Caregivers & Care Partners: Finding Time To Exercise
Having been a Parkinson’s disease care partner for over twenty years, I sincerely understand how tremendously hard it is to carve out time for a caregiver to care for one’s self. I do respect the fact that every caregiver’s situation is different. I hope my story below is an example of the struggle but provides hope that caregivers/care partners can succeed in making a commitment to exercise and ultimately, to themselves.
I used to be active
I was an active country kid playing outside, walking a quarter mile driveway home from the bus stop, and participating in the high school marching band, but I’ve spent most of my life overweight. In college, I walked quite a bit as I lived off campus and had to climb a lot of steps just to get to my classes. Through these years, I never worked out in a gym or had an exercise routine. My second job out of college, I was lucky enough to work at a corporation that had a great gym and aerobics classes at lunch time. I thoroughly enjoyed working out at lunch! It helped me to break up my day and reinvigorate myself for the afternoon. My weight still fluctuated but my fitness increased. When I left that job to work for myself at home, I lost my exercise plan. My walks with my dog became my routine. Although not strenuous, I did manage to log some miles each day and more on the weekends. I did have a short stint with a trainer at a gym but even that became hard to maintain. Fast forward a few years – my daily walks with my dog continue. These walks not only help me with my physical fitness but also give me some mental health time too! I carve out about 45 minutes to an hour to walk with my dog each day. Getting out of the house helps me to re-center myself and give me some respite time from being a care partner. My husband has always encouraged me to take this time for myself. The days I must shorten these walks are usually due to my need to finish a task or scheduling an appointment that needs to occur during this time. In the past few months, my husband has started to join me some days for these walks. I’ve welcomed his presence and am glad that he too finds walking to be a way for him to spend time outdoors and increase his fitness.
And then I started boot camp...
In addition to walking, about a year ago, I started doing online searches for boot camps for fitness. My thought was that these high intensity workouts may be the jump start that I needed to not only get me back into a fitness program but also help me gain strength to reduce my weight. I was fortunate to find a Parks and Recreation program in my city that met three days a week for an hour with a certified trainer. I signed up and at first, I was scared to death and extremely sore! I was, by far, the heaviest woman in the class. I still remember that first night and weekend after that initial class. I think I fell asleep on the couch around 7pm. With every movement I made that weekend, my sore muscles cried out. However, I kept up with the class and if I was in town, I was in the class. By the Fall, I started noticing some injuries. My plantar fasciitis in my left heel was sometimes excruciating. Also, my right hip was sore, especially on the days we did a lot of squats. I headed off to physical therapy and they alerted me to needed corrections in my movements and gave me additional exercises to increase my muscle strength. Through all of this, my husband was extremely supportive, proud, and provided me with a cheering section. I lost 15 pounds, several inches, my energy level rose and overall, I felt great!!
I suffered a devastating setback in the late Fall due to a case of bronchitis, two rounds of sinus infections, and a debilitating lack of energy. I tried to muster the strength to go but I just couldn’t. I spent two months trying to find out what was happening to me and why when I was in the best shape I had been in years, was I lying on the couch so sick. Very, very slowly I began to recover and at the beginning of 2017, I started to return to the workouts. I had more trips to the physical therapist for more injuries. I really started to wonder why the workouts that made me feel so good, were doing me harm.
Boot camp was great, but not the answer
After much discussion, internally and externally, I decided to stop attending the boot camp workouts. I talked with my husband about this change and he supported my decision. I began again to search the internet for local trainers, gyms, and workout programs. I thought that working with a trainer would help me reduce my injuries. I was very fortunate to find a studio that is the brainchild of women, for women. They offered a free trial class and I signed up. As soon as I walked into the studio, I felt comfortable. One thing I noticed immediately was that the floor was padded. My 45-year-old feet, heels, and legs were SO grateful! Sometimes the little details mean A LOT! No more hard concrete like the boot camp workouts. The ladies were so welcoming and instructors immediately asked about my physical condition and issues. They helped me to modify the workout while keeping the intensity high enough to push myself. I just attended my fourth class and I’m hooked! Yes, I am sore but am starting to recover that feeling of pride, self-confidence, and accomplishment I had last year. My husband always asks how the workout went and tells me he is proud of my commitment. That means a lot!
I recently realized the difference between these two commonly used phrases; “I haven’t had time” and “I haven’t made time”. It is a subtle difference – and the difference is choice. There are many choices I make every day in deciding how to spend my time and care for myself. The power is in your hands in how you care for yourself.
Do you think there is enough awareness of Parkinson's disease?