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Fitness Together® client relies on exercise to help with Parkinson's Disease*

Donna Rajkovic’s life has been a roller coaster of a ride with ups and downs that have challenged her both physically and mentally. But, throughout the ride, Donna has had her Fitness Together® in Novi personal trainer Charles Lacasse by her side as she’s overcome torn ACL and rotator cup injuries, as well as battled early age diagnoses of Osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease. For the past ten years, Charles has helped Donna not only build her body’s muscle strength, but also build her mental strength, confidence and motivation.

“When you go through something like being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you find out quickly who’s in your corner,” shares Donna. “Charles has always been there for me as my trainer, cheerleader and supporter. He’s helped me fight through things, especially when I might have felt like giving up. He’s given me my life back and for that I’ll always be grateful.”

With a disease like Parkinson’s, you can experience a lot of muscle stiffness and rigidity that can quickly progress if you don’t stay active. Donna is dedicated to do what she can to slow the progression of the disease by doing strength, flexibility and mobility training with Charles at the Fitness Together® in Novi studio 2-3 times per week, as well as doing regular cardio workouts either outside in the summer or in the studio during the colder months. During Donna’s personal training sessions, Charles focuses on using a progression workout approach that uses a combination of weight-based training, body weight, TRX, stability movements, range of motion and stretching. But, he always adapts and modifies each workout depending on how Donna is feeling that day and the limitations from her condition she may be facing.

“One of the things I always tell Donna is to work smarter, not harder,” advises Charles. “The difference between her fitness level now and what it used to be is really amazing. She’s now at a point where she’s doing a lot of the things she used to do when she was in the best shape of her life. In a lot of ways, she’s even in better shape. But, with Parkinson’s, you have to know when to put on the gas and when to let off if she’s having a flare up. When she has flare ups, we just change the way we train by focusing more on correcting her everyday movements and helping her be more aware of her body mechanics.”

In addition to the physical benefits of working out, Donna also has benefited tremendously from the mental benefits as well. It’s easy to get down on yourself and to quit when something like exercising gets hard, says Donna. Instead, it’s important to change your mindset to keep looking forward and to have someone on your side who can help keep you focused on what’s important. By having a trainer that supports her and motivates her to focus on the positive, Donna has been able to roll with the punches that Parkinson’s can deliver and keep a healthy perspective toward meeting her goals.

“You can really get down on yourself, get depressed and suffer through the pain,” shares Donna. “But, Charles never lets me wallow in self-pity and he always helps to keep things positive for me. At one point, I had fantastic muscle strength, was moving really well and feeling great. With each challenge, you get a little set back, but knowing that you’ll get back to the point where you’re feeling good again is really motivating.”

“The mental benefits of working out are huge because it’s helped to keep Donna on track, focused and positive,” continues Charles. “I told her when she was at her worst that we would get her back to where she was when she was feeling her best. At that point, it was tough, but we were able to stay focused and it’s just fantastic how far she’s come. I’m so happy to see everything that she’s accomplished. When you start accomplishing goals and improving your confidence, it really goes miles in helping your whole disease state.”

It may be hard to start a new workout program or continue working out after being diagnosed with a disease like Parkinson’s, but Charles assures his clients that it will ultimately help to make things easier. With exercise, proper strength training and flexibility, you will not just improve your life, but it can help you get back to feeling normal again like you did before your diagnosis. Working out at Fitness Together® has not only been a life saver for Donna as she continues to battle the ups and downs of Parkinson’s, but it has consistently been the one staple in her life throughout the years that has helped her improve her physical and mental strength and well-being. She recommends it to anyone who may be struggling with a condition like hers.

“I can’t say enough about Charles and Fitness Together®,” concludes Donna. “Charles is fantastic, he’s very well educated and he knows what he’s doing to help keep me moving and strong as I live with Parkinson’s. And, I appreciate that Fitness Together® provides such a welcoming, non-judgmental environment to work out in. If you have a disease like Parkinson’s, I strongly suggest that you keep a very active lifestyle and never give up. Find someone who will be there for you and will help you through all of the challenges you’ll face.”