Every time I feel like I’m getting that little bit fitter, something related to Parkinson’s always manages to bring me back down to Earth…
As some of you may know, I am a keen runner, and a real believer in “Exercise, Exercise, Exercise” to keep Mr. P under control. It really does work! I am the proof, should you need any. I also feel, however, that it is important to realise what your limits are- if in any doubt about starting an exercise program please consult with your GP/Consultant/Parkinson’s Specialist nurse (if you have one). I am lucky; as a firefighter, I was always encouraged to stay fit. It gives you an added level of protection when, say, a building starts to collapse and you need to run for your life or be hit by a falling wall, but that is a tale I may tell some time in the future! Actually being able to “run for your life” may show that exercise is a lifesaver.
I have found it easy to stay fit with Parkinson’s. I can only be amazed by those of you who, after a life of very little (or even no) exercise, embrace it fully once diagnosed with the condition. I think you are to be applauded- I have found it easier to stay fit than I found getting fit in the first place. I exercise (almost) every day in one form or another. I run, I play walking football, I go to a Live Well and Dance with Parkinson’s class, I practise Tai Chi, and I go to the gym. More recently, I have started training with Reach your Peak. This was after a chance meeting with Maria from RYP, in which we chatted about fitness in people with Parkinson’s, running with Parkinson’s, and my past conquests of 12 full marathons, many more half marathons, and more 10km races than I can remember!
Anyhow, a result of this is that I am training with a “proper” marathon coach to tackle the London Marathon supporting Parkinson’s UK next April. Maria and Sally are hoping to use me as a case study to show how you can train to do whatever you want (within reason) despite having to drag Mr. P, kicking and screaming, along with you. I know running is not what most people would choose as their exercise of choice, but when I am out I feel a real ability to disconnect the Parkinson’s part and leave it behind for a while. It is the best feeling just being able to get out and run. I would encourage everyone to find something that does this for them; it doesn’t even have to be that physical (although research tells you that it should really), and it’s important to remember that we are not all able to do the same things to the same level. A guy I used to run with told me he was more impressed with those people who finish near the back of a race than those who win them. If you think about how much effort, grit, and pure determination it takes to finish your first 5km Parkrun, a lot of people wouldn’t even try. Fortunately (for me anyway), I am not one of them.
If any of you fancy it, Parkrun is on every Saturday at a park near you (in the UK). It starts at 9am, or 9:30am in Scotland- much more civilised in Scotland, I believe (sorry editor- is that too controversial?). There are even Parkruns all over the world, so you have no excuse to not do one. Did I mention they are all 5km, too (that’s 3.1 miles in old money)? For those of you who are no longer able to run such a distance, Parkrun is a volunteer-led organisation, so if you simply fancy getting out and meeting new people you can volunteer to act as a marshal; they will gladly accept any help you can give them. We all have our favourite exercise regimes, and as long as you are doing something, it’s always better than doing nothing. For some, simply walking to the shops can be a major achievement. Just think, even walking to the shops, buying something, and carrying it back, is actually an increase in exercise- I bet you’ve never thought about it like that before!
I have totally gone off on a bit of a tangent- I was originally going to tell you about how Parkinson’s has derailed my training, but just by doing this blog I feel I have sorted it out. I had a particularly stiff lower back earlier; it was agony just getting up to stand. I did something to it at Walking Football earlier in the week. Anyway, it feels much better after a good stretch! I need to stretch every morning; my symptoms include particularly stiff lower back muscles, often becoming worse just before I am due medication. I suppose it’s my body telling me it needs more dopamine; after I give it more, it always calms down (for around 4-5 hrs) before yelling for more once again. Isn’t your body brilliant? It really is a magnificent piece of equipment; learn to look after it, and it will look after you and let you do almost anything you want.
That’s me exhausted for now… I’ll be back!
PS – Limits? How do you know where they are unless you step over them once in a while?