sturdy chair with arms and place it directly in front of a wall. Maneuvering my rollator next to the chair, I transfer my hands onto the arms of the chair and stand in front of it. I take a step back with one foot and a straight leg while bending my front knee, so that my legs are in a lunge. Slowly bending the back leg, I lower that knee to the floor. From this position, I can place my hands on the floor and crawl on my hands and knees to the center of the room.
To get back up from the floor, I kneel in front of the chair and reverse the steps listed above.
This method works for me, but it’s not the only way to use a chair to help you get down on the floor and back up again. There are many variations, so I suggest you ask your physical therapist which method is best for you.
It’s important to remember never to exercise alone. It’s safer to have someone nearby who can help if you get stuck, have a muscle cramp, or experience other issues. Before lowering yourself to the floor, determine whether you’ll have enough stamina to get up again.
On some days, my mind says yes but my body says no. I listen to my body and skip the exercise session entirely if I need to.
Also, when you’re at the chair, use a cushion or a mat under your knees and do the floor exercises on a carpeted or padded area.
It’s been a few years since my daughter was shocked to find me on the floor. Now whenever she visits, she’ll often join me for a few stretches and back-and-forth rolls. We enjoy each other’s company, and I’m happy I’m able to live well while living with ALS.
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