I focus on doing exercise every day for general health and because it's the one thing we know can slow the progression of Parkinson's Disease. An exercise I absolutely love to hate is the burpee. If you're not familiar with this amazing invention designed to make the best of us feel unworthy, it goes like this:
Start by standing upright, arms relaxed at your sides, and legs at a comfortable shoulder width-ish distance (just standing normal with good posture)
Next, squat to the floor and put your hands by your feet
Kick your feet out behind you so you end up in a plank position
Do a push-up, keeping your body straight and lowering until you just barely brush the floor
From the plank position at the top of the push-up, kick your legs up to tuck them under so you are back in a squat position
Now power up and jump into the air with your arms over your head
You've just completed a burpee. Jimmy Choi, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease almost two decades ago and is a huge inspiration of mine, demonstrates proper burpee form... and, maybe, a few embellishments... on his Instagram. Goals, right?
I chose a far simpler challenge for myself. I decided to do a program that I found on the Internet called "The 31-Day Burpee Plan." There wasn't any other rationale behind doing it other than me thinking, "How can I get fit enough to handle burpees?" followed by some research. The plan had me doing burpees, plank holds, squats and push-ups every day. I chose to do them first thing in the morning, right after my Jangle. Then it was out of the way. I often supplemented in the afternoon with an Amplitude + Mental Agility + Power (AMP) workout from Daily Dose PD or a short 5K jog around the neighborhood.
The workouts were short but brutal. You can see my heart rate remains elevated throughout the entire ordeal:
To stay accountable, I posted my daily workout and running totals to Facebook each day. I had a lot of support and encouragement for sharing my journey. Ultimately, I ended up doing a lot more in a month than I imagined. I stuck with it and didn't miss a single day. Here are the final stats:
The grand totals: 775 burpees, 47 minutes total plank hold time, 353 squats and 353 push-ups.
I decided to film my last day to have a keepsake for achieving the milestone. If you're interested, this is what doing 40 nonstop burpees looks like!
In the process of preparing this video to post, I decided to create a new channel on Vimeo for my Parkinson's Disease-related content. So far, I have three videos. You can access the channel here.
After that, it was definitely time to light up the fire pit and relax outside.
I am so happy with the results of the 31-day plan that I decided to keep going. I took one day off and jumped right back in (pardon the pun). I'll be doing the plan daily and slowly increasing all of my exercises until I hit my goal of 50 burpees, 50 squats, and 50 push-ups in one day. I plan to get there in about 5 - 6 weeks.
The other thing I've been doing frequently is playing a virtual reality game called Beat Saber. The premise is simple: you have a red and blue light saber and blocks come at you fast. You must swipe the block in the direction of its arrow. Think "Fruit Ninja" but to music and with more rules. I have a theory this game is especially great for people with Parkinson's Disease (PWP) for several reasons:
It is physically demanding with advanced levels forcing you to duck, dodge, and wave your arms through a full range of motion very rapidly
It challenges coordination between both sides of the brain because you have to move each arm independently and to different patterns
It encourages faster reaction times as you learn new levels
You are forced to coordinate your rhythm to the sounds you hear for precise timing
To be successful at higher difficulty levels, you must be able to memorize patterns so it provides a mental challenge as well
To get an idea of how the game works, this is a video of me attempting a level.
I'll try to make a video showing me as well so you can see the amount of ducking and swinging that goes on. I showed a video clip to my movement disorder specialist and he was very intrigued. I suspect he may be exploring this with his other patients.
As a final note, I've successfully adjusted to my new dose of 12 mg of ropinirole per day. I continue to experience almost no cramping on my left foot and much better dexterity in my left hand. The tremors still happen but far less frequently. I'm very excited to start the upcoming immunotherapy trial!