Focus on the Big E – Exercise

(something on the lighter 🙂  side for weekend reading)

Okay.  Enough already.  I can hear the moans and groans echoing through the Internet.  But there is no getting away from it – exercise is vital for everyone who wants to reach the “Golden Years” with enough agility and energy to at least get out of bed.  It is especially important for anyone suffering from a movement disorder like Parkinson’s Disease.  Without challenging those arms and legs and hands and feet,and even facial muscles, the rigidity will set in big time.  Now, being as I am not a medical professional, I will not give advice to anyone other than to urge you to consult your physician and together develop an exercise program that is right for you.  What I will share with you is my own experience with exercise.

It has been a love/hate relationship, for the most part..  I’m not one of those people who love to run or jog for the sheer joy in it.  But I’ve always recognized the need for it, especially as I love to eat!  But I tend to get bored quickly with any one routine.

And so, yes, I sweated to the oldies with Richard Simmons.  We toned Downtown together, and Uptown together, We stretched, worked on abs and even toned to the sound of Broadway .But boredom eventually set in and I decided to shake things up and join a class.  Maybe working out with other people was the ticket.  So my sister-in-law, Pat , and I joined Elaine Powers, but unfortunately it was located above a Friendly’s Restaurant, so we would work up a good appetite upstairs and stop for lunch at Friendly’s on the way home.  You don’t know how good a Friendly’s hot fudge sundae tastes until you’ve eaten one after an hour of exercise! I guess we didn’t quite have the commitment  we needed.

Several years later, I tried an exercise class again, this time with my friend Denise.  We went about twice, and then Denise found out she was pregnant, and that ended that.  We moved then, from New York to North Carolina and there I met Lisa.  Always coming up with new ideas, Lisa convinced me to give an exercise class one more try. So we set out to Jazzercise.  First of all the drill, I mean dance, instructor must have just returned from washing a company of marine recruits out of the service.  I feared for my life every time I went left when everybody else was going right, which was almost always.So, if you ignore the fact that I was going left when everyone else was going right and that the grapevine step literally entwined my feet together(and I didn’t even have Parkinson’s to blame for that back then) not to mention that two days later, every muscle in my body was crying out in pain,  I guess you could say I had a terrible time.  Never looked back. Never went back.

Then there was the summer Lisa decided we would take a walk every day, only not along a tree-lined  path, but back and forth across the widest part of our Racket and Swim Club swimming pool. Two thirty something ladies, plowing through the water, back and forth.  You get the picture,  Lisa called it water walking but it was more along the lines of dork walking., especially to anyone sitting poolside and trying not to laugh.

But then I discovered a sport I was really semi proficient at  – tennis.  Once again the indefatigable Lisa talked a group of us into taking lessons with the club tennis pro.  He must have been the most patient man on the planet, and he taught us well enough that we were even able to play against our husbands.

Watching tennis players is a sport in itself.  Early on, each of us developed our own style…Lisa would scamper across the court and try for any shot possible, Kathryn would stand at the back of the court and with a mighty swing lob those returns with as little movement as possible. If the ball didn’t fall into her zone,  it wasn’t worth pursuing.  I just  ran around the court  trying not to look too much like a dork and keeping my eye out for that Jazzercise instructor. We were so dedicated to our sport that one time we played as  a hurricane was approaching.  We laughed so hard as the ball, would make sharp right and left turns in its journey across the net.  We continued to play tennis until the Parkinson’s symptoms interfered with my ability to run and after a nasty fall while on vacation,  I decided to hang up my racket.  To everything there is a season…

Next up, I found out that my friend, Kathryn, was walking early every morning around our neighborhood.  Sounded like  a good idea at the time, and so I joined her. For FIVE years we walked diligently, in the dark of winter and the humidity of summer.  We solved not only all of our own problems, but those of the rest of the world as well because we could talk as fast as we walked, but we never lost a pound.  We had read that if you walked three miles a day for five years you would lose 20 pounds.  We decided it must be waiting for the last day to melt away all at once and our svelte, toned bodies would emerge, – but nothing. Nothing lost  (and nothing gained!)  Not even a pat on the back  from the President or the Nobel Peace Prize for solving the world’s problems!

Anyway,during all this time there were two forms of exercise I came across that I actually liked.  One was (in those olden times) a video cassette of a walk at home program  designed by Leslie Sansone.  Now this I could handle.  Walk in place with  a few variations — kicks, knee lifts, side steps and kick backs. I still do them today.  I really like one of her recent ones, now on dvd, in which she adds intervals of an easy jog to the walk.  The music helps you keep the pace and as long as you’re moving, you’re doing okay. Sounds easy, but you do build up a sweat.  I’ve written her to ask if she has ever considered adapting her program for people with movement disorders because I envision a time when I will not be able to keep up with the regular programs.  I hope they do.

The second one was yoga.  I had practiced it for years, and attribute the degree of flexibility I have to it.  Despite the Parkinson’s I am able to bend at the waist and place my hands on the floor next to my feet without bending my knees.   I may not be able to twist myself into  a noodle but I can do downward facing dog and the warrior II poses and my balance, so far,is okay.

Lately I’ve been exploring Tai Chi, and can do simple routines but the more complex ones are beyond my ken.   I also have trouble moving slow enough (odd thing for a Parkie to say) but it’s true. In Tai Chi you move real s-l-o-w.

I round out my exercise routine with cycling and weight lifting.  There is a study being conducted to determine if forced cycling (90 RPMS +) helps Parkinson’s patients with their mobility.  Many claim it’s true so I decided to give it a try, I feel like my gait is smoother, and its great exercise, nevertheless.  I join my husband and son three times a week for weight lifting to keep my muscles strong.

It’s a lot for someone who prefers reading on a chaise lounge or writing this blog,  to getting all sweaty and hot and bothered but, for me, at least, it’s part of my arsenal, helping me to stay focused on taking control and standing firm, and so:

…I prepare for the fight, the battle’s begun
like it or not, there’s nowhere to run
for there is a precious life on the line
though it’s hard to believe… that life is mine
but with bat in hand, I step up to the plate
and I take a good swing, before it;s too late
I hit a home run, it’s out of the park
I consider this,  a very good start
I’m in control and, it’s easy to see
I’ll never let it get the best of me!

Now guess what? Time to exercise.  Hold on Leslie, I’ll be right there.

Pat

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