Bob Molinari: Training to Combat Parkinson’s Disease

Bob Molinari came to Body Balance just under three months ago to work with personal trainer John Perez to help him combat the effects of his Parkinson’s disease. He had heard about the success long-time Body Balance client Janet Cristiano, who also has Parkinson’s, was having with her Body Balance personal training, and thought a one-on-one approach would be beneficial for him too.

Now retired, Bob had had a very physically demanding job, making a career as a fire fighter and then fire captain for the San Francisco Fire Department. He understands the benefits of physical exercise. Once diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he did try group boxing classes, which have been shown to improve Parkinson’s symptoms, but the classes didn’t cater enough to his specific needs.

Frustrated, he stopped training until he discovered Body Balance. Bob came in for an assessment and immediately it was clear: Bob is determined, but perhaps a little too determined. His biggest challenge was slowing down and making his movements more deliberate. That is, he gets moving faster than his brain can keep up, and that has let to falls. At over 6 feet tall, that’s critical to avoid.

John’s fundamental focus, then, has been to remind Bob to be intentional in his movements. Specifically, John runs Bob through a routine before every movement: “Pause, stand up straight, pull shoulders back, say out loud what you’re about to do (this cues Bob’s brain), and then execute.”

This approach has been enormously effective, and when Bob doesn’t go through these steps, his execution is much less successful. As to the specific types of workouts that Bob is doing, it’s a mix of obstacle courses John sets up in the gym, body weight exercises, weight lifting, and primal, or functional movements.

John and the rest of the Body Balance staff are excited by the improvement Bob has made in his short time at the gym: “Bob shook more when he first came in,” says John. “And before, he had a particularly hard time not losing his balance when he rotated. Now he can turn around and be steady on his feet. The intentional movement is really a key here. His strength is also improving.”

When asked what he liked most about working at Body Balance, what keeps him coming back, Bob says, “I like when John challenges me and mixes it up. I like to be pressed.” Ever striving, he’s also quick to add about his personal training goals, “I want heavier weights.”

Cherie Turner

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