It is a common occurrence to assume that what is familiar to you is familiar to everyone. It’s like growing up surrounded by people of only one colour or not having allergies- you believe that everyone is like you, even if that is not the case. Yet, all it takes is one person to change your entire perspective! Much in that same vein, when we set out to create WeStretch, we had no idea of the demographics we would cover. Our founder, Karen, set out to design an app to efficiently regain some of her flexibility. After six kids and being in her fifties, she could still pull off a mean backflip on the trampoline, but she would hurt for a few days after. She is what we assumed our average audience to be.
Enter Chris. A computer-loving go-getter with a passion for the possibilities of the new. He has quickly become one of our super-users, making a conscious effort to stretch for at least forty minutes a day, and being so keen to pass the word on to anyone who pauses to listen. He also has cerebral palsy.
I recently had a chance to interview Chris about his experience with us, and it was fascinating! He has such a wealth of knowledge that I was able to leave our meeting with more ideas than when I came in. Not only is he our first known user with cerebral palsy, but he is the first person I have talked to about what life is like when you have a muscle disorder.
The CDC website (www.cdc.gov), defines Cerebral Palsy (CP) as a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. While it doesn’t necessarily worsen as someone ages, it does often require surgery, medication, and a lot of physiotherapy. Chris was open enough to share that his cerebral palsy was caused at birth due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around his throat, depriving his brain of oxygen for several minutes. He was grateful, though, that his parents insisted on him growing up outside of a hospital and raising him to have a normal and full life.
For Chris, cerebral palsy is not all he is. People tend to see his crutches first, and who he is as a person second. For some people, that is the very reason they shut down, but Chris uses this as an opportunity to befriend and educate. He understands that a lot of people have limited experience interacting with people with disabilities, but that there is always room to grow and learn. He wishes that cerebral palsy becomes a part of daily conversation, much like how depression and anxiety are starting to be.
Chris shared that in his case, he can walk normally if he has something to hold on to. Due to the nature of his job, however, he spends most of his day seated at his computer desk. He is using WeStretch to help him get back to his agility level that he had in High School, where he used to play soccer and street hockey, as well as using it as an engaging way to stay active. The coolest thing is that since our interview, he has reached out to say his leg mobility has increased so much that he can now raise his right knee as high as his keyboard drawer! :D
One of the biggest things that stuck out in our interview was how Chris stressed that the bulk of apps and fitness programs out there are catered to those who are already considered ‘gym rats.’ If someone with little-to-no exercise experience tries one, they will likely push themselves too hard and get injured or burnt out after a single attempt. This is where he began singing praises of WeStretch, since we intentionally start out “too easy,” making movement accessible, obtainable, and repeatable.
The other unintentional bonus that Chris found with WeStretch over traditional fitness or yoga apps, was our ability to focus on or remove specific body parts in a routine. He couldn’t do more than half of the other challenges in various methodologies, whereas with the customizations with WeStretch, there was only a handful of movements that he had to modify to be able to do successfully! We had created a fitness app for literally everyone!
Chris has since been incredibly helpful in keeping an eye out for little software bugs and for finding additional resources for us. It is so cool to have a fan who wants to be this involved in the growth of our app! Promising a solid two-month effort, Chris is more than halfway there and is going strong! They say it only takes twenty-one days to form a habit, though, so I think Chris is stuck with us for the long haul! ;P
Even though our app started off focusing on users like Karen, we are glad that Chris has shown us that the sheer possibilities are endless and that EVERYONE can make do with a little more stretching in their lives. He has brought up the possibility of using WeStretch as a form of rehabilitation with stroke patients or bringing it into seniors’ housing as a form of daily activity. There is even thought of people who finish therapy three months after a car accident, who can use the app to regain their full mobility!
I write all of this, not only to say that everyone can and should stretch (find me a legitimate excuse, I dare you!), but to see the impact a single person can have. Chris didn’t need to reach out to us. Yet, he took the chance, and I may be bold in saying this, but I believe that both of our lives are better for it. We have a fresh perspective on what stretching looks like and means to different people. Chris has an app that works for him and he has the opportunity to be a part of something even bigger than we ever could have imagined.
All this happened from meeting someone with a different perspective, and we think that’s pretty darn neat. :)