It’s All Relative

I seem to get my most interesting thoughts when I am on my way home from the gym, probably because I am still amped from the caffeine I ingested before I left the house at 4:45 am ….I haven’t done a post for a couple of weeks as family life and ups and downs have me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. So, here goes….

I have this new gym.  It’s quite a bit different from my old gym.  At my old gym, we focused primarily on a mix of strength and conditioning, using a lot of old-school weightlifting, bodyweight exercises like pushups and pull-ups, kettlebells, etc.  I loved my old gym.  Sadly, Andy has gone back to North Carolina and left me to navigate the wilderness of the Colorado Springs fitness scene by myself.  It was not an easy task, and there were a couple of months of trying every gym in town and every possible type of exercise. 

I finally came to rest at KineoFit, which is a gym similar to Orange Theory (without the orange lights and eardrum-killing tunes).  You spend 30 minutes on either the treadmill or a spin bike, then you switch and do 30 minutes of strength training.  The strength training could be anything from kettlebells to TRX to dumbbells to mobility exercises to a Kinesis machine.  The cardio side works off a set heart rate percentage.  One day you might be starting at 70% of max, working your way to 75, then 80, then 85 then back down to 75 again over a period of 10 minutes.  Some days you may keep it under 80%, some days you may be pushing to 90% several times.  You have to be able to get your heart rate up quickly and recover quickly.  You also get ‘points’ for how well you keep in those prescribed zones during the workout.    

Great, you have now thrown this uber-Type-A girl into a competitive workout situation.  Nothing I like better than a good competition!  I’ve been at my new gym for about a month and a half, and the competition piece of this is very interesting.  I tend to go very early AM, where there are probably about 8-10 people in a class, and on Sundays, where there are usually about 15.  For the most part, I have surprised myself by being one of the top 3 in terms of points most workouts.  That made me feel pretty good!  I’m in great shape!  Then this morning I came into a 6:30 class with about 17 people, and I learned who the REAL competition was!  I was nowhere near the top 3 today, although I still did about as well as I normally do in terms of points.   

I was a little bummed as I was driving home.  Then I thought about the groups I had been with, and how I was ranking differently on different days.  It seems silly to judge your workout by your score compared to everyone else, because you end up feeling awesome in a week where you are number one or two every time, then feeling like you had a crappy workout the very next week because you were pushed down in the ranks.  It’s all relative to who you are dealing with on a given day.  Maybe today I was pushing against 20-year-olds (and let’s face it, I’m probably never seeing their built-in level of basic athleticism again in MY lifetime!).  Maybe I was working with seasoned amateur athletes who compete in the real world.  Maybe those people with more points were on the treadmill, which makes it easier to modulate your heart rate.  Who knows?  The problem is, you CANNOT truly measure your own situation against someone else’s, because there are too many variables.

Our PD journey is shaping up a lot like this.  We are at the beginning.  Others are much further down the road.  Others have completely different symptoms.  We started out paying quite a bit of attention to all the players in our support group meetings and Facebook groups.  I spent time in caregiver support rooms, reading and not really participating.  It was frightening because it felt like looking into a cloudy, evil crystal ball of what our future might hold.  There were a lot of details about the intimate and ugly side of Parkinson’s that no one really wants to think about until they become your reality.  

I think part of our thinking at first was sort of like my class, we were a little overwhelmed but still feeling like we were in a good place because we DIDN’T have to deal with any of those bad things yet.  And maybe we would be the lucky ones and never see the uglier aspects.  I was comparing us to them, and feeling like we were coming out on top and it was a pretty good feeling.  Maybe I needed some way to see this in a more positive light. 
The more PD people we meet, the more I temper this feeling.  Not to a point of complete negativity, but more to a point of realism.  I see now that EVERY SINGLE PERSON with Parkinson’s that we meet is different.  Some move around easily, some don’t.  Some have cognitive difficulty, some don’t.  Some have a tremor…. Well, you get the picture.   Just because Mo’s PD doesn’t look like everyone else’s right now doesn’t mean it’s better, or we are better or more fortunate than anyone else.  This is not a game we are playing, and there is no winning.  This big group we have suddenly become part of, and this Parkinson's community is a team, but the road we are on as individuals cannot be compared to anyone else’s journey.  There is no real benefit to comparing us to anyone else, so we have to (to a certain extent) put on our blinders right now and feel our way forward and use the energy we have for positive things and not constantly worrying about the future.  

So, for all those who were hoping for a little more activity here recently, I apologize.  Mo and I have both been working hard to focus on our family and getting the Unsteady Hand ready for prime time.    We are getting through this with a dose of humility, a little Sinemet, and a lot of love and hope.  One day at a time.  But, I am still going to try and beat some of those guys in the 6:30 class the next time I’m in the gym….some things will never change!  If I didn’t have a fighting spirit, to begin with, I would have folded long ago!

Thanks for listening this week.

Tami Onstad1 Comment