Before we get to Perky Parkie’s lesson of the day, I will need to give you some background information. Prior to my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at age 32, I was a pretty active chicky! I loved a challenge. I had heard about CrossFit training, which is an extreme form of exercise. CrossFit describes its “strength and conditioning program as constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement, with a stated goal of improving fitness. Workouts are typically short—30 minutes or less—and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion.” Sounds fun, where can I sign up!
Then a Diva named Parkinson’s took over my body and everything changed. Now I had to worry about……Are my medications on? Do I feel dizzy or in pain? Can I move with ease? What if I dropped a weight, would people stare at me? What am I going to wear? If I go to a scheduled class, will my body be in the best state for exercise during that hour? What if I get Dystonia?….wait…..don’t think about it, or it will happen! What exercises can I do today? I know I can’t lift the amount of weight I used to be able to do…..am I a loser? I feel fatigued. What shoes will I wear that will keep me from cramping…..dammit! I said it! Now I have Dystonia!
But even with all this noise going on in my head….those damn voices….I am still determined to believe I can do anything. So when someone tells me I can’t….whoa…stand back, because I am going to prove to you I can. Haters gonna hate! It just gives me strength! Ok, so maybe that was a Beyoncé song, but it works.
Now fast-forward to a month ago, my husband and I were watching the ladies CrossFit World Championship. These ladies were killing it! They were beautiful, strong and smart, just like how I used to view myself. I turned to my husband and said, “I miss doing CrossFit, I would like to get back into it.” My loving husband, completely unaware of the poo storm of emotion he was about to trigger responds, “There is no way you could. You can’t with your Parkinson’s.” Boom! Storm hits, my mind goes Beyoncé mode and I think, “Really? Watch me.”
Skipping to Thursday evening, I am standing in front of the local CrossFit gym in my new workout pants and matching shirt, holding my water bottle and towel, which I am sure I won’t need because my amazing fitness physique. A group of ladies stood at the entrance waiting for class to start and asked, “Is this your first class?” I responded, “Oh no, I used to do CrossFit years ago and I loved it so much, I wanted to get back into it.” A few ladies mentioned that this would be their first class, so I felt it was my duty to catch them up to speed with my vast knowledge of the sport.
The instructor calls our class over to begin. There are around 15 people, various genders and body types. After attendance had been taken, our teacher tells us to run 400 meters. I first think, “I haven’t run for over a year!” But everyone in the class begins to jog, and my ego says, “Suck it up! You ran a 5K mud run….stop whining.” So I pick up my stride to hang with the group. Not even half way through, I start to fall behind. Everyone one is passing me, but I try to remain calm. It didn’t take long before no one was behind me, and I could only see distorted figures of my fellow class mates in the distance. I am gasping for air like a fish out of water when my slow pace turns into a walk. I round the corner of the gym and then start to run again just to fool everyone into thinking I ran the whole time. Maybe I had to stop to tie my shoelaces or help an injured dog on the road…..they don’t know! Back in the gym, the class is kindly waiting for me, while they stretch out. I come in panting and then bend over trying to catch my breath. This isn’t going as planned.
We are directed through some movements to learn the proper technique of a over-head squat and push press. Now I have heard that girls don’t sweat, they glisten….not today! I am dripping with sweat. Looking for my towel, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone around looked like they had just got out of a nice relaxing massage; no heavy breathing and they didn’t even have a sheen of moisture on their brow. The voice in my head is screaming encouraging words like, “You got this!” and “Don’t pass out, that would be embarrassing.” As the minutes go by, my determination pulls me through to what I thought was the end, then I hear, “Good warmup, now it is time for the workout”. Ummm….come again?
I was starting to feel like I was going to vomit, but I could only hear my husband voice telling me I couldn’t do it, so I pushed on. We move to the wall, where we are directed to get a 15 lb. ball to practice the wall ball squats. I muscle the ball onto my shoulder, squat down and then using my momentum, I power the ball up the air. The ball hits the wall and then bounces back at me with the force of a rocket, I barely catch it. The instructor stops class and directs only me and a lady who is no taller than 4′ 10” to get a smaller, lighter ball. The gym is quiet as the class patiently waits for us to exchange out equipment. I look back at my new friend as I catch some glances of frustration from other students. Some even held their ball under one arm against their hip, like it was a huge piece of popcorn. I lower my head and get my lighter ball.
The workout consisted of three exercises, to be completed in sequence aiming for as many rounds that you could muster in 12 minutes. The longest 12 minutes in my life….my brain has actually blocked it out trying to save my ego from further damage. When class finished, I grabbed my water bottle and towel, which I am now glad I brought, and slowly walked to my car with my tail in between my legs. I pulled my weak body into the car, and sat in the dark trying to regain my pride.
Later that night, I was leaning on the couch when my husband got home, mostly because I was exhausted and I didn’t want to actually use energy to sit upright in a chair. I feared that my husband would take one look at me and see my defeat. So when he asked, “How was your CrossFit class?” I slowly hobbled over to the kitchen while saying, “Oh, it was good….can’t wait to go again”. Denial, party of one….your table is ready!
As I type this blog, nursing my sore muscles, I still refuse the possibility that CrossFit is out of this Parkie’s reach. The gym may have beat me that night, but it didn’t destroy my determination to keep pushing forward. It is when we give up and say “I can’t because of Parkinson’s” is when we have lost the fight. So I turned on my Beyonce attitude and signed up for my next CrossFit class….and next time, I am bringing reinforcements, my best friend!