What motivates the NBA legend-turned-Parkinson’s-advocate to power through his fitness routine when he’s feeling down and out? His answer might surprise you.
Brian Grant takes pride in inspiring others with Parkinson’s disease to live their best lives. But like everyone else, he has his good days and bad days. “Being a source of inspiration makes me feel good, but it also makes me have to hold myself accountable,” says the NBA legend.
The dark, rainy weather in Portland, Oregon, took its toll on Grant last winter, turning him into a full-on couch potato. “I was ashamed of the weight I had gained,” he admits. “I felt like I couldn’t leave my house to go talk to people about nutrition and be overweight. I knew I was out of shape, so I took the initiative and went down to Miami to train with my old trainer.”
Grant’s trainer, Dodd Romero, had him busting out reps in the weight room and indulging in nutrient-rich foods such as fresh salad, grilled fish and cauliflower rice. Before he knew it, Grant dropped more than 20 pounds. “I don’t feel so bad going to events anymore because at least I can fit into my suits again,” he says. “But there is more that I want to lose.”
Now Grant is on the fast track to achieving his fitness goals, thanks to the Power Through Project (PTP).
The online social network for the Parkinson’s disease community kicked off in 2015 to help motivate and educate people about the benefits of exercise. This year, the Brian Grant Foundation and World Parkinson Coalition teamed up again to make PTP even easier for people with Parkinson’s and their supporters to achieve their fitness goals.
Users can create a profile, post status updates, make and accept friend requests and locate Parkinson’s-friendly fitness classes in their area. They can also track the length and intensity of their workouts and earn fun fitness badges—all while learning how specific types of movement can improve symptoms of PD.
For example, swinging a golf club—one of Grant’s favorite pastimes—keeps the torso flexible and involves reaching actions that help reduce rigidity and stiffness, common Parkinson’s symptoms. The more golf sessions users input into their PTP exercise tracker, the more badges they can earn, which start at the “Rookie” level and go all the way up to “MVP” status.
The driving force behind PTP is motivation; the more we learn how certain exercises improve symptoms of PD, the more motivated we are to try new fitness activities we wouldn’t otherwise do. That’s what compelled Grant to try boxing, aerobics and even roll out a yoga mat.
“People like me look at yoga and think it’s supposed to be easy,” Grant says. “Nope! Let me tell you, yoga is a workout—a full-on, sweat-inducing workout that challenged my flexibility and balance. Yoga is uncomfortable for me because I’m so stiff, but I’ve only been able to see improvement in my life when I’m pushed to the limit.”
Grant enjoys logging into the Power Through Project
because it gives him a chance to cheer on other people with Parkinson’s around the world. “Just having the motivation to get off the couch and take a walk instead of staying at home can make all the difference in your life,” he says.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep moving because that’s what this disease will do—it will try to take you down.”
Grant used to think Parkinson’s disease was a test of his faith. Now he sees it as a spiritual wakeup call. “God never gives us more than we can handle,” he says. “I was able to see the top neurologists and get the medical attention I needed when I was diagnosed. That’s not how it is for most people. God gave me a platform to reach others who may not have had the same opportunities I did.”
Parkinson’s disease not only gave Grant a new outlook on life, it gave him challenges that he continues to face every day. So who are his biggest motivators to keep going? “My children first and foremost. They inspire me to continue being around for them when they start to have kids … but we won’t talk about that right now,” he says, wincing.
People usually guess Michael J. Fox or Muhammad Ali are his inspiration, Grant notes. “Actually, it’s the people out on the street with the 9-5 jobs, those who might be going through a divorce because of their Parkinson’s, or those who are afraid their bosses will give them the pink slip at any time because of their Parkinson’s—they’re my inspiration,” he says. “I take my hat off to each and every one of them.”
Are you ready to join Brian Grant at the Power Through Project? Visit the website to get started.
By Kathryn Jones