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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Living Well - Getting the Body in Gear

Terri Reinhart

Q. What's the best kind of exercise?

A. The one you will actually do.

(from the Davis Phinney Victory Summit Symposium)

Last week, I had my regular appointment with my neurologist. She asked me a lot of questions about how I was taking care of myself. What was I doing for physical exercise? What was I doing to exercise my brain? And was I getting out into the community and being with people?

In other words, what was I doing to exercise my body, mind, and soul. I'll tackle the first one today. One thing at a time.

I was happy to tell her I was continuing with yoga and dance. I know I could also use more aerobic exercising, but at least I'm doing something regularly. She emphasized the need to do stretching exercises to keep limber. I get it. Keeping limber won't prevent dystonia, it just makes it less painful when it happens.

Yoga or dance, aren't just exercises for my body, they also challenge my thinking. I have to remember things like right and left, forward and backward, grapevine... which foot do I start on? Oops, sorry. We're going the other way? Oookaay. Dancing is also a social art.

When I was first diagnosed, we bought a recumbent exercise bicycle. It's a wonderful idea. I can ride for 30 minutes while watching a movie or listening to an audio book. I can program the bicycle to whatever difficulty level I want, and the little screen alsways tells me I have done a

Great Job! 

After we bought it, I was religious about my bicycling. Every day I upped the time slightly and in those first months, I never missed a day. I still ride it at least three times a year.

When I qualified for Medicare, I also qualified for another program: SILVER SNEAKERS! This is a great program which allows free access to the recreation center. I can use the treadmill and other exercise machines, play basketball or raquetball, and use the pool. I prefer the lazy river walking followed by a nice soak in the hot pool. Again, when I first got in the program, I went several times each week. When I go back again, I'll probably have to ask directions to the pool.

Exercise studies are also a good motivation to get physically active. There have been any number of exercise studies for people with Parkinson's in our area. It's like having a free personal trainer for anywhere from six to twelve weeks. I was just called last night about another study. This was a backwards walking treadmill study. Talk about playing to my strengths! I walk backwards well, whether I want to or not. I signed up quickly

I signed up for this study, but after thinking about it, I called back and declined. I am doing enough now. The last time I over extended myself, I ended up exhausted for weeks. Being exhausted for weeks means I fall – a lot. Too much is too much.

The best advice I've received is from Paul Zeiger, my yoga teacher. He constantly reminds us how we can turn any and every daily living activity into exercise. Before getting up in the morning, I can do simple stretching exercises in bed. When I am sitting, I can sit up straight, doing a mountain pose from the waist up. Working in the kitchen? I can still watch my posture, practice shifting my weight from one foot to another, and even balance on one foot, a modified tree pose. Before getting up in the morning, I can do simple stretching exercises in bed.

Having our grandchildren visit provides unlimited opportunities to exercise.

My posture has improved dramatically from before I was diagnosed, or rather, from before I started in yoga class. My overall coordination has improved since starting dance class. Another yoga teacher, Carol Fisher, insists we can still move gracefully, no matter how old we are, even if we have Parkinson's disease.

That's motivation.