19. Running/Walking

  • Wun (w-un)
  • To move along at the same speed as walking, by taking steps in which one foot is lifted before the other foot touches the ground.
  • W(alk)(r)un
  • A ‘blend’ word formed of two or more words – yes, another made up word.

An advance apology : I apologise if I repeat myself.  I realise I have written about walking and running before.  As I have said this is my most debilitating problem at the moment so it is bound to feature in many blogs.

The not so small print : Please do not start any form of physical exercise without first consulting a medical professional.  Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean squat thrusts and dips a la Superstars.  It can be daily stretches or a dog walk.    Also, if possible please check with a teenager before leaving the house to exercise to ensure you are not committing a fashion crime,

On with the blog :

As I’ve said before, when meds switch off or symptoms break through, PD can make me slow and movements stiff.  This can be anything from slight to severe.  Walking can become anything from difficult to virtually impossible (yes, there are even nuances of symptoms).

One moment I could be walking fine and swishing about without a care in the world.  Showing off, weaving between people and taking it all for granted.  This can change in an instant and I stop walking like a switch has been flicked, and vice versa.

I find it difficult to understand and I often think how it must look to other people.  At the moment sometimes if you saw me at 9am you may think all was fine.  If, however, you saw me at 4.30pm ish often you could be forgiven for thinking i was always quite disabled by PD.  (I am sure I’ve said some of this before, but I haven’t got the energy to go back and check, afterall this blog is now around 17,000 words long).

Since I can remember I have walked automatically.  Not in a robotic way, but in a ‘I don’t think about it, I just walk’ way.  However, my brain must be giving out instructions without me being aware, as when meds switch off it’s like I have forgotten how to walk.

Okay, a challenge for me.  To try and find an analogy which people will relate to, involving remembering how to move.

So a selection for your delectation :

For tap dancers (a niche market) : ‘ Do a double timestep with break, right now’.  Now some will do it automatically, but some will have to think it through and break it down.  It goes something like this (although apologies if I have misquoted the steps, and unintentionally invented a new step, maybe a ‘double back flip ostrich step’).

  • Shuffle, hop, tap, step, tap, ball, change, shuffle, hop, tap, step, tap, ball, change, shuffle, hop, tap, step, shuffle, step, shuffle, step, shuffle, ball, change

For the rest of the world :

  • Do the Superman song
  • Do the Birdie song
  • Do the Pizza Hut song
  • Do the Macarena

I am assuming even ardent collectors of novelty records will have to think for a couple of minutes before getting the routines going.  (Obviously these examples don’t cater for the whole world, apologies to non tap dancers and those with more ‘rockin’ taste in musical dance moves).

So when I stop walking, I really have to concentrate to get walking again.   I often listen to music with a beat to get into a regular stride. and think about the way to walk.

  • Swing leg forward, heel toe, big steps, left leg, right leg, swing arms.

Now combine that with Flanrinsto holding me back (see blog 4)

It’s no wonder I shout at people for interrupting, or getting into my peripheral vision,  Walking takes concentration, but for some reason I can break into a run.

I was thinking about the difference between walking and running.  Running is continuous with regular flowing movements, like riding a bike, which some people with PD can do when they can’t walk.  I have yet to try cycling, which I should mention like running, is something I don’t enjoy.

However when I decide to break into a run when walking stops I have to do it instantly.  No good thinking ‘I will run now’, and hesitating, it just doesn’t work for some reason.

I shout ‘I am going to run’ and just go.  I am (sort of) like a sprinter and just go and weave through the crowd.  This has caused quite a few problems with my companions losing me in the crowd.  It has been suggested (you know who you are) that I wear a bright hat, or carry a luminous bag, so that I am a beacon to follow.

To be honest, when I work out what my brain needs to restart communication with my body, it gets it.  So the right music and now the right exercise.

It is similar to giving in to a stroppy child and giving them sweets.

  • When ‘I give in’ to my brain’s requests, I may be able to move better.
  • When ‘I give in’ to a child’s demands for sweets, I may get an overactive child, who may crayon on the walls and not eat their dinner.

