How Yes U Can USA Came To Be
As many of you know, dealing with any physical limitation is challenging in ways that others cannot imagine. The simplest of tasks can become overwhelming at best. Having been an exceptional athlete, exercise is very important to me. As my disease progressed I found that I was excluded from the exercise programs provided through the local fitness centers. Without a caregiver or assistant accompanying me to the activities, I was out of luck. I needed assistance to get on exercise equipment or to use the various upper-body weight machines.
My long-time friend and co-founding partner of Yes U Can, Debora Woolwine, suggested that I contact the University of Delaware to solicit students to work with me. She thought that it would be an excellent opportunity for both the students and me. The students would get hands-on experience with someone in my physical condition, and I would get the help I needed with exercising on the equipment.
At the University of Delaware, I developed a relationship with one of the professors, Dr. Steve Goodwin. He created an opportunity for his students to work with me one-on-one on exercise equipment. I had not been challenging my muscles over the past year or two, so I was surprised to realize that I was able to do the leg press and other pieces of equipment. I had no idea what I was capable of until I tried it. With a little bit of skepticism, I was assisted on the leg press and found that I was capable of doing much more than I had imagined. I cried with happiness over this triumph.
You see, I mostly use my power chair. Knowing that I was capable of pressing weight with my legs not only gave me confidence to try other pieces of equipment, it made me feel so much better about myself. I can tell you that the psychological benefits I receive through exercise and weight training, sometimes outweigh the physical benefits. I felt like I was back in control again. I felt empowered to do things. I didn’t feel helpless. I started to feel alive again. I started to accept what I could not change, but I realized that there was a lot that I could change.
I believe that other people in my position should have the opportunity to experience and take advantage of what I discovered. So I designed a plan for a staff-assisted exercise and weight-training program and Debora and I came up with the name “Yes U Can™”. I approached the local YMCA with the idea to promote this program for people with limited ability. The plan I designed included training staff and teaching them how to work with people like me. Because my body is so affected by my disease, I believed that if they could become comfortable working with my body, then they should be able to work with just about anybody. Many of the people who participate in the program don’t need hands on staff assistance. They participate knowing that they’re in a more accepting environment and receive support and direction in maintaining an exercise program.
I looked at all the possible barriers that could prevent a person from participating in this program. Yes U Can™ addresses all those barriers – emotional as well as physical. but it has also grown into a program of support where new friendships have developed, support is offered, and participation is encouraged.
If I am feeling down, a trip to the gym is the best medicine I can give to myself.