January Burner of the Month: Amy Sommer

A word from Burn 60 Founder, Janet Crown: 

966 classes ago Amy Sommer stumbled into Burn 60 in search of a new workout.  Since July 2006, Sommer has BURNed through a miscarriage, a pregnancy and is now even more devoted than ever because of her Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis in November 2015. Over the last 10 years, Amy has taken an average of 100 classes a year or at least 2 classes a week. She epitomizes dedication and a commitment to health in spite of of her circumstances. 

Amy is a bit of a landmark for Burn 60. Her smile, enthusiasm and true grit keeps us all grounded when she is in a class. Nothing stops her. She inspires us all to show up, work harder and never give up.  She motivates us all to honor our health and maintain our fitness regime. Amy has shared a beautiful blog about disease. In April, Parkinson’s awareness month, Burn 60 will make a donation in Amy’s honor. 

I’m old, fat and slow. When Keith instructs us to ‘be athletic’ when performing a given exercise, I laugh.  If I ever had a prime it was most certainly not as an athlete.  And yet I take multiple Burn 60 classes each week, like so many other loyal clients who are addicted to the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that Burn 60 does so well.

Given my years, girth and ‘agility’, why am I in this webspace? Well, in addition to working out to battle the steady drumbeat of age and gravity, I have an additional reason for my dedication to Burn 60: I must fight the steady march of neurodegeneration. Sure, all of us are headed southward due to natural aging but I’m doing it in a more formal way. You see, I have Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

I was diagnosed with PD shortly after my 50th birthday in November 2015.  It was smack dab between the cutoff for early onset PD – those who are diagnosed before 40 - and the average age of diagnosis, which is 60.  Thus, I’ve designated my disease, “Precocious Onset PD” – a description I think should be incorporated into the medical nomenclature and which I’m happy to share with medical professionals should they be inclined to ask. 

What is Parkinson’s Disease?  It’s a neuro (having to do with the brain and nervous system) degenerative (headin’ south) disease that involves the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra. (black substance) of the brain.  Symptoms – in my case a typical tremor, thankfully in my left hand (I’m a righty) - start when approximately 40% of these cells have offed themselves for reasons no one fully understands, but about which many speculate.  There are many theories and much promising research – plus a universal prescription: exercise.

Study after study tells us that bodies in motion stay in motion – and that HIIT is among the best workouts around to keep us moving and above ground.  There is also a large body of research that points to the importance of physical activity to maintain cognitive abilities.

As for me, I’m fine.  I’m old, fat and slow -- but I’m here.  I’m grateful to Burn 60 for making me work harder than I think myself capable– it’s hard to tell where my natural lack of coordination ends and my PD begins – and for doing it with positive energy.  Thank you.

So workout. For your mood. Your body. Your waistline. And most importantly, for the health of your brain.

For more of my blogs on PD and other topics please see www.FretforHire.com