During the times that I couldn’t sit up, I visualized my favorite pastimes in detail – riding my horse, dancing in toe shoes, and hiking everywhere.
I worked at strengthening my back and legs by doing movements in bed, and progressed to work on the floor … lifting shoulders; twisting and turning from side to side; bending knees and moving them from side to side.
In December 1969, while being treated at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary Alberta, physiotherapist Mr. Spring came instead of the usual person who just stuck me on a bike.
In the next half hour I learned more from him about the mechanics of movement than I could learn pedalling a bike to hell
I share them with you as my “Spring Set” for recovery.
On my hands and knees I ease down to a sitting position,
then raise myself to hands and knees.
On my hands and knees, I lift one knee
and try to bring it to my forehead,
then do the same with the other knee.
While standing, holding onto the back of a chair,
I lift one knee, and then the other as high as I can.
Mr. Spring told me to crawl forward and backward.
Then from a kneeling position, I stand, pushing myself up with one leg, then the other.
My legs begin to tremble but we carry on. It’s so exciting! I’m astonished that I can do these things!
“And climb the stairs — every chance you get. Hold on tight to the bannister. And you must walk, walk, walk. Then get some sleep and do some more.” He makes it very plain to me that he expects results. I just have to make the proper kind of physical effort.
These exercises can be done in my own room so I’m not constrained to gym hours. The exercise where I kneel then stand, alternating the lifting leg, is the one that helps most. I can feel all the muscles working and in only a few days I feel my legs getting stronger.
Hockey players skate, pass, and shoot to improve their skills. Runners run; tennis players play tennis. Athletes don’t sit on the sidelines and wait to get better and neither did I. Determined to walk again and wear my black patent high-heel shoes, I faithfully did my exercises.
Dear cheerful Mr. Spring revealed a powerful strategy for reversing the damage done by MS — make the proper kind of physical effort. It’s not enough to be determined, I must also keep up the physical effort. To this day I call these exercises my Spring Set.
Slow and steady wins the race said the Tortoise.