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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Tin Man Tries for Gold, Wins with Silver

Back in May, I had a woman come talk to our Parkinson's Disease Support Group about the SilverSneakers® fitness program. There are no Parkinson's specific exercise programs available in our area. The extreme Summer temperatures were already here and most of us had stopped doing outdoor activities, including going for walks. I thought it might be a fun way for my group to keep active and socialize, and all in air-conditioned comfort. SilverSneakers® is a fitness program for older adults and is offered as a free benefit through many insurance programs. 

My hopes were dashed when the overly-enthusiastic instructor started talking about "cardio" and "squats" and "lifting weights." By the time she left, she had scared the daylights out of our mostly sedentary group, myself included. I should have gone and checked it out, but I was afraid of falling or getting hurt. Trust me, there is nothing humorous about getting hurt when you have Parkinson's.  

In late August, I met an older lady at the Post Office. She asked if she could go ahead of me in line, because she was late for her SilverSneakers® class. She was using a walker and moving very carefully. Curiosity got the best of me and I asked how the classes were? She said they were great and she did the entire class sitting down. She proceeded to brag that she was the oldest in class, at 89!

Between the Summer heat and my foot problems, I'd
Parkie Tin Man Carl Ames
been too inactive. M
y Parkinson's riddled body was beginning to feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz; rusty and badly in need of lubrication. I decided to get some class info. It was a benefit of my insurance, and I could use all the facilities for free, not just the classes. My Wonderful Husband went with me to the first class.

Sarah, the instructor (not the one who came and talked to our group) told us to do whatever we felt comfortable doing. If you need to sit; sit. If you start to feel pain; stop. She said there was only one rule: You must keep breathing! No one was allowed to stop breathing in her class. This made the others laugh. 

As it turns out, the "cardio" is moving our feet to music. Similar to basic line dancing steps. The "squats" are done hovering over a chair, not squatting down by the floor and the "weights" are optional and start at one pound. We do stretches and balance exercises. We squeeze rubber balls or toss them in the air and try to catch them. We alternate between sitting and standing. We concentrate on different areas of the body on different days, but always move our whole body every class. The various movements change as well as the music, so each class is different and doesn't get boring. 

So, we started. I was in the back row, right next to the 89-year old from the Post Office. It only took a few minutes to realize I have two left feet. What happened to the Disco Queen of bygone years? I kept tripping over my own feet! When she added arm movements to the footwork, I found I could NOT do both. I found myself holding on to the chair for balance and I sat frequently. But I made it through the entire class! NO ONE cared that I was slow, stumbling or sat down! The others were encouraging and friendly (even though I was obviously the youngest one there, except for the instructor).

Here is a video of me I made after the first class:

Classes are three days a week and I haven't missed one yet. My Wonderful Husband decided he'd rather do the more strenuous pool exercises, so he goes his way and I go mine and we meet up after.

After a few weeks of classes, my rusty Tin Man body is feeling much better. Sure, I had a few muscle aches at first, but at least I KNEW what caused them. It is much easier for me to get up from sitting. I am standing up straighter. The biggest improvement has been in my balance! Watch my after video:

All in all, I'd say I was definitely a WINNER! I've got golden hair, silver sneakers and bronze skin to go with my Tin Man body! 

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1 comment:

  1. I just started the Silver Sneakers exercise class at my 24 hour fitness. I told the instructor I have PD and she keeps her eye on me. I do what I can, as slow or fast as I can, sit when I have to, and have discovered two things:
    1. I can't do different things with my hands and my feet at the same time; and
    2. my rhythm sucks!