Stepping Out


To strive to walk normally, you are going to have to begin thinking more normally. What does that mean? That means that you need to shift your focus off the limitations imposed on you because of your ataxia, and re-focus on how a “normal” person moves. You need to be that toddler learning to walk and re-learn the basics the correct way; then use them. You’ve become dependent with your thoughts and allowed your neurological condition to have too much control. I made the same mistake. Simply put, it has been a subtle form of surrender within. We are told we’re at the mercy of our disease. Bull crap! It’s time to take that part of yourself back and assume your rightful responsibility!

As we have relinquished more and more of ourselves to ataxia, our posture and attitudes have suffered enormously. Because of our abnormal wide based gait, shuffling walk, and supporting ourselves with the furniture in our house, walkers or other people, we no longer have our body weight centered on our true foundation; our feet. This sets us up for more instability. We don’t stand up straight, we often lean onto something else which we believe is safer than we are. We position ourselves in anticipation for a potential fall both in our minds and our bodies.
We no longer trust ourselves. We have placed an increasing amount of trust into “something else” rather than trying to re-structure ourselves.
Why? Because we are led to believe we have no choice! And we swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

In “TO MOVE, TO WALK”, I explained how to find to you how to begin lowering yourself towards the floor by beginning with your knees. Please review that process if you need to because the following is dependent on it. In fact, each succeeding tip builds on the previous tips. Just as that toddler has to learn the basics, so must you. Therefore, if you haven’t worked through the other tips, and learned how to apply them and transfer your weight safely, you’re going to have some difficulty with everything else.

Hot Points:
Your knee id the first thing to move whenever you begin to move. I don’t care if it’s forward, back, to the side or just twisting around.

If you are having a clumsy day the first thing to correct is your knees. Bend them to make your feet heavier and more stable.

Your upper body sets and controls the location of the pressure on your feet for the movement you want to do.

Your lower body, your legs and feet, uses the pressures in your feet to initiate and complete the movement.

The walking process will be much easier for you if you do the following exercise first. Pack yourself in the car and go to a local store. You want one that has large shopping carts (the you power it yourself kind) and numerous aisles. Stand behind the cart and bring the push bar against your belly with your hands. Stand in a mild squat with your shoulders, knees and toes in a vertical line so you’re on your flat planted feet.
Place a little extra weight on the balls of your feet as in the previous exercise.

Do not lean on the cart handle with your hands and arms! Your hands are on the cart handle for two purposes only.
First, they are on the bar to lightly hold the bar close to you, and for that you don’t need to grab it.
Secondly, your hands are on the bar in case you need it for support if you stumble or need to rest.
“How do I know if I’m leaning on the cart without realizing it?” Try moving your hands without moving the cart or changing your body position. If you can’t stay exactly how you are standing without moving when you release your hands you’re cheating.
Support yourself through your feet not through the cart.

You will take each small step forward by pushing the cart forward by pushing yourself through your feet. You’ll be pushing the cart with your feet – NOT your hands. Your hands, arms and shoulders need to remain relaxed. Push the cart easily forward with your feet ONLY!

Previously I said this was “moving from the belt”. Well I must in part correct myself. What we are actually doing is moving our body forward as a unit and centering it over our stance as we walk (with our feet doing the work). And that is precisely where we need it to be. With the correct posture and moving as a unit, your vertical center will be exactly where it should be and your feet will provide you with more security. Make sure you flex your hips and knees in the process to help yourself move more freely and safer.

Pushing the cart with your feet will provide you with a good exercise to practice this concept. And it’s free. Plus, you can do your shopping while you practice and no one else has to know what you’re doing.
Small steps are a must and the cart will force you to take small steps.
Try taking a bigger step with the cart and you’ll hit the bottom bar on the cart.
What a great training device……and they are everywhere.
I think they made them just for us!!!

As you move slowly forward while pushing the cart with your feet, your feet will naturally be centered under your body as you move forward as a unit. Or at least they will be if you are standing erect and not leaning on the cart.
Make sure that your heal is the first part of your foot to hit the floor as you step forward – and it will be if you are doing this correctly.
A point to be made: Don’t think about what your foot is doing! Just lift your knee and allow it all to happen on it’s own.

Also, pay attention to what your back foot is doing. Many of us will allow our foot to “twist” as we roll onto the forward part of our foot. With the twisting motion the toe of our shoe will be pointed inward instead of straight ahead. When this happens, instead of stepping naturally off the front of our shoe as we should be doing, we step off the outside forward part of our shoe.
This creates an unstable platform for us and sets up a chain reaction where the end result is a stumble.
Therefore, the placement, control and follow through of both feet are equally important – and controlled by your knees.
Don’t allow that back foot to turn in.

Step forward in a straight line, BUT do not try to walk the tight rope! Your feet should be about shoulder width apart.
Imagine each foot is on its own plank of wood. The object is to keep that foot on it’s own plank as you walk. No crossing over and no stepping off the plank is the object of the game.

Flex as you move; play with it. Each forward step is taken with your toes straight ahead.
Roll your foot through the stepping process and push yourself forward with your big toe as you move forward.
Roll off the toe of your back foot from the front of your shoe, not the side.
Imagine you’re trying to sneak up on someone. Your steps must be deliberate, quiet and soft.
Flex those joints like you used to do when you were normal.
Strive to be that person again!