Those who know me will know that sport and staying physically active is something that is very important to me. Since as far back as I can remember I’ve either had a football at my feet, been pounding the streets (and latterly trails), or attempting to get into gym life and yoga with varying degrees of success.
My scoliosis is fairly severe, 59 degree thoracic curve (T6-T11) and 57 degree lumbar curve (T11-T13) pre posterior spinal fusion from T4-L4. Despite the limitations that this has imposed on me in terms of reduced range of movement and the all too common lower back pain, I have tried not to let it get in the way of leading an active life.
However, one thing I have noticed is that I tend to shy away from group based exercise. Sure, I play football, a team sport, and have played for numerous teams over the years; I’ve even joined a team out here in Budapest since moving in March. But football is different somehow. For one, I’m pretty good at it but while it helps to be supple and flexible, I can get away with being a bit stiff and immobile at times. I was never good enough to play professionally and while I may not be as flexible as other players, my natural ability helps me to blend in at the level I play at with most team mates not even aware that I have scoliosis (until they see the scar of course).
But in group exercise like yoga, circuit or HIIT training, and crossfit I feel quite uncomfortable, like the odd one out. I used to think that it’s not fair that others can touch their toes when I can’t, or get deeper into a stretch than me, or lift heavier weights without their back giving in. I used to look around the room knowing that I was fitter than most people in it but still not capable of doing what they could do, and that’s a crappy feeling. So I’d be hard on myself and put myself down a lot and ultimately steer clear of these types of groups.
Thankfully, however, that is changing. Since moving to Budapest I’ve joined – was cajoled and pushed (literally) by my girlfriend – the fantastic Reebok Crossfit Duna Gym (RCD) and, without meaning to sound preacher like, I’m really beginning to change my outlook on things.
You see, beforehand I wouldn’t tell anyone about my scoliosis not even the instructor; now that’s ever so slightly stupid don’t you think? I would struggle on trying to be like the ‘normal’ folks in the class and fail miserably to match them. I would get down about this and soon stop the class. To this day I’m still not sure why I did that. Embarrassment? Not wanting to accept my condition? Trying to beat it in the most stupid way possible? Heck knows.
But since joining RCD something’s clicked and I’m changing my approach. On day one I meekly told coach Soeren that I had spinal fusion but left it at that. My girlfriend, Zsuzsi, told him my full story. On day two I told him my story and explained my limitations, he said “no worries, let’s work around that.” So we did, we found some alternative exercises for me to do when I couldn’t achieve the intended workout. And it felt great.
Sessions three and four were with different coaches, Levi and Warren, again I told them about my condition and limitations but this time without being prompted by Zsuzsi; a big step for me if I’m being honest. I could see that both had a look of “oh shit” on their faces but then responded “no worries, let’s work around that.” Just as with Soeren we found some alternative exercises when I couldn’t do the prescribed workout or lowered the weight so as not to put too much strain and pressure on my back.
In just five or six classes I’ve gone from being anti group exercise classes to loving the community spirit they generate. But more than that, and thanks to the time each of the coaches has taken with me to make sure that I’m doing the correct actions and not over exerting my back, I’m loving the workouts and beginning to own my scoliosis again.
I’m not competing against anyone else in the room, just trying to do the best that I can on that given day. Some days will be better than others but now I have the support of a crossfit community and the guidance of three excellent coaches to guide me through it.
Yesterday I performed my first ever deadlift lifting 50kg. It’s not a huge weight but for a first attempt I’m really happy with it and I wouldn’t have done it without the support of the guys above. I can already see improvements in my body, my eating plan, and in my mindset and can’t wait to see what’s next as my Crossfit with Scoliosis journey develops.
p.s. If you’re ever in Budapest (1) get in touch with me, and (2) head down to RCD, you won’t regret it.
p.p.s. Now that I’ve said nice things about you guys go easy on me tomorrow 😉
p.p.p.s. I can’t forget about Harley, the real star of RCD, keep those awesome photo’s coming!!!