Pedaling for Parkinson’s class scheduled

Sessions begin Jan. 15 at Merrimack Y

YMCA of Greater Nashua Director of Member Engagement and Wellness Kim Hickman, from left, Cycling for Parkinson’s classmate Don Levi and Cycling instructor Colleen Chapdelaine gather for another class. The class challenges those with Parkinson’s disease to push themselves and keep moving. The class starts again Jan. 15.

MERRIMACK – Starting Jan. 15, the Merrimack YMCA will once again offer a cycling class for those who are affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that impacts dopamine-producing neurons and causes tremors, rigid limbs and balance problems.

A free 12-week session of Cycling for Parkinson’s began in March 2018, while its popularity continuing to increase. The class is designed to safely push class members to new limits through “forced” exercise. However, forced isn’t exactly what most would think. These participants want to be here. The instructors push them by walking around, checking in and tracking heart rates and revolutions per minute on the bike.

One of the instructors, Colleen Chapdelaine, provided a breakdown of how the sessions run.

“The very first class of the session takes a bit of time because we get to know the client. We set them up on the bike, get their measurements and go over the whole bike with them,” Chapdelaine said.

The bikes, which have 20 gears, monitor the rider’s heart rate and show the level of calories burned, along with the time and distance.

Chapdelaine said once participants familiarize themselves with the bike, they work to build up strength. “If people feel comfortable, we like to get them above 80 revs per minute, and that’s when the forced exercise comes into play,” she said. “Week one, we might do a 25-minute class and do some intervals and cool down on the bike. Then, we will continue adding time each week,” Chapdelaine said.

During the class, which Chapdelaine teaches with Ed Soloway, they will keep the riders’ minds actively engaged with trivia and music.

Chapdelaine said partnering with Soloway has yielded good results. Both Chapdelaine and Soloway are on the floor throughout the class as opposed to traditional spin classes, during which the instructors are on the bikes.

“We have an instructor’s app on our phone, so I can look at my phone and I can see how everyone is doing with their rates per minute,” Chapdelaine said.

This also allows the instructors to test how far the class members are pushing themselves through rate of perceived exertion. The scale for rate of perceived exertion ranges from 1-10. One recognizes very light activity, while 10 is extremely vigorous activity.

“If you can talk a bit, that’s how we can see how well you are working. If you can carry a full conversation, pick it up a little bit,” Chapdelaine said.

Soloway said no matter what, those who attend will improve their general health, conditioning, strength and endurance. And while spin classes can seem intimidating, Soloway said this class is hands-on and guided.

“We work with individuals to allow them to build up at their own pace. We built this whole program based on their individual abilities and needs,” Soloway said.

This style has allowed participants to see the benefits.

“It’s very rewarding and these people really impress me every day,” Soloway said. “They push themselves. A lot of them have never taken spin and spin, just by itself, can be very intimidating, but the fact that they can go beyond their comfort level is very impressive.”

Chapdelaine said she has heard many good things from the class members. Chapdelaine said each expressed they felt more tired/fatigued when they began, but now feel as if they have more energy overall. One participant shared with Chapdelaine that she has been able to write in cursive again, which is something she was unable to do before beginning this program. Another was taking the elevator to the studio at the beginning of the program. Now, she is taking the stairs. And another has lost 12 pounds.

Aside from the physical benefits, the class also serves as a support group.

“I feel so honored to have been a part of this,” Chapdelaine said. “It’s been great seeing them support one another. Some will get together for coffee after class or go do yoga or aqua aerobics together. And if someone is not in class, we reach out through phone calls and emails.”

Those who are interested in joining this class can contact Kim Hickman at for more information.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243 or