I am not, never have been, and never will be, a runner.  I don’t enjoy running, but my brain seems to be able to do it automatically when I can’t walk.

Stop one moment – Ed* (*now this could get confusing, the Editor is talking to me within the blog, and as I am the Editor …)

All of this talk about my brain choosing things I don’t enjoy is negative.  I need a positive thought.  I am relishing the challenge of new activities which I would not have tried pre PD (I still don’t like running though).

On with the blog, and the subject of this post ‘running’ ;

With my new decision to set myself challenges, the need to exercise regularly, and using my new found ability to (sort of) run.  I decided, along with one of my very patient friends, to start running.

Even though I don’t enjoy running, I quite like the idea of running stylishly.

Of impulsively calling out to the family ‘just off for a run’, whilst lightly jogging by the front door, dressed stylishly in ‘Perspiring Jenny’ (you know what I mean). Going for a stylish run.  Arriving back, glowing and eating salad, after having easily done ‘just 15k’.

However, the reality was very different.  After, finally finding something to wear, including two socks (a pair would be pushing it).  I would knock on my friend’s door.  Once she had found two socks, we would spend the next ten minutes on her doorstep trying to get into the app on our phones.  We finally set off.  After half an hour of my friend jogging off and circling back to make sure I was still going, I would finally arrive home unable to get past the bottom of the stairs, I was so exhausted.

We had ‘help’ from an app on our phone, the weirdly called ‘couch potato to 5km’.  Actually, I added the ‘potato’ bit.  It should have been called ‘sofa to 5km’ in my house.

So as not to bore you with the details (running is very boring).

  • Week one : struggled to run for 30 seconds.
  • Week nine : ran continuously for 30 minutes.

That maybe over simplifies the nine weeks of struggle for my friend and I.

We both found it challenging and we supported each other.  I timed my practice runs for when I thought meds would be at their optimum.  Sometimes though my foot would lock up and my friend would have to go and get her car.  I often used my music to get me running again.

We built it up gradually and miraculously could run for thirty minutes at the end of nine weeks.

That should say ‘wun’ as I was very slow.  So although I was definitely running, I was at walking speed.

The problem is when it says ‘couch to 5km’ in half an hour, they are not taking into account ‘wunners’.  Runners may do 5km in thirty minutes.  Wunners take a lot longer.

Undeterred, after nine weeks of training, one sunny Saturday morning in June, I randomly decided to do the local 5km Park Run.  Just to reiterate,  I had done the ‘couch to 5km’ course and run continuously for thirty minutes, but I had never actually run 5km.

Unannounced at 8am, my friend opened the door to a vision in neon pink (no teenagers to check the outfit, too early).  I thank her for not shutting the door and going back to bed.  She calmly got ready and drove to the venue.

To cut the waffle, I will bullet point the run :

  • 9am, run started
  • Ran 4km like a normal ‘wunner’ (very slow and last but definitely running rather than walking).
  • At 4km the marshal said encouragingly ‘only 1km to go, you’re doing great’.
  • Well ‘flipping’ PD decided to stop me in my tracks.  Foot locked and went into spasm and I started crying*

*after extensive research crying does not help.

A couple of marshals started discussing how to get me back to the start.  At first I stood there, stressed and crying.  Then I thought, ‘right I can do this’.

  • I mentally regrouped (change of mindset).
  • Ate a bar of chocolate (small happy dopamine boost).
  • Put headphones on and selected a track (got into the beat).
  • Somehow this kicked my brain/legs into action.
  • I ran/power walked the last km, leaving everyone behind.

I was last and my friend stayed patiently with me.

My time was a ‘personal best’ 52 minutes and 13 seconds

One day, at the end of last year, an email came through about a 10 km run

I won’t waste your time with a multiple choice

I entered it.

It is now 6 weeks to go … crickey.

A few PSes

  • The Park Run was a year ago in June, quite a lot has happened since then.
  • Symptoms and meds have changed.