The October PTP diary topic was “Beginning to Exercise”. I’ve revised this slightly to discuss a new exercise. In the coming weeks I begin my challenge to complete 11 one mile swims in 11 Pacific islands. I feel confident that I can slowly complete a one mile ocean swim, but it wasn’t always that way.
As we face every changing physical challenges related to Parkinson’s, it can be difficult to maintain exercise schedules. Fortunately, many exercise options have been adapted to the needs of those with Parkinson’s, such as dance, tai chi, and boxing. However, even with specialized activities it can be intimidating to try a new exercise. This was my experience with swimming…even before I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Years ago a recurrent knee injury limited my running, so I began swimming in the neighborhood pool. My unstructured workouts consisted of only a few laps, but the following year I decided to enter my first “mini-triathlon” with a 200 yard pool swim. As the race date approached I felt confident and signed up for a nearby sprint triathlon with a 500 yard pond swim. The moment the starter's gun went off, was the moment swimming became a true challenge for me. My only prior open water swimming experience was as a child in the rivers and lakes of Montana. When I put my face into the murky pond water, I immediately forgot how to swim, and more importantly how to breathe. In the next 15-20 minutes, a combination of freestyle, dog-paddle and back-stroke got me around the swim course of my first triathlon. Since then I have slowly gained confidence in swimming.
To this date, I still feel intimidated when I swim at a new location or attempt a new distance. But when I follow through and complete the challenge the feeling is so rewarding. So I strongly recommend that everyone with Parkinson’s, especially those joining PTP, attempt a new exercise and enjoy the feeling accomplishment you get when you successfully meet a new challenge.
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