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Mariana’s Story: Life Changes with Theracycle and Parkinson’s

One of the key components of the new Theracycle Blog is the inclusion and contribution of personal stories and advice from individuals who live with mobility issues and whom we know and respect. We’re calling these posts “Theracycle Stories”

Our first contribution for Theracycle Stories is from our friend Mariana from northern New England, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis several years ago. While MS might slow others down, Mariana’s a spirited and tireless advocate for regular and vigorous exercise as something that’s helped her “feel more alive.”

Mariana’s writing up another article for The Theracycle Blog on her other favorite exercise passion: Weight Lifting. Stay tuned.

Here’s Mariana’s story…

My Theracycle Story 

by Mariana

A couple years ago I volunteered to be a “resource person” by telephone for anyone interested in buying a Theracycle. I wanted to share my experience with this special stationary bike to help potential customers decide whether it might be the right piece of exercise equipment for them. After 6 years of “Theracycling”, I am still enthusiastic about this machine. It is wonderful to be able to exercise despite my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis!

Every so often I get another call on my cell phone from a customer who has been given my number by one of the people at the Theracycle office in Massachusetts. I drop everything I’m doing and chat with this person–usually a female, and sometimes calling from several time-zones away. I have fielded all sorts of questions, from  “Are there any benefits to riding it?” to “Will the Theracycle make me able to walk again?”

I first make sure that the caller understands how the Theracycle works: that the “smart motor” allows people to cycle their legs with whatever muscle-power they have. My able-bodied husband could climb on it and have a big work-out. Similarly, a person with little or no ability to control their legs (like me) can still cycle their legs to receive the benefits of movement and enhanced circulation. The “smart motor” can be easily programmed to accommodate differences in ability.

I also want to make sure that the caller understands the difference between the two Theracycle models available, since the upright one (model number #200) includes arm exercise, and the other (model number #100) is used in a recumbent position.

We usually chat about other things too, during these calls–swapping stories about mobility, diagnoses, or other exercise equipment–before we get back to the Theracycle. The question that comes up most often is simply “What is it like to use the Theracycle?”. I appreciate that it can be difficult to assess a machine from pictures alone. So I describe how I have climbed on and off (in different ways as my M.S. has progressed), how fast I like to program the motor to run (15 m.p.h., but it’s OK to go slower), and how I hold onto the handle-bars while they move forward and back in time with the pedals.

I also like to describe the adaptations that my husband and I have made over the years with the help of the Theracycle team in Massachusetts. For example, when I first started riding my Theracycle I used the standard foot-pedals. Later I opted to replace first the right pedal, and later the left one, with the “boot”: a pedal with added framework for securing the lower leg. Still later, when my right leg was needing more stabilization, the Theracycle team crafted an extended “boot” with extra supports.

As for the two questions I noted at the beginning of this article: No, the Theracycle cannot make a person able to walk again. It cannot restore functions. What it can do is enhance circulation, especially in the legs–although my whole body feels exercised by the time I finish riding the model #200 at 15 m.p.h. for 30 minutes. In addition to enhanced circulation, I notice that regularly riding the Theracycle aids my digestion and decreases my stress level. Plus it’s fun!

One last tip: keep pen and paper nearby. The Theracycle helps me think! So many times while riding I have remembered things that I needed to do, or thought of things I want to note. So I push the “pause” button and reach for my notepaper on a nearby shelf. Riding the Theracycle has become for me like taking a walk in the park: an opportunity to exercise, breathe deeply, and refresh myself. I hope other Theracycle users enjoy riding at least as much as I do!