First, check out his cameo in Gabriella Rogers’ Living With Parkinson’s. Neil is featured prominently as evidence of the power of heavy and consistent weight training as part of a Parkinson’s treatment plan. Yay Neil!!
A missive from Neil, April 11.
My occasional pieces in Stumptuous are commentaries on my exercise habits. They are not recommendations but accounts of what I’ve found possible while living with Parkinson’s. No-one should commence a vigorous exercise routine without having been assured by a medical practitioner that it’s safe to do so.
[Krista’s editorial comment: In this case, I recommend healthy skepticism about “doctors’ advice”, given that until recently, much of said advice has involved “Lie down in God’s waiting room, read some old copies of Readers’ Digest and await your termination; there’s a good boy.” Go kicking and screaming all the way, in my opinion.]
Mandy has left a question on part 1 of my blog. Calls me a dude, and says it’s about time for an update. (Is being a “dude” complimentary or a putdown?) Mandy, you’re an impatient woman. I most recently reported in December 2010. But thanks heaps. It made my day to learn that someone’s interested in my situation.
Parkinson’s disease intrudes in nearly all I do.
The timing of daily chores is dictated by timing of my medication. Minor activities of daily life such as doing up the button at my collar and knotting a tie are reserved for when medication is likely to be functioning. Clients are seen when medication is most likely to be “on.” Sleep is fragmented; I’m usually awake between 3 am and 6 am before lying down for a final hour.
Respite is found in vigorous exercise during four sessions of around 55 minutes each week.
Monday night this week was bliss. The day had been dreadful. An unusually heavy workload in my daytime occupation plus concern regarding deadlines led to severe shaking. Arriving at the gym around 9 pm, a fellow member asked if I was O.K.
After 10 minutes cycling, 15 minutes rowing increasing pace to flat out, and 25 minutes lifting weights my body had become “normal.” What a feeling!
The impediments of PD drift away as I pick up pace. Dr Parkinson becomes briefly anonymous.
In indoor rowing, indoor cycling, and pushups/situps/unweighted squats competitions at the gym there’s no “PD” alongside my name on the printed results. My biggest handicap in the “55 years and over” events is being 65.
This Wednesday, I rowed for eight minutes, starting slowly then increasing pace to a 1 minute 44 seconds/500 metres rate in the final 30 seconds. On the decline bench, I started with 6 x 80 kgs and finished with 1 x 110 kgs (242 lbs).
Horizontal bench is being avoided until slight soreness in my right shoulder goes away. I’m told that my speeds on the bike and in the rower along with the weights I lift are unusual for a man of 65 years.
I was diagnosed with PD in 1998 and commenced gym activity in 2000, at age 54. Apart from possessing a set of 120 lbs weights and a weightlifting bar in my final year at school and occasionally attending the uni gym in my late teens and early twenties, I’d had no lifting experience.
My training regime differs from exercise undertaken by many with Parkinson’s in that it
was commenced, and continues, for overall health and physical fitness rather than as therapy for Parkinson’s;
is conducted in the company of the general public, not a specifically Parkinson’s group;
follows targets and programs set by myself;
demands close to maximum exertion;
assumes that exercise = flexibility + aerobic “stressing” (pushing heart and lungs) + strength and “strength” means to maximum capability.
In January 2000 I was overweight and unfit and decided to do something about it.
I was met at my first gym session by a cheery but tough lady who pushed me hard in my first months. Sweat is my main recollection of 2000. By 2004 I’d realised that sweaty training sessions bring me temporary relief from tremor and rigidity.
“Bradykinesia,” slowness of movement, is one of three major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Weakness is included by some as one of numerous other symptoms. (See link below to article by Falvo, Schilling and Earhart.)
What’s going on in my case? Can intense physical training from soon after diagnosis overwrite symptoms? To what degree do shortcomings in speed and strength of many living with PD simply reflect lack of fitness resulting from a lifestyle cocooned from physical activity?
My training follows six separate programs, one per session. There’s nothing magic about the number six. It simply ensures specific exercises aren’t repeated too soon.
I lift lower repetitions and “heavier” weights rather than higher reps and lower weights. Higher reps cause me soreness. I’ve not been injured unless a painfully stiff neck for a week around seven years ago could be rated an injury.
In February 2004 I read an article online in a gym equipment journal describing a training program for a gentleman with a terminal neurological condition. The author was Dr Krista Scott-Dixon.
I emailed Krista, complimenting her for what she was doing and recounting my own situation. Krista kindly suggested some exercises. Exchanges continued for several years before Krista asked whether I’d agree to my accumulated commentaries being transferred to her Stumptuous website. That’s how I come to be here.
What does a Google scan of the literature tell us? It tells us that professionals’ opinions have moved a long way since first coming to my attention around 2003. Mainstream advice told me then that, having Parkinson’s disease, I should not exert myself and not lift heavy weights. I was classified as a “patient.”
Times they are a changing!
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