You Tube is full of clips of amazingly athletic people performing feats of strength and agility with the TRX. The TRX is however also an incredibly useful tool not just for the general population, but for those who are fighting long-term, crippling illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis.
Hugh is 69 and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 5 years ago. Whilst it was no doubt present many years earlier, it was when he noticed changes in his movements that he sought medical advice, only to be given the unwelcome news.
Quite the athlete in his youth, Hugh continued to keep active into retirement with tennis, golf and regular gym visits. As the multiple sclerosis progressed he had to modify – but not give up his gym workouts. Over the years we have changed how he performs squats, an exercise he has always been proud to excel at – and in fact baits his wife Deb that she does not go low enough in her squats compared to him.
Around the same time as our safe squatting options were diminishing, I bought my first TRX for the studio. Hugh looked at me sceptically when I told him we would be working out with these black and yellow straps with handles. It was the beginning of a wonderful new relationship. Whilst Hugh can now only walk small distances, even with the assistance of a walking stick he can do squats, not shallow twitches, but full squats.
The beauty of the TRX is it gives him an aide that is there as much as he needs, but does not limit his movement when he doesn’t. He has strength in his arms and hands, but he cannot rely on his legs not to give way. With the TRX Hugh can perform a deep squat, with great technique. If it’s a good day his legs will do the majority of the work. If it’s not such a good day his arms can help pull him back up. The TRX gives him the confidence to squat deeply, because worst case scenario and his legs do give way, he is still holding on and can slowly lower himself to the floor. There is no risk of injury, so he is willing to push harder.
As the body is able to do less and less the temptation is to follow suit, which only leads to general deconditioning of the muscles, on top of the progressive effect of this degenerative disease. It is worth persisting with squats to maintain as much strength, endurance, mobility and flexibility in the legs as possible. For the ultimate and far more important goal, is to buy one more month, year, or much more, out of a wheelchair.
For a dose of inspirational perseverance check out Hugh and his TRX squats in this video.