Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder

I have an inherited neuromuscular disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (type 2A). Although CMT Disorder shows up differently for everyone, it generally causes a slow deterioration of a person’s peripheral nerves and muscle strength. I’ve always been a very active person (as a kid and young adult I was into gymnastics, diving, and martial arts) and it’s been hard for me to accept the impact it’s been having on my abilities and life.

Since I think exercise (keeping your muscles strong) is the best treatment for CMT Disorder, I decided to explore my options and help others to do the same. Over the last few months, I’ve taken one new fitness class a week and rated it on different levels – the biggest one being adaptability.

I spent most of my adult life avoiding group exercise classes and was for the most part, a solo exerciser. I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to have to talk about my condition. It was terrifying walking into a class and not being able to run or jump. I thought people were staring at me & silently judging.

In the Trend-ABLE Post, A Recipe For Asking For Help, Lainie talks about being proactive with instructors and gives tips for learning how to swallow one’s pride in group exercise classes.

This exercise challenge is helping me to better accept my current abilities and I’ve learned how to be more open & assertive about my needs. Before starting a new class, I talk to the instructor about my condition and discuss any modifications I may need.

This has made a HUGE impact on my overall class experience. I am no longer worried about being singled out for not being able to do something and most instructors have been really inviting and helpful.

So, after trying numerous group exercise classes, here are the top 5 most adaptable workouts for people with CMT Disorder:

#1. MAT PILATES

Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder
Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder

The best part about mat Pilates is that it’s pretty much all on the floor- sitting or lying on a mat! Which is great, since my balance, and probably your balance sucks! Mat pilates is pretty much all ab work, it really exercises your core, but is a full body work out as well. You do a lot of crunches and ab variations as well as work on your legs and arms with planks and other motions. I can get REALLY deep here with all the exact workouts we did, but I’m sure you’d all get bored, so please go try it out for yourself! It’s my #1 recommended workout for CMT. The best thing about this class, is that most gyms offer it. Also, if you want to do this workout at home, YouTube has thousands of Pilates workouts you can do right in your living room..

Editors Note: If you have an ability to participate in group Reformer Pilates classes, do it!! Mat classes are fabulous (and affordable) but Reformer classes are even better. I always bring these velcro Pilates straps with me to class (my feet are fused & always in a flexed position) so that I can do exercises without my feet falling out & the straps wacking me in the head.

#2. YOGA

Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder
Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder

I’m not going to lie, but personally, yoga is not my favorite, but I think it can be beneficial for everyone, especially people with or recovering from injuries and anyone with a disability. It is VERY low impact and works on your balance and core, as well as strength trains your legs.

They offer a class at my office every Tuesday so I wasn’t able to take photos at class, since I was wedging it in between two meetings, so my wonderful husband, who did my first workout videos on YouTube with me, helped take photos of me re-enacting some of the poses from class.

The great thing about yoga, is that a lot of people start off doing it because of an injury and find the joy and advantages they get from it and continue doing it throughout their life. Because of this, there are so many adaptions for pretty much any individual need and most instructors are ready and equipped to accommodate this.

I took this class when I was injured and couldn’t even stand. Everything we did in class was easily adaptable. Just let your instructor know what is going on and they will be open to modifying anything for you.

#3. LIT (LOW IMPACT TRAINING) METHOD

Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder

This was an incredible workout! LIT stands for Low Impact Workout, so there’s no running and no jumping. On the days leading up to this class, I was so excited! The idea of a class that had no running and no jumping sounded like Christmas day to me. When you sign up you get to pick a station. Each station has a rowing machine, a floor mat, resistant bands, TRX resistant bands and a foam roller. This workout consisted of a lot of rowing, resistance training, and ab work. I even used the rowing machine for resistant workouts, like curls and front deltoid raises. In between each section of the workout you hop back on the rowing machine.

Even though it was low impact, it was still VERY high intensity. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat that much in my life! No joke – my clothes were 100% soaked through!

You can even do some of this at home with just the resistant bands! Pop Sugar has an at home version of this they do online, but there’s A LOT of leg work in that one to supplement not having a rowing machine. Click HERE if you want to check it out, you may want to fast forward a little bit to the less-leg-y part.

Please note – The lighting in the LIT Method studio was VERY dark, and my photos looked awful! So, I had to re-create photos with my resistant bands and the rowing machine at the gym.

Editor’s Note: I recently joined Orange Theory Fitness (peri-menopause is wreaking havoc on my metabolism & I needed to step it up) & found their workouts to easily adaptable and the overall vibe to be both encouraging & inclusive.

#4. AERIAL/HAMMOCK YOGA

Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder
Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder

Since Aerial/Hammock yoga, is a relatively new trend, there are several different versions of this. I’ve taken a couple versions of this class and think they’re all great no matter what level you are. Aerial yoga is a full body workout, but really helps build your core muscles, which as a CMTer, you hear your doctor always saying to keep your core strong. Along with that, it really helps to align your spine. With all the walking issues that CMT brings, I see a chiropractor pretty regularly. Aerial yoga helps to keep your spine aligned by using gravity (because you’re upside down a lot) It’s pretty much like an inversion table but with fun and cool looking moves involved. Some of these photos are taken at my house, because I own one that I hang upside down on regularly to help keep my back aligned.

The other awesome thing about it, is that you do things like hold squats and lunges, which as a CMTer is really hard for me, but when you can hold on to the hammock with your upper body, you can take some of the weight off your legs. I think this is key to building more strength- if you’re consistent at it, you can add more weight the more and more you do it.

#5. SELF-DEFENSE

Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder
Best Exercise Classes for Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder

The reason I put this on here, is not because I think this is specifically the best work out for a CMTer, but I’m a firm believer that everyone should know how to defend themselves. I’m a boxer and as an adult have always made sure that I knew how to defend myself. You don’t have to be a boxer or a black belt karate master to do this. Defending yourself can be quite easy, but requires practice and repetition. You can even practice with a friend at home. It’s important to practice being attacked so it’s second nature to perform the defense moves.

It’s broken down into 5 attack points. Everyone has pressure points on their body that are really susceptible to pain. So here they are:

  • Ears
  • Throat
  • Eyes
  • Knees
  • Groin

I recommend everyone to take self-defense classes, CMT or not!
Self-defense tips coming to my YouTube soon! Click HERE to check out my channel!

I hope I’ve encouraged you to give one (or more!) of these classes a try. Please reach out and let me know how it went!

I want you all to know that everyone is at a different level and that is OK. Just focus on yourself and try to live YOUR best life! Please join me in fighting this disease by staying fit and active as well as joining me in my fight to break stereotypes cast on the word “disability.” Thank you for reading!

 

You can find me via:

Instagram: @CMTdefy

YouTube: CMTdefy

My website: www.CMTdefy.com

Or you can email me directly at: CMTdefy@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Yoga is not my favorite either as I found out when I tried it at the HNF conference. But I can see how much it could help with balance. Warrior pose is something I think I am going to keep doing.

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