TRX and Parkinson’s – An amazing Journey

As a personal trainer we are not supposed to have favorite clients, are we? Well, then let’s just say Elizabeth holds a very special place on my schedule. I started training Elizabeth over a year ago (Oct 2015). Elizabeth is a 68 year old woman averaging 5’2” and 120lbs. When she first came into the studio she was having a lot of pain in her upper back and was concerned with balance and core strength. She was cautious with her movements and tentative with her abilities. Elizabeth had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s 4 years prior and entered into personal training after exhausting a round of physical therapy. Elizabeth also exhibits scoliosis with a rounding of the upper back and a raised right shoulder.
I set her up with a program that would increase flexibility and core strength and also work on balance. Our first appointment and those for the first 6 months moved very slow and consisted of Pilates and yoga type movements. She had a very hard time lying flat on the floor in these first visits as the pain was too much. We started with core strength (squats and crunches on the Swiss ball). We worked also on shoulder strength and flexibility with light weight and resistance bands (bow and arrow, halos, and lat pull downs). Core strength and balance were first challenged with bird dog and moving from a standing position to a kneeling position. Elizabeth was very responsive to the exercises and had me write a list of exercises for her to do daily at home. Shortly after we started working together she was able to get onto the floor without a lot of pain in her upper back. We then moved into bridge pose and some Pilates core work. At this point I also put her on the BOSU which is a fitness tool used for balance training. It is an unstable surface that is very challenging for any individual. She was able to step up and back down without any assistance and then she was able to stand on top and complete a squat. This takes balance and core strength. We were both very pleased with her ability to complete these tasks as most individuals her age struggle with this task even without a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
At this point in her training (6 months) she expressed how she was able to better perform daily tasks and felt less shoulder pain and stronger in her core. We worked through a very similar routine every session and she stated that she worked on these exercises at home and always felt better after completing them. She expressed how some days are good and others are bad. Some days when I would see her she would say she was having a bad day. On those days she would move slower and we would move through the exercises for flexibility and for core engagement. Once she engaged through her core and loosened up she was feeling much better. On other days she would come in very bubbly and ready to go. I would continue to challenge her on those days adding in different exercises. I was always amazed at her abilities when we would add new exercises.
I decided to start using the TRX suspension straps with her and we have never looked back. The straps allow you to use your body as resistance and involve core engagement in every exercise. Elizabeth can do pushups, V sits, pull ups, squats, lunges, and supermans. We also use them for a deep stretch. Her form is excellent and she feels her core has gotten much stronger. It has also helped with her shoulder stretching and strength.
I am very pleased with Elizabeth’s physical progress. She is more flexible and feeling less pain and she is maintaining her balance work and increasing core strength. I have encouraged her to journal how she feels each day because of her intermittent symptoms. More times than not she will tell me she is having a good week but when she is having a bad day it seems to over shadow all the good. However, by the end of our session she has forgotten the bad and leaves recharged and feeling better. Interestingly, she seems to be more consistent and report more good days when we keep our standing schedule.

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