Exercising with Sensory Processing
by Valerie Cagle
(New Roads, LA, USA)
The result of my daughter's being diagnosed with sensory integration disorder was that a multitude of 'quirky' behaviors of my own were finally explained. From my penchant for watching the same movie hundreds of times in a row, to my tendency to hold onto a piece of clothing until it was disintegrating because it 'felt right', from my inability to snap, whistle, etc--even to this day--to my love of food that others complain is bland and tasteless--I too have sensory integration disorder!
I'm a physician myself, in an anesthesiology residency, so I found this fascinating from numerous standpoints, including the medical/genetic one.
But what I have been thinking about lately is how hard it is for me to exercise. I have terrible muscle memory, if I go for a while without running it's like I'm starting from scratch again, and my running regimen, modest as it is --two miles every day or every other day--is overwhelming and difficult. It is SO DIFFICULT to not stop and walk in the midst of the two mile run--and the 'run' is actually a very slow jog. A twelve minute mile feels comfortable, if I run an eleven minute mile I feel like I'm going to die.
While I'm running, my limbs often feel rubbery and weak, my legs like jello, and this hasn't changed since I picked up running four years ago. People say running gets easier over time but I have not found that to be the case for me, for a person with sensory integration disorder. Running is still very very hard.
It's not just the low muscle tone and rubbery, jello-ey feel of my limbs, it's not just the that the exertion always feels unnatural and terrible, never enjoyable, it's also all the discomforts that come along with the sport--like when I sweat, the upper part of my arm sticks to the lower part of my forearm, and it feels just ghastly, I'm always aware of it, and sometimes I try to run with my arms hanging down straight so that I don't have to feel this sticky bit of friction in my joint crevasses. This is just one example.
I find it hard to focus on enjoying the exertion, because I am so focused on all the sensory input that I am experiencing at any given moment while running, and most of it I do not like--I am tolerating it for the benefit of the exercise.
Anyone have similar experiences, or have found any exercises that work well with sensory integration disorder?