Yueh Li Tan

There is nothing like a stroke to make you appreciate having flexible, strong muscles.

See, the real point of going to the gym every day and having a trainer is so that I can recover the mobility and muscular strength that I had before I had the stroke. Even though I was physically unfit before and grossly overweight, I never had issues going about my daily tasks.

I was an avid swimmer since I was about five or so. I used to go to the pool about twice or three times a week, mostly in the evening.

In 2016, I had a stroke and half of my body was paralyzed. I lost all ability to execute “coordination actions” and sadly, swimming is a sport that requires a lot of “coordination motions”.

If you asked me to cross my legs to put on socks, it would be impossible. I could not cross my legs on my own. I always assumed it was because I had fat thighs, but the reality was that I had not stretched those muscles for years. After the stroke, they had become so inflexible, I found it hard to do certain ordinary motions.

I had total left-sided paralysis. Of course, I could not sit cross-legged on the floor or on a bed. It was simply too painful on the hamstring muscles.

I also kept falling down a lot because I had very weak or almost non-existent core muscles, these are the muscles around the tummy and spine area. I could not get on the gym’s fitness machines without help because I would fall. In fact, I fell quite a lot in the first year. To help me, the gym trainers had to figure out how I could climb onto every machine and get off in a safe position.

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Naturally, when I started with Dancy, my current personal trainer, she worked on strengthening my core muscles. Because you cannot even stand properly without those muscles. Good core muscles can help you regain an upright stance quickly in the case of a sudden slip.

The great thing about Dancy was that she understood that the stroke made it hard for me to sustain certain types of training. My brain would actually get tired from straining to execute certain types of normal motions.

Because movement was difficult at first, Dancy spent a lot of time stretching all crucial muscle groups, especially on my legs, to get my limbs flexible enough to move again and do certain sports motions. Because my left arm and left hip were almost immobile because of the stroke and subsequent falls, doing typical exercise motions were almost impossible unless the problems were fixed. To achieve this, Dancy helped me by doing a whole lot of sports massage to the affected limbs. Gradually, I could lift my left arm fully without difficulty or pain. I was not able to do it before.

We worked on my hip and glutes next, because, without good hip and glutes, squatting, using the toilet, bending down to pick up stuff without straining your back and trying to get up from a prone position would be almost impossible.

I am so happy that I am able now to actually do an actual push-up. You have no idea how hard it is to get into a push-up position when you have a half-body stroke. Having little or no actual feeling in your toes makes it tremendously hard to balance your body weight on them. This has really allowed me to be able to get up from a prone position, on my own, by using the push-up stance.

The combinations of workouts and maintaining a proper diet has helped me to dramatically slim down so that people can see the weight loss and change in body shape. But more importantly, I can actually move around better and sit cross-legged without pain. And of course, cross my legs to wear my own socks.

Do not let a stroke stop you from living an active and healthy life. It is possible for a stroke patient to regain all mobility similar to before the stroke. It is all a matter of determination and of course, exercise.