I have known since the day I was diagnosed that the only thing that doctors and researchers have found that may have the ability to slow the progression of Parkinson’s is exercise. Yet it’s something I’ve struggled with. I struggled with it before my PD diagnosis, too. I’ve done a variety of exercise routines in the past six years. Spin class, working out on my own, working with a trainer, kickboxing classes, and walking, yet nothing really stuck. At the same time, my disease was progressing and the old regime of drugs I was on wasn’t keeping pace. I didn’t even realize how bad it had gotten until I recently moved from taking a dopamine agonist to taking Levodopa.
This is such an insidious disease that you slowly make compromise after compromise, until suddenly you are totally compromised. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The vast improvement in my mobility with the change in my medication was so significant it was almost overwhelming. Overwhelming to think that I had settled for a lesser quality of life. Overwhelming to think about what I had given up by not thinking I could do more. And then realizing that I needed to do more now if I was going to be able to do more in the future. I have mentioned here before how lucky I am to have a great doctor. I’m also lucky to live less than 20 miles from the self-professed Largest Parkinson’s Wellness Facility in the country, 110 Fitness, something I had completely ignored somehow since my diagnosis.
I had seen amazing stories of the impact of exercise on PD. In particular, boxing. The training part, that is, not the getting-punched-in-the-head part. This CBS Sunday Morning piece first made me aware of Rock Steady Boxing, a program developed specifically for Parkinson’s patients - I mean fighters. When you’re in the gym, you’re a fighter, not a victim or a patient. Although I’d tried a few boxing drills with various trainers, Rock Steady is an entirely different creature. When I finally made the commitment to myself to do whatever it takes to improve my disease state, I realized how fortunate I was to have 110 Fitness nearby. Brett Miller is the owner of 110 Fitness and coaches Rock Steady Boxing. In the three days I’ve known him, he has already infected me with his enthusiasm.
So this week I went to my first Rock Steady class. I’m not going to lie; it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I had to dig deep down into my physical, mental and emotional strength. While I’ve never been particularly athletic, I’ve also never been this out of condition before. It’s not all the Parkinson’s, of course, but that contributed. But as I was summoning my will and pushing as hard as I could, Brett was right there next to me yelling, “Welcome Home!” And he is right. I was home. The place where I need to be. The place I need to keep coming back to. The place where I found encouragement and strength and inspiration in the faces and encouraging words of my classmates. Where I’d never felt so good about being completely shown up by 60-somethings and 70-somethings, and not an insignificant number of 80-somethings who have a neuro-degenerative disease - I mean who are fighting back against PD.
I’ve been to two classes now. Number two was even harder and felt even better. Yet I already feel good, mostly, I'm sure, because I know I have hope. I have people in my corner. I have encouragement. I have a home.