Silence the Symptoms! Parkinson’s and Exercise

Do you ever scroll through Facebook and marvel at articles or fan pages showing the 75 year old who ran a marathon? Or the 65 year old who has the fitness level of a 35 year old? Just because one is aging — a fact no human can prevent — doesn’t mean muscle strength has to deteriorate if it is maintained through regular exercise. The unfortunate reality is, the adage “use it or lose it” is a well-established truth, according to a study in the Journal the Physician and Sports Medicine done in 2011,

What if one suffers from Parkinson’s Disease? Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that occurs when dopamine generating cells cease to function. It is classified as a movement disorder. Common symptoms of the disease include tremors, difficulty walking, and balancing, as well as loss of motor skills.

Can it be possible to slow down the progression of a disease that occurs when the dopamine generating cells cease to function? Can one reduce common and obvious symptoms of shaking, slowing of movements and difficulty walking? According to the American Academy of Neurology, the answer is yes. While Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, and there currently is no cure, exercise can slow down the speed and increase dopamine and neuroplasticity, according to NeuroReport 2013.

In 2006, a man living with Parkinson’s for fourteen years literally shuffled into the Ridgewood YMCA in Bergen County, New Jersey. After managing the disease with exercise, the 50-something year old began falling due to persistent Parkinson’s symptoms, and over time, his ability to exercise on his own became more difficult. Previously a runner, his goal was to achieve the highest fitness possible and worked with a trainer attacking each symptom as it occurred focusing on high intensity (particularly spinning), core, yoga and balance exercises. After several months, he was able to reduce his Parkinson’s medication due to the improvements from a regular exercise regime. In 2011, he had participated in the local Ridgewood 5K Run four years straight.

Enter Carol Livingstone. Carol is the Health and Fitness Director at the Ridgewood YMCA in Bergen County, New Jersey. She holds a degree and multiple certifications in training patients with Cancer as well as Parkinson’s Disease.

Motivated by this patient’s success, Carol began researching exercise programs that specifically addressed Parkinson’s patients. She wanted to focus on people who had early stage Parkinson’s to help them reduce their symptoms. She eventually discovered Delay the Disease, a group exercise program affiliated with the OhioHealth healthcare system in Columbus, Ohio. Delay the Disease was co-founded by David Zid, BA, ACE, APG Director of Movement Disorder and Musculoskeletal Wellness at OhioHealth and owner and president of DavidZid Health Works, a personal training facility and Jackie Russell, RN, BSN, CNOR, Co-Founder and program director. David and Jackie began training older adults who suffered from Parkinson’s and after years of evidence-based research, co-created a Parkinson’s-specific program for trainers. They both speak throughout the country spreading the program and its benefits. They also created a specialized program for caregivers and partners to help loved ones using Delay the Disease exercises at home on a daily basis. Delay the Disease is a wellness program that empowers patients, puts them back in control, and offers hope and optimism in the face of a progressive neurologic diagnosis.

Delay the Disease was exactly what Carol was hoping to find through her research. In 2010, she flew to Columbus, Ohio, where she participated in a 2-day program and received certification to train those afflicted with Parkinson’s using the Delay the Disease program. She learned about the signs and symptoms, clinical progression and current research and assessment tools with Parkinson’s patients. Without any advertising, word of mouth spread at the Y, and she began the 12-week pilot program with 19 people. They pre-tested people’s movements, and tested them again after completion. The exercises focused on balance, agility and mobility, and generated significant results. At the onset of the program, one male participant could not rise out of a seat without assistance. Well over six feet, the task was difficult even with his wife’s help. After the pilot program ended, he completed 7 unassisted rises from a seated position in 30 seconds. Similar gains were made with other people’s balance and agility.

More importantly, a community developed at the Y for Parkinson’s patients to exercise, and commiserate. Working together as a group had the effect of disarming the isolation normally felt by Parkinson’s sufferers, since the entire group had symptoms such as shaky hands and difficulty rising. This allowed the group to exercise and motivate each other and maintain their dignity. Eventually, Carol trained several trainers and the program spread to four additional YMCA’s as well as Valley Hospital in Northern New Jersey. The program was so effective that every Occupational and Physical Therapist working at Valley Hospital was trained using the Delay the Disease program to help Parkinson’s patients in the hospital. When those therapists weren’t at the hospital, they volunteered with Parkinson’s patients at the Y.

While a Parkinson’s diagnosis will affect roughly 60,000 Americans a year, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, that does not necessarily mean those patients should cease an active lifestyle. Exercise is shown to reduce effects of the disorder, and research continues in hopes of finding a cure. If you are interested in learning more about Delay the Disease and its efforts, go to

WGN and the Holocaust Graphic. Oy.

