I am feeling good right now, with some small sense of accomplishment. I am heading home from a camping vacation in California, which I had anticipated with terror. Why? Because the reason for the trip was an invitation from my husband’s brother and wife to join them hiking in the Sierra Nevadas. Sounds great, right? But these were no mild hikes, rather three days of high-elevation , high mileage hikes. (My in-laws are training for travels to Tibet ). I like to hike and have been hiking in preparation for this trip, but nevertheless I was terrified at the thought of a 15-mile hike (times three!). I would like to say that I successfully completed all three 15-mile hikes. No, but I did do the first 15-mile hike, 13-miles the second day, and the third day – well, my feet were pretty beat up, so I only did five miles. And this sea-level gal was hiking at 9 to 10,000 feet.
My husband and I completed the vacation by hiking 4 days in a row at Lassen National Park, another high-elevation locale in California. One day was 14 miles, the rest were each about 5 miles or so.. Today, as we climbed from 7100 feet to 8000 feet (with beautiful views of the mountains around Lassen Peak), I was pleased that I didn’t feel like my lungs were going to burst, and that I didn’t have to stop every 50 feet to catch my breath. Gosh, maybe I am getting stronger!
Now the trick is how I can keep up this level of exercise. Exercise is supposed to be good for people with Parkinson’s. It doesn’t reverse the disease, but it mitigates the symptoms: stiffness, balance, gait, dystonia, etc., etc.
When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the doctor recommended that I walk 30-60 minutes every day. I almost burst into tears right there in the examining room. My reaction wasn’t because of the Parkinson’s diagnosis. No, I was wondering when would I have the time to squeeze in another hour a day for exercise. This was one of the big factors that caused me to decide to retire.
Now that I am retired, I consider exercise my job. I try to do something 30-60 minutes (at least) a day. The “something” varies. Frequently, it is walking either alone or with my walking group. Walking with my buddies inevitably gets me walking faster, and I love the social aspect of the group. I’m impressed by the discipline of one of the walking group, who walked around the hills of my local town 8-11 miles a day, 5-6 days a week for months carrying 15 lbs in her pack, to get ready for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain (over 490 miles – wow!).
The other main exercise option I do is to drag myself to the gym. I duly use the elliptical or treadmill or swim, but never seem to get much huffy-puffy. I also do various floor exercises described not only by my brief encounter with the gym’s personal trainer, but also from a file folder of physical therapists. I’ve never opted for the gym classes – frankly they terrify me – everyone else seems to be from some Alien Super Race…..I mean, really, how do they do those spinning classes?
But something’s gotta change. I am inspired by my fellow Parkinson blogger who just wrote a posting about finishing a 6-week exercise “boot camp”. Natasha has early onset Parkinson’s, dystonia in her right hand, two little girls to raise, and is further along the Parkinson’s journey than I am. Yet she says: “ I had essentially convinced myself that I have PD and I can’t do those crazy [boot camp] workouts anymore. Well, the fact of the matter is that’s just crap and deep down I knew it.” You go, grrrrl! I can’t wait to meet Natasha in person at the World Parkinson’s Congress.
So I return from a great vacation ready to try something new with the exercise job. Watch this blog for a potential project (hush, hush).