Get yourself active blog

Nina Bergonzi: How Nordic Walking keeps her physically active.

Friday 19 October 2018

This week’s personal experience blog post comes from Nina Bergonzi who has Dystonia and uses Nordic Walking to help keep herself physically active.

I am a 28-year-old woman with a chronic neurological condition which makes getting healthier more complicated.  I have Dystonia; which causes involuntary muscle spasms.  Mine is a complicated case and every muscle in my body is affected.  I have had Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, I have Botox injections regularly in my hands, feet and legs, and take medication daily.  There are days I cannot walk and can only mobilise in a wheelchair.

I am in constant pain, whether I am mobile or not, and needed a way to get fit that didn’t cause my pain levels to spike too much.

I have used walking sticks and crutches in the past so, when I heard about a new Nordic Walking group I thought it was a great way to try and improve my fitness. I contacted a local instructor who advised me to come along and try it out. Together with my mum and friend, we attended a training session.

Nordic Walking uses specially designed poles to enhance your natural walking experience. It combines the simplicity and accessibility of walking with simultaneous core and upper body conditioning, similar to Nordic skiing.

This results in a full body workout, which means that you:

  • burn up to 46% more calories compared to walking without poles
  • release tensions in your neck and shoulders
  • improve your posture and gait
  • strengthen your back and abdominal muscles
  • reduces the impact on your joints
  •  increases your maximum oxygen uptake and caloric expenditure
  •  combats obesity
  •  increases blood circulation and metabolism
  •  enhances mood
  •  good cardiovascular training
  •  suitable for all: irrespective of age, gender or physical ability
  •  it also tones 90% of your body!

For more information please go to: https://britishnordicwalking.org.uk

I was concerned how I could cope. My instructor was great and put me at ease straight away. Chris lets you work at your own pace and makes each session a little bit different. This stops it being boring and keeps it fun. We can regularly be found laughing and chatting as we walk along. The other members of the group are lovely; and the social side has definitely helped me. Being disabled can be lonely and chatting to different people has helped improve my confidence and mood.

I have noticed I am becoming more toned and each session has left me less breathless.

Even though I struggle to hold the poles, my toes are in constant spasm and each step I take is agony, I am enjoying the time spent with others and improving my fitness. Even by just enjoying the scenery or breeze on my face, each session leaves me feeling brighter. It has helped my well-being and I feel mentally and physically stronger already.

Our first training session was over two months ago, I have now purchased my own poles and am looking forward to using them to get fitter. Even if that is just in my own home or garden when I am not well enough to go out!

The hardest thing about wanting to get fitter – which will improve my quality of life – is being judged by those who do not know me.

During these last two months, there were three weeks I did not leave the house. I barely walked and was having severe, full-body muscle spasms for a few hours every day. I was drowsy from medication and aching from the storm (what we refer to severe spasms as).

I did notice however that my body seemed to recover a bit quicker; unfortunately for me over the past few years these storms have become a regular occurrence, and I was keen to get back out and join the walking group again.

That being said, in the back of my mind is always the worry about my disability benefits. What if my one outing a week to get fit affects my benefits? Unfortunately, the way the UK currently is, I know this is a worry for a lot of disabled people.

I am unable to work due to my Dystonia, and if I lost my benefits I do not know what I would do. Having a rare condition that not many know about – including medical professionals – means there are others with Dystonia who do not get any benefits at all.

I am only out for an hour, and our routes go through public gardens/parks or around the perimeter of sports fields, and includes warm up and warm down exercises. Other groups do more challenging routes. My disability limits me, but I feel this small amount of exercise has been beneficial.
Being in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, there are fewer opportunities and facilities for disabled people, but if you look, I’m sure like me, you can find one that really does help.

To see some extra pictures that show how Dystonia affects Nina go here.

In other news: In her post Nina writes about her fears of losing her benefits. New research shows almost half of disabled people fear losing benefits if they take part in exercise.

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