Parkinson’s is about attitude. You don’t choose the disease, and you don’t get to choose your symptoms, you can only control your attitude and how you move forward. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005, Sandy Hendy chose to fight back with exercise. She continued to teach aerobics, hike, bike, and do running events. When her gait made it difficult to run she turned to spin classes and more biking. In 2014 when asked if she’d like to race in the National Senior Games (formerly the Senior Olympics), she didn’t bat an eye as she said yes.
While all exercise is good, a growing body of evidence is showing that intense, aerobic exercise is even better. Thus in 2014, Sandy and her training partner, Laura, didn’t just pedal around the block, they raced the clock – aiming to qualify in the 5K and 10K bike time trials. Long rides for endurance, and twice per week all out sprints.
It paid off—they placed in the top 4 of our 5-year age class therefore qualified for the National Senior Games (NSG) hosted by Minneapolis in 2015. The NSG attracts over 10,000 seniors, age 50 and older, to compete in 19 different sports ranging from bowling, shuffleboard, volleyball, and basketball, to track and field, swimming, triathlon, and cycling. Sandy and Laura found excellent competition and comradery. Sandy placed 16th, Laura earned a 5th place ribbon.
To help others, Sandy and Laura started a Pedal Plus spin class at the YMCA for people with Parkinson’s or other health issues. To keep up her training, Sandy was either doing two spin classes a day, or aerobics and outside speed work. From March through May, the pair competed in 6 different practice time trials. Sandy’s balance had deteriorated some, so they spent time practicing turns. They also tested medication and eating timing so Sandy could be at her optimal “on” period for the 2017 Nationals in Alabama. Most of all, she had a positive attitude.
The course in Alabama was hilly and curvy—not the normal flat, fast course that time trial bikers set records on and enjoy. This course took strength and sheer grit. Several bikers dropped out because of the difficulty. Come race day, it was a test of the lungs to race the clock for 6.2 miles. At the podium for the 65-70 year old women, they counted down the 8 fastest racers who would receive awards. At number 6, they called Sandy Hendy—a person with Parkinson’s and person with attitude!
Sandy Hendy & Laura Jackson are co-facilitators for PRO’s Roseburg Parkinson’s Support Group. They also teach Pedal Plus twice per week.