Blogging with Parkinson's

A personal perspective on Young Onset Parkinson's

A Lifetime of Avoiding Exercise

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Oh, the irony of it. After a lifetime of avoiding exercise for the sake of exercise, I am told that I must exert myself in that direction.

Am I unfit? Probably. Not ridiculously so; I have a perfectly reasonable body shape, I’m not overweight and I’ve never had problems associated with a lack of exercise. It’s just that my philosophy on exercise has always been that it should be useful exercise. So, walking instead of catching the bus or driving a car; cycling where possible; parking just a little bit further away from the shops in order to avoid exorbitant parking fees. Maybe a bit of swimming to remind myself how to do it just in case I fall in the river. Oh, and walking for pleasure. The thing about walking is that you can look around and enjoy what you see; if you’re going much faster you need to be looking out so that you don’t collide with anything.

I was always a bit clumsy. Maybe that’s why I didn’t take to P.E. and Games at school. Tall and just a bit gangly, I never had the coordination to catch a ball, to throw it properly, nor even to run effectively (it was as though these long legs of mine just dragged; I never quite tripped over them, but it was always a possibility). I disliked team sports because, being inherently bad at them, I let down the rest of the team. I also found most sports boring, both to do and (especially) to watch.

I learnt to swim and was lucky enough to learn how to ride a horse. I enjoyed that, mainly because of the interaction between animal and rider. I was even reasonably good at it, but it was expensive and time consuming, so we stopped riding by the time I was 16. I also learnt to ride a bike, but didn’t take to cycling when I was a child because I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere worth going. My parents thought the roads were too dangerous and so I was restricted to the estate, which I could just have easily walked around.

Eventually, I stopped using the admittedly rather dreadful bike I had (it was a shopper style bike, bought for me because it was very adjustable in size; I understand the economy, but deplore the reality). It languished in the garage for a while and eventually got given away.

In the meantime, I walked everywhere. Even at university, I walked. The buses were expensive in Brighton and Hove, and the timetables nigh on incomprehensible (I did use the local rail service to get to the campus, though). Then I moved to Hull (more properly known as Kingston-Upon-Hull; the locals just refer to it as ‘Ull). After 8 or 9 months of walking (the buses were cheaper, but old habits die hard), it occurred to me that, because Hull is very flat and there were no hills worthy of the name, it might be a nice idea to try cycling again.

To cut a long story short, I bought a bike (a second-hand sports tourer) and found that it was a jolly useful thing and that I rather enjoyed cycling.

I moved to Southampton, worked out how to use the friction gears, and carried on cycling. I got a proper job and bought a car because home and work were too far apart, but I still used the bike to go into town (Guildford, at that point) at the weekends because the car parking was very expensive. A new job and another move brought home and work within 5 miles of one another. I jumped gleefully back on my bike (replacing it with a slightly better one) and left my car at home most of the time.

That was probably the fittest I ever was.

I pretty much stopped cycling when my first child was born, and since we’ve moved to a village, there is less reason for me to cycle even when the children are out of the house at school and preschool. It’s barely worth digging the bike out of the shed to go somewhere in the village, and the roads to the nearby towns are much scarier to cycle along than the roads within most towns (think traffic speed and the expectations of drivers seeing bikes).

So now I have to exercise, and I can’t think of any useful ways to do it. Just taking the kids to school / preschool isn’t good enough; I need to do “about an hour” of cardiovascular type exercise to minimise further dopamine losses. I also need to work on my “core strength” and to maintain my flexibility.

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