Improve Parkinson's in 30 days!

   

A self-experiment by and with Jürgen Zender

dr In her neuro workshop, Mareike Schwed offers, among other things, a course with the promising title "Targetedly improve Parkinson's in 30 days".

I have to admit that the title alone provoked an inner contradiction in me, since I am extremely skeptical about promises of salvation. The term neuro-workshop, on the other hand, was tempting enough for me to look further into the course on offer and book it.

On the evening before the start of the course, I sit at my desk, which is generally considered to be resistant to advice, print out the course manual and neatly file the loose sheets in a ring binder specially created for this purpose.

To prepare for what may come, I watched two videos of about 15 minutes each, in which Mareike explained the idea and concept of her course in her inimitable, extremely personable and rousing manner.

What exactly is it about?

Basically, it is about the mantra of movement, which I personally repeat like a prayer wheel, as one of the few effective non-drug therapies.

As easy as it is said, it is difficult to integrate this therapeutic approach into everyday life.

And it is precisely this challenge that Mareike faces with her course. There are 2 fundamental principles: A well thought-out training concept that specializes in special problem cases on the one hand, and on the other hand the greatest possible degree of freedom in personal intensity and time structuring. Mareike assumes different types of motivation and one of the first tasks – even before the actual start of the course – is to find out which motivation type you belong to, in order to then develop your own training calendar on this basis.

Mareike describes herself as a 46,5-year-old, doctorate in sports science, Taunus child, movement freak and time-out specialist.
She founded the neurowerkstatt in January 2015 to support people with neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and polyneuropathy on their way to self-determined use of sport, training and exercise as a health resource.

So now I'm a student and I'm confronted with an impressive collection of daily exercise videos, numerous weekly challenges and a supplementary manual. Click on one of the thumbnails to see what I mean.

 

 

 

I would like to say in advance that I have no reservations about online or video courses, as I have been doing my stretching exercises in front of the monitor every day for months. Gabi Fastner, my personal trainer, has almost become a member of the family. (see also the heading “Fit through the week”).

 

 

 

But even sworn online course rejectors will quickly forget that it is a recording. Because Mareike has the extraordinary talent to act so bluntly and spontaneously in front of the camera that a technically seen monologue becomes a felt dialogue with her.

The importance of this talent for achieving the goal cannot be overestimated, because Mareike demanded a lot from me in the 30 days.

I was given a new movement task every day, which I was supposed to carry out within the scope of my physical and temporal possibilities. It's not always easy, especially when it comes to timing, but postponing training sessions to another day was not a problem at all. Whereas I believe that simply omitting exercises would have been very detrimental to the result.

In addition to these movement tasks, you get so-called weekly tasks for strength and endurance training and there are numerous exercises that put your cognitive abilities to a hard test in a goal-oriented manner.

I have to admit that I would certainly not have invested a whole month on the basis of the statement "specifically improve Parkinson's in 30 days" and of course the course is not free either. So I needed a little more substance in the goal setting beforehand.

The goals

In concrete terms, it is about improving balance, positively influencing the gait pattern, promoting coordination in both small and large movements, gaining strength and endurance and - not to be neglected - increasing inner attitude and joie de vivre.

To get straight to the point - all goals have been achieved, but it's now up to me to maintain the level. I have to succeed in integrating the exercises into my everyday life, otherwise the course will remain a pleasant episode in my life, but nothing will change in the long term.

Now that I'm writing the article, the end of the course is exactly 4 weeks behind me and I'm still full of enthusiasm, on the contrary - the exercises have manifested themselves in my everyday life in such a way that I can't imagine life without them.

In order to illustrate the difference between the well-known rehabilitation and gymnastics exercises and what I did in the neuro workshop, I will briefly present 3 days of your choice.

Day 2, motto: Doubly unusual


 On the first day we dealt with unfamiliar gait movements (e.g. walking backwards on tiptoe), today we have counteracting hand and arm movements. The added value of such double tasks is that you don't run with your head, in other words you can no longer think about running and thus challenge your brain.

Day 9, double tugged

Today it's all about balance and balancing in different variations. We use the hand and arm movements that we practiced on days 1 and 2.

A carpet edge is enough as a balancing beam. At the beginning, what I am able to do after 45 minutes seems almost impossible to me.

On day 11, this exercise is further enhanced by Mareike issuing commands. It is important to be attentive while doing the exercises. It's a tough challenge, but I can feel that the variety keeps my dopaminergic system stimulated.

Day 17: cognitive training

There is always written documentation that goes with the videos, which looks like this on day 17:

Today we are doing a motor-cognitive double task that is becoming increasingly difficult - so you can build on it in the coming days and weeks. It's not about you repeating something, but about realizing that you're being challenged and noticing when you make mistakes.

You need…

– A line/mark/rope

IMPORTANT: be warmed up! If you can't jump, do it walking!

LEFT-RIGHT-BOTH – RIGHT-LEFT-BOTH

basic exercise

– You move along your line as follows: You stand on both feet to the right of your line/marker. Now you jump off and land with your left foot to the left of the line, then your right foot to the right of the line and then to the left of the line with both feet (see image below where they start RIGHT-LEFT-BOTH). Then it continues: right foot to the right of the line, left foot to the left of the line, both feet to the right of the line. And from the beginning :-)

Medium

– Like the basic exercise, but with each floor contact a number or a letter is added, so you count out loud! LEFT-A-RIGHT-B-BOTH-C-RIGHT-D-LEFT-E-BOTH-F etc. or LEFT-1-RIGHT-2-BOTH-3-RIGHT-4-LEFT-5-BOTH-6 etc .

Professional

- The same exercise. But now you combine numbers and letters: LEFT-A-RIGHT-1-BOTH-B-RIGHT-2-LEFT-C-BOTH-3 etc. or vice versa.

Next levels of difficulty

– Count backwards, recite the alphabet backwards

In the coming days there will be partner exercises, we will train our gait variations on uneven surfaces and we will challenge our balance in the great outdoors.

Just as there is a zoom meeting every week where we review our experiences, our difficulties and successes, there is also a very comprehensive reflection of the entire course on the last day..

There is still a lot to tell and to describe what these exercises do, what they do to you,

For me personally, it was important not only to imitate the exercises, but also to understand them. To understand why they work the way they do, what they mean for our dopaminergic system and, above all, to experience for ourselves that the thesis that “exercise is a sensible non-drug therapy” is true.

It belongs emphatically in the collective consciousness of those affected and their relatives and will therefore have a lasting impact on the topics in the Parkinson's Journal.

But it is also true that it is almost exclusively up to me to use the possibilities that lie dormant in me. No matter how good and how informative the course may have been, it is over after 30 days and then there is no Mareike more that motivates me every day, I have to do that for myself from now on. If, contrary to expectations, I cannot do it, I still have the opportunity to take advantage of the offer of further and more intensive care over a period of 6 months. In any case, I will attend your monthly motivational and impulse lectures. But first I'll try it myself, after all I still have several months access to the videos and I will definitely use this time. 

Jürgen Zender, September 2022

A few not-so-serious outtakes from the course

Stay tuned.


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