“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged forty-three but, looking back, I can recognise symptoms from around my mid-thirties. There are people diagnosed much younger than I was, it is not solely an older person’s disease, and it affects people in different ways.
I continued working for about ten more years before I took retirement as the symptoms became progressively more difficult to deal with. I also had to stop sport, which was hard as I played many to a high standard. I probably went through a period of depression. I knew I was missing something, as I was not physically active, but I didn’t know exactly what that could be.
Through my neurology team I became aware of Nordic walking and its reported benefits for people with Parkinson’s. Close to where I lived there was a newly started Parkinson’s Nordic walking group, including for partners and friends. I joined up and from day one I was out in front developing a rhythm for my dynamic movements, which I know can aid neurological recovery. Ensuring a good heel strike and rolling through my foot to my toes soon sorted a lazy right foot and being challenged to keep my head up addressed my posture (apparently, I have a natural, five-degree forward tilt). I built up my strength and stamina over increasing distance training sessions and within a year of starting, I Nordic walked the Bristol 10km in an hour and twenty-two minutes, passing a fair few runners.
As well as the physical side, the importance of the post-walk coffee and cake and camaraderie should not be forgotten. Walking in the park in all weathers, absorbing the vitamin D with like-minded people of dissimilar ability, who all shared a common issue, led to lasting friendships. It made me feel part of something good.”