During Million Mile Month 2015 we sat down with Carla Schweizer, who is a mom, grandmother, wife and multiple sclerosis survivor of 23 years. After feeling “left out” of fitness events for years because of the condition of her MS, she was empowered by her ability to participate in Million Mile Month and inspired to be part of the community working toward 1 million miles together.
Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
I am in my early 60s, and a proud grandma! I have 2 daughters, 5 grandchildren and 3 grand-dogs. I have secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis and was diagnosed with MS 23 years ago. Prior to my first MS attack we lived a very active life. Going on family bike rides, golfing, hiking and camping. Due to the nature of primary-progressive MS I was able to continue an active life for awhile, but as the MS progressed, the more dependent I became on an electric scooter or wheelchair for getting around. After 29 years teaching in the public school system, 7 years ago, my MS progressed to the point that I could no longer teach. Now I spend most of my days at home as it is often difficult for me to get out and around without assistance from my husband or friends.
How did you hear about Million Mile Month?
Both my daughters and my sister-in-law were participating in Million Mile Month and mentioned it to my husband and I. My daughters live in St. Louis, Missouri and Austin, Texas, and my sister in law lives in Madison, WI, so we were curious about a fitness event that they were all able to participate in together. Normally they are required to travel hours to do something together! We looked into the event and immediately my husband wanted to sign up and participate as well. I was intrigued, but wrote it off as just another fitness event I wouldn’t be able to participate in. I asked my daughter if she knew of a way I could donate to the cause, even though I couldn’t log miles, and she informed me I could participate. Although I can no longer walk, I do have a rowing machine that I use each day. When she told me I could count my rowing minutes towards the Million Mile Month goal I was really inspired. It had been years since I was able to participate in a community based fitness event!
Can you tell us about a time you’ve pushed yourself while participating in MMM?
Once I got started logging my minutes on my rowing machine, and seeing those minutes calculate to miles in my MMM profile, I was really inspired. I found myself wanting to get an extra rowing session in during the day, or rowing an extra 1-2 minutes every day. For most an extra 1-2 minutes of exercise may seem easy, but for someone with a disease, those extra couple minutes can be a real struggle. But I found myself wanting to put in those extra couple minutes to help the community.
Do you have a favorite MMM experience?
After years feeling “left out” of community based fitness events, it was empowering to be able to participate for a change! Also, it is a great event for those of us who suffer from a disease or disability, because we can participate at a time and location that we are comfortable. My MS symptoms vary from day to day and hour to hour, and often times I will do my exercises at 2 am when my muscles and brain are at their best, and other days I will exercise at 9 am or 7 pm. It was really nice to have a event that had the flexibility that I require.
Is there anything intimidating about Million Mile Month?
Not at all, and that is what was great about the event. I was able to participate where I felt comfortable and had 20,000+ cheerleaders virtually cheering me on every “step” of the way.
How many miles did you end up logging?
I logged at least 40 minutes a day every day, which ended up converting to a little over 4 miles per day, and 120 miles for the month.
Did you find the MMM online community supportive and inspirational? Did they make you want to keep moving?
Definitely. It was fun to get on the website each day and see how everyone’s little contributions were adding up to something huge. Also the Facebook group is great. I loved seeing photos and comments from people all over the world who were participating in Million Mile Month. It is so inspirational to know that even though I was just doing my little part in my own living room in Iowa, I was part of something so big.