Here’s how I use a chair to safely do floor exercises

Oh, are you okay? Did you fall? Can I help you up?

Walking into the living room a few years ago, my grown daughter was startled to find me on my hands and knees on the floor, smoking and blowing. Turning to look in her direction, I replied, “Thanks, but no. I’m just down there practicing.”

Visibly relieved, she still looked at me quizzically, so I pointed to the chair behind me and said, “That’s how I get down and get up again.”

She had every right to be worried. I have ALS, and since I need a walker to help me balance when I walk, seeing me on the floor, it was logical to assume that I had fallen. But she knew me; she was aware that I used to teach fitness classes and lead a healthy lifestyle. Now that I was living with ALS, I applied all that knowledge to my current situation. This included practicing on the floor.

But because of ALS, I had to figure out how to safely get down on the floor and get back up. So how do I do that? And why?

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Why am I dropping to the floor?

Avoiding falls is a big priority for me. My age, plus ALS, puts me at a higher risk of falling. It’s scary enough that I suddenly find myself on the ground, and I don’t want the recovery part to be dangerous either. So if I happen to fall over, I want my body to instinctively know how to curl up into a ball, roll to the side, and push myself up to my hands and knees. From there, someone can help me to the end, or I can crawl to a nearby chair and pull myself up.

Also, practicing 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. For me, the floor feels safe, offers me space to move around, and allows me to focus on muscles I can’t engage when sitting in a chair or standing with my walker.

How do I get down and get up again?

I use a sturdy chair with arms and place it directly in front of the wall. Maneuvering my rollator next to the chair, I put my hands on the arms of the chair and stand in front of it. With one leg and a straight leg, I take a step back while bending the 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, they can put their hands on the floor and crawl on their hands and knees to the center of the room.

To come back from the floor, I kneel in front of the chair and reverse the above steps.

This method works for me, but it’s not the only way to use a chair to help you get down to the floor and get back up. There are many variations, so I suggest you ask your physical therapist which method is best for you.

My advice

It’s important to remember to never exercise alone. It’s safer to have someone nearby who can help you if you get stuck, have a muscle cramp, or have other problems. Before you hit the floor, determine if you will have enough stamina to get back up.

Some days my mind says yes but my body says no. I listen to my body and skip an exercise session entirely if necessary.

Also, when in a chair, use a pillow or mat under your knees and do floor exercises on a carpet or padded area.

It’s been a few years since my daughter was shocked to find me on the floor. Now whenever he comes to visit, he’ll often join me for a few stretches and back-and-forths. We enjoy each other’s company and I am happy that I can live well while living with ALS.

Note: ALS News Today is solely a website for news and information 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 doctor or other qualified healthcare professional about any questions you may have about your medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to stimulate discussion on issues related to ALS.

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