I am a Writer for ‘Parkinson’s Road’ global support community.
Over the last week, I did something rather extraordinary, for me! I signed up to membership of our local Leisure Centre! I now have access to use of all of the facilities; including gym, pool and the various classes that run from there. I have ordered some new gym wear and I have booked myself in for the first of three one hour sessions with a Personal Trainer, later this month.
Those of my readers who are also family and friends will no doubt be shocked at this news! Indeed, I am a little stunned at myself for such an out of character decision! In fact, it is so out of character for me to consider not only going to a gym, but also to attend a physical exercise class with ‘other people’, that I have even wondered whether this is part of a compulsive behaviour that is caused by a side-effect of my Parkinson’s medication!
Then, I remind myself why I have taken this decision. There are a few serious reasons. One, is that I owe it to my spouse to do everything I can to remain as mobile as possible for as long as possible. All of the research suggests that Parkinson’s progression can be slowed by regular exercise. “Use it or lose it.”, they say. It would appear to be true, from everything I read and everything that my Neurologist and medical support teams advise me. If it truly is possible to hold off some of the degeneration and disability that lies ahead of me, then I must do that. It would be unfair of me to not do everything in my power to hold this disease at bay, when I know that it has such an effect on the quality of life that I share with the person closest to me in life.
Another reason for my decision is that an inspiring friend in Canada, called Tanya Lestrange, has taught me a lot about the benefits of physical activity when living with a degenerative neurological disease. Tanya is one of the team I am part of, of volunteers, who facilitate and run Parkinson’s Road.
Tanya also lives with Parkinson’s and she is a shining example of how maintaining fitness and agility can make a positive impact on life, as a person with Parkinson’s. Not only did she encourage me to “Get that body moving.”, as she also motivates the many members of Parkinson’s Road, but I told Tanya that I would commit to doing this. After all, we can’t give our Members of Parkinson’s Road this advice if we are not prepared to do it ourselves.
(Find Parkinson’s Road on Facebook; if you are a person with Parkinson’s or a Carer for a person with Parkinson’s).
Finally, a key part of this decision to actively take up regular exercise comes from my relationship with myself. I know that, in the future, I would hate to look back at how my life progressed, following diagnosis, and feel remorse and regret for not having done enough; for not having tried and for not having fought this disease with everything I have. So, I have no choice but to do what is uncomfortable and daunting. Not doing so would mean that, in the future, I would be disappointed in myself. That is unacceptable when, as stated above, my illness also affects those closest to me.
Over the past six months, I have lost a stone in weight. I have achieved this through simple dietary change and by becoming more active. I made a decision to improve diet and to take up more physical activity and then, day by day, I made healthier choices that matched my decision. This is working well.
Over coming weeks and months, I will update my readers on my progress. This will follow my first appointment with the Personal Trainer at the gym on 21st May. If I survive the workout, I will write about it and you can share my journey into fighting the progression of Parkinson’s. My personal Trainer is called Nathalie and she will be starting me off with three induction sessions. She has expertise in coaching people with Parkinson’s Disease, which is very helpful.
My thoughts. currently, are on how many times per week I should attend the gym? What kind of swimming ability will I have now, as a person with Parkinson’s, compared to when I swam in my younger years? Will I be brave enough to go to a weekly specialist group exercise class aimed specifically at people with Parkinson’s or MS? What will my symptoms be like after doing a workout in the gym, or following a swim? What if I struggle?
Will I even be able to walk or to drive myself home? This is where the anxiety can start to build, for it is easy to anticipate potential difficulty. I intervene in that thought process by reminding myself what I tell my clients in my role as their Counsellor and Psychotherapist…
“Don’t create a story that has not happened, for you will develop an uncomfortable emotional response to that story, by doing so.”
One day at a time. I have my membership in place for the Leisure Centre. I have my session with my Personal Trainer booked. I have my new gym wear on order and I am now just awaiting Monday 21st, to get started.
Wish me luck! If you have been through/are going through a similar experience, do leave a comment below and share your story.
(c) Dean Parsons. May 2018.