My husband and I were discussing over dinner the debacle that is the WGN graphic incident. In case you weren’t on the internet, or you don’t live in the Chicago area, while doing a story on Yom Kippur, the WGN 9 PM News used the Holocaust yellow star with Jude across the middle as their graphic to convey the Jewish holiday. The graphic also included nice blue and white striped vertical lines to suggest the prison clothes worn in the camps. I’m not going to comment on the utter stupidity or insensitivity of that graphic. I’m just going to say that the Holocaust survivors are dying off, and as much as people are aware of the atrocities they faced, there is still an enormous lack of understanding in conflating this symbol with a religious holiday.

Let’s face it, how often have you heard politicians attack each other or presidents by calling them Nazis? Is it so unusual to hear presidential candidates suggest another holocaust is inevitable if the Iran Deal passes? How often has the Israeli army been called Nazis? Are there not men of power who continue to deny the Holocaust ever occurred? If the Holocaust is thrown around so easily, is this offensive graphic really a surprise? When politicians and others throw the Holocaust around for political gains and scare tactics, it truly diminishes the impact and lessens the impact of the history it created.

My children learned about the Holocaust in Hebrew school beginning in fourth grade. In middle school, the Language Arts curriculum included a Holocaust unit. In Social Studies, they studied world religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. However, I live in a fairly Jewish community. It makes me wonder what students learn about the Jewish religion in areas with different ethnic backgrounds.

Perhaps there is a disconnect between who the Jewish people are and their history. By equating the Holocaust with a Jewish holiday suggests a lack of understanding and education as time marches on.

Taking a cue from Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 69 years old. June 5 usually represented what my family called, “Birthday Week.” My mom kicked off 6 days of Dairy Queen cake for her, Portillo’s chocolate cake for my son, more Dairy Queen cake for my husband and finally, some kind of cake we weren’t already sick of, for me. It was exhausting because I usually had to cram in kiddie parties and family gatherings (we combined my husband’s and mine, but the kid got his own). We always started off strong for my mom though. She always got her choice of dinner and an M&M Treatza-Pizza or Pecan Cluster Dairy Queen confection. In my family, Gemini’s ruled. And that was cool.

It’s ironic that this week my Facebook page was inundated by Sheryl Sandberg’s post acknowledging the end of Sheloshim for her husband Dave Goldberg and shared by people who’ve lost parents. I also read Mayim Bialik’s post on about the loss of her dad and grieving in a public space. I would like to have a minyan with both of these women and I’d also include Sheryl Strayed, but she’s not Jewish, so maybe she could hang out there anyway?

I have no epiphany to share in the mourning process. People tell me the “firsts” are the hardest, but Birthday Week is forever shortened by one day, and I don’t see that ever improving. I considered sitting in my backyard among my mom’s flower pots, sipping ice tea, wearing one of her large brimmed hats and rereading The Great Gatsby not only because it was one of her favorite books and I have her note-filled copy but also because my son needs to read it over the summer. I guess in a way, that’s taking Option B.

Bibs, shorts and apps. Bike stuff.

As of May 19, I have ridden a total of 125 outdoor training miles in preparation for Ride the Rockies next month. Abysmal spring weather has dampened what is generally the time for accumulating base miles. However, I’ve been in this situation before, and because I’ll be in Denver next week for my pre-RtR Colorado Camp with my friend Sue, I know I’ll pick up more miles. I’m not going to put a number as to how many, I just hope the weather allows us to ride.

In the spirit of my pre-RtR days, I bought some new stuff because I haven’t purchased bike gear in years and more importantly, if I’m on the saddle and climbing, comfort is a must.

One thing about Ride the Rockies is, whatever you begin the day wearing, you will strip off by the end. So I highly recommend a handy little app called, What To Wear Cycling. Pretty obvious, but it uses GPS so you get your weather conditions. Yesterday morning, I checked it and reluctantly pulled out the leg warmers and full finger gloves. Day 2 of RtR is Grand Mesa, and I vividly remember starting with gloves, leg and ear warmers and jackets, peeling stuff off as we climbed and quickly redressing at the summit which was around 30 degrees. It was strange as I descended in mid-June and immediately headed for hot tea at the food station.

I also bought new bike shorts. I like Pactimo and bought several of the same pair for my 2012 ride. I still wear them, but this time I tried bib shorts. I see so many women, particularly triathlon women wearing them, so I figured I’d give them a shot. They are very comfortable and a little more streamlined then shorts. I like the almost girdle or Spanx compression too. However, I do not get how they can be worn on long distance rides. Seriously. Guys have the advantage here. I know I will not want to take off my shirt and nearly get naked in a tiny porta-potty each time I have to pee. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re making the trip, but I did get new Pactimo shorts which I’m packing. Ladies, do you wear bib shorts when riding long distances?

The last thing I got was a new Gore Bike Wear Women’s Cycling jacket. I bought my first Gore jacket in 2004 and I still wear it today. It is by far the most durable, convenient and practical piece of clothing I own. It has an inside back pocket and strap so I can stuff it up into itself and wear it as a belt. It also has zippered sleeves which is tremendously helpful when riding long distance. I searched all winter for an updated version but sadly, couldn’t find it. Does Gore want us to wear more of their clothing? What I bought is useful in wind and rain, but it doesn’t provide any the features as my original. It doesn’t even have pockets! What’s the point of a CYCLING jacket if you can’t put your full-finger gloves away when the temps warm up?

