Plateau Revisited


Plataeu: (v)  a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress.(n) an extensive area of flat upland usually bounded by an escarpment (i.e., steep slope) on all sides but sometimes enclosed by mountains. The essential criteria for plateaus are low relative relief and some altitude.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that it is worth another discussion. It breaks my heart when I read about recent stroke survivors who are in despair after they are told by medical professionals that they have plateaued and not expect anymore improvement six months post-stroke. The “opinion” is prevalent and frankly, distressing.

Athletes, musicians and mountain climbers all hit plateaus. They do not stop training, practicing or climbing. They see these plateaus as an opportunity to hit reset and develop new plans.  Often, after these plateaus, the athlete, musician, etc. come out better, stronger and more determined.

The Ugly Cycle

So why then, are stroke survivors told that after six months, we have reached a plateau, not to expect any more progress? 

A stroke could cause serious physical and cognitive deficits. Losing the ability to stand, eat or speak is shocking and emotionally devastating. When a patient enters inpatient rehab, therapy is really intense. The stroke survivor will make big improvements.  Upon discharge, outpatient therapy is also intense. Progress seems to be at an upward pace. Family members, friends, doctors, and therapists are encouraged by this progress no matter how minor.

Eventually, insurance will limit therapy sessions. The survivor gets tired,  friends and family are not as enthused as they have been in the beginning.

Doctors start bringing up the possibility that recovery has stopped. Anyone hearing this will surely be discouraged. The survivor might lose hope and motivation and would no longer work hard on their recovery.  Subconsciously halting their own progress. 

Do not let anyone put a time limit on your recovery. Change may be slow, but you would still be moving forward. 

When you hit a plateau, here are some ideas you might consider in order to help you move to the next climb.

  • Continue doing your exercises: Even when it seems you are not making progress, do not stop working on your exercises. Repetition is key to rewiring our brains.
  • Challenge yourself. Even if it seems the challenges seem like baby steps.
  • Avoid comparison. This is advice that I need to take myself.  Seeing other survivors doing things that I could only dream of makes me sad. I need to embrace my own progress. Comparison is self-defeating behavior.
  • Reward yourself: It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It could be something as simple as a nice long bath or quiet alone time with a good book. Or a luxurious massage.
  • Ask for support: Push your therapy team for help. Ask them for different therapeutic methods they have not tried. Rally your family and friends to continue to push you and help you in your recovery efforts
  • Share your success: Share your victories large and small with support groups, family members and/or social media. You never know who you will inspire.

I’ve learned to accept that I am in this recovery trek for the long haul. I will see peaks which I will celebrate, valleys where I can give myself the space to heal and renew my spirit.

When I reach a plateau, I will use it to recharge, analyze and adjust my methods to continue my road to recovery.

Much Love,

Momma Berna


Walking San Jose

I signed up for the 408k race a few months ago. It was right around the time I decided to get serial casting to help with my foot drop. I had high hopes that by the time race day arrives, I would be walking better and faster.  My plan was to train during the months of December and January so that when February rolls around, I would be ready to tackle 5 miles of San Jose.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way I expected them to be. I was getting miles on the treadmill, at the park and at the track.  My leg and my foot were still not working with me. I was suffering bad neuropathy after walking a few miles.

I know I needed someone to walk the race with me. I reached out to a former co-Represent Running Ambassador. To my surprise and gratitude, Ashley said yes! There was no backing out now.

The weather forecast for race day was grim. Rain all day. A storm was blowing through the Bay area on Saturday. Armando was trying to talk me out of walking. I love running in the rain, but I wasn’t looking forward to walking in the rain for two hours.

rainbows, downtown san jose, 408k, SAP, start line
Chasing Rainbows

Race day came and the sun was shining! It felt so good to be around a race environment again. Being surrounded by motivated, strong and determined individuals were energizing. At the same time, the crowd, the loud music, and the activities were overwhelming. I was anxious.

I started the race feeling good. I was walking faster than my usual pace. The atmosphere was energizing.  Anxiety was quickly fading away. The weather stayed dry and the sun as out. It even got warm enough that people were shedding layers of clothing. Ashley & I were enjoying getting to know each other as. We plug right along. A few runners asked me how I hurt my leg, (I just shrug my shoulders), while others were cheered us on.  Eventually, all the runners passed us. My neuropathy started to kick in around mile 2.5. About halfway done. Each step felt as if I was walking on fire. Other than 2 other women, we were the only ones left on the course. I was really touched by the families who stayed out to cheer us on.

We got to the three-mile mark. I took a pain pill which helped relieve the neuropathy. But no amount of medication could relieve the spasms. My left leg was giving out. At mile 3.5 I asked Ashley if I could hold her hand. She saw my distress and knew I needed help. Ashley offered to ask one of the sweep cars for a ride. I resisted at first. But I knew in my heart, I would end up getting hurt if I continued to walk. So I accepted the ride. Sgt. Mario wanted to drop us off as close to the finish line as possible. That was just not acceptable. We were in the car for about half a mile. There was one last mariachi band playing, a handful of volunteers cheering us on, and a fine drizzle had started to fall.

Dead freaking last

Ashley and I crossed the finish line hand in hand. The spectators had gone, other runners enjoying their well-earned bunch were cheering us on. But much to my delight Represent Running was still there to announce our finish. I might’ve ugly cried a bit (the rain helped hide it. It was great to be greeted by my friend Josephine at the finish line. She came out to support me and give me a ride home.

Finishing this race meant so much to me. This is my favorite local race. It is well organized by a group of amazing, passionate and really, really nice folks which gives this race a true hometown feel. I have not run any races this past year because I had lost my mojo. This is the longest distance I’ve gone since the stroke.

Ashley, you believe that every runner counts. Girl, you literally walk the walk. Thank you, thank you for your support, your encouragement and for recognizing I’d be out of my mind if I didn’t stop and hitch a ride with the officer.

My Take Aways:

  • There are really good people out there. Ashley and I have only met once in person. We’ve mostly communicated on Instagram. Yet, she readily said when I asked her to help me with this race.
  • Mind over matter is a great mantra until it’s your mind that matters. Leg spasms came as a result of exhaustion. There was no way I could control them.
  • I need to listen to my body. I didn’t want to get a lift from the officer, my pride would not let me. I would not have finished the race at all if I didn’t take that short break.
  • Runners as a group are encouraging, helpful and supportive people.
  • My the spasticity and tone on my quads are still really high. I have more work to do to get my leg to bend. I am looking for ways to get relief.
  • As much as I would want to run another race I need to work on getting my left side working. I am putting too much on my right side creating possible long term damage.

I will find other ways to get that adrenalin high. I will continue to work on getting stronger, working on my balance and healing the rest of my body.