Parkinson’s and Walking

Parkinson’s challenges you. It takes something that should be simple, like walking and turns it into something substantially more adventurous than it is for non-Parkies. When I’m walking at my very best, I get into what i believe is commonly referred to as a state of “flow”. Where I’m totally absorbed and occupied mentally and don’t really even think about what I’m doing. This, I believe is how we are supposed to walk. I suspect that most, if not all non-Parkies usually walk this way. Cruising around the world, blissfully unaware that there are other, less carefree ways to walk around. On the other end of the spectrum, the worst type of walk for me is when the right side of my body gets stiff and confused about what it’s supposed to do. “Walking” this way is more “lurching” than anything and is extremely inefficient and absolutely exhausting. My walk is usually somewhere between “flow state” and “lurch mode.

Any walk, even over relatively short distances, is a bit of a mental game for me. You see, for me, achieving the perfect walk is a bit like trying to look at the sun. You know it’s there but you can’t really look directly at it. In the same way, I can’t really think too much about the walk. Otherwise it eludes me. So I often find myself trying to sneak up on a state of flow, trick my mind and body into not thinking too much about it…in practice this is hard to accomplish. It is especially difficult when I’m tired, stressed, rushed, hungry, cold, hot, or my medication is running low or not working. In general, I’ve observed that the stronger and fitter I am, the easier it is to get into a good walking rhythm.

Walking with Parkinson’s is very unpredictable. I can swing between a state of flow to a state of lurching and anywhere in between within a matter of seconds. Exacerbating the challenge is that the quality of my walk can actually follow my mental state – real time. I’ve been out walking with my family and gotten into an argument or something made me upset, next thing you know, I’m stiff and having trouble walking. Or alternatively, a sudden happy thought can bring my troubled walk back under control. I try to employ numerous tricks to get myself back into a good walking rhythm. Hold my hands over my head, skip, carry heavy things, pretend I’m almost home, mentally project targets on the ground….among others. Generally though, any efforts I have made to “figure out” Parkinson’s have been met with failure. None of the “tricks” I try to use to outsmart Parkinson’s works all of the time.

Sometimes though, I simply bypass all of these problems and jump on my electric scooter….

Scootering with the kids

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