I’ll probably wear it in case it rains at Red Rocks when we see The Decemberists.

Three strikes you’re out or third times a charm?

I received my Ride the Rockies swag in the mail. A cool t-shirt and hat as well as a sticker and some kind of yay you’re doing this insane ride promotional  card. I enjoy the freebies and souvenirs of events I enter, but I never wear the stuff until after I finish. Why would I walk around saying I ran this or that if I haven’t yet? And yet—the promotional card for RtR clearly states, wear this hat! Wear this t-shirt! Tell everyone you know that you and 2000 of your closest friends will be participating in this 7 day 465 scenic wonder that IS Ride the Rockies!

I woke up this morning to 36ºF and snow on the ground and promptly returned to bed. I rode my bike outside 16 miles once earlier this month and cannot in good conscience, start wearing that damned, taunting swag until I at LEAST ride 20!

Do you wear your swag before you participate in the event?

The Blessing of a Red Light

Author Wendy Mogel, author of  The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus is on to something. The gist of her parenting books basically argue that it is acceptable for children to be imperfect and that we are doing a disservice as parents by removing obstacles and failures from our kids’ lives. It is healthy, natural and a blessing to experience some defeat. She’s saying, which is absolutely true, that the whole “Everyone’s a winner” mentality is not real life. So get over it. But this is for the most part, a bike blog; I shall now conclude  the parenting metaphors for the day.

I’ve ridden in many assorted groups, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of cyclists. One group, when approaching a yellow or red light, refuses to unclip and gently bobbles, balances and quickly removes the self-inflicted wedgies while waiting for the light change. The highest priority is the moment the light turns green they can haul ass, reassert themselves as alpha leaders and continue to surge and make those folks in the back feel like Duncan yo-yos.

The second group are my comrades and fellow bike slackers. As I approach a yellow light, a warm flow of relief encapsulates me as I know I can not only slow down and unclip, but chug some water and take some nice deep breaths. Because we all need a recovery, and I’ll take it wherever I can. On my club ride this week, I ride my 45 second pull at 22 m.p.h. as long as I obtain my 1 minute 15 sec draft. There were 3 riders. Now some of those red light haters might say, “I don’t need no stinkin’ recovery, and I can pull for HOURS.” I say baloney! It’s usually the people who say they don’t need it who quietly thank God and traffic they finally get a break.

While my Tuesday Night B Ride might qualify as a recovery ride for some, it is not for me. The ride gets drop-ins from guys who can recover with a 19.5 m.p.h. ride because they are Super Riding A Dudes. For me, it is an interval workout ride because 19.5 is really fast. This week, I finally felt that I had my first respectable ride so far. My first B ride stunk as my average speed was around 16ish. I could barely climb the faux flats at a decent clip and needed the group to allow me to catch up. It was more a D ride than any other letter, and I didn’t go home feeling like king of the pack. But this past Tuesday, I respected myself on the ride.

So really? It’s ok to breathe deep and drink water. It’s ok if you’re not the fastest person on the ride, and those red lights are allowing you to catch up. It’s ok to be a B rider rather than an A. Having realistic and attainable goals make those moments of achieving them really satisfying. I am happy with myself as long as I improve and don’t think the entire team needs an “everyone’s a winner” ribbon. Then again, I’m a Generation X’er. Are we still called slackers? I’ll let you know at the next red light.

Riding Outdoors? Not me. Not yet.

I confess. I have no athletic goals for 2014. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve signed up for some things, but I haven’t been “training” specifically for anything. Nada. Nil. Nothing. Honestly, after leaving Ride The Rockies early last summer due to my mom’s battle with Multiple Myeloma, I’ve been slightly distracted. It’s amazing what happens when a family member takes ill. Everything else falls by the wayside, including caring for myself. Last fall, when my mom was hospitalized, I had been running 7 miles and had signed up for the Soldier Field 10 Mile Race for May 2014 and hoped to beat my last run from 2011. Well, I’m currently building my base back up at 2-3 miles because I haven’t run regularly since October. Everyone says you have to take care of yourself when you’re in a crisis mode for someone else, but that is easier said than done. I could not even think about myself when my mom was in the hospital. It felt selfish and a waste of time since I could be with her and talk to doctors. But it’s true. You have to take care of yourself because you need to be strong for the person you’re caring for. In December, I started riding on the trainer indoors and running on the treadmill but nowhere near the amount or regularity one needs to adequately participate in an race.

So what did I do? I signed up with my husband to ride a century for Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Foundation. I get an early season goal to achieve and raise money for a good cause that effects 26 million people. SO—if you’d like to contribute to Tour De Cure please follow this link I truly appreciate it.