Kula Member Spotlight: Robert Brammer

Greetings to you who are part of Mary’s community and to anyone thinking about joining Mary’s extraordinary work to foster their physical and mental well-being.

My name is Robert Brammer (nickname Bram). I tune in and attend Mary’s livestreamed Strength & Balance class almost every Wednesday at noon and other times via recording.

I live in Beaverdale with my wife and partner Marti Anderson, a social worker who is finishing her tenth and last year as State Representative.  Our son Gabe and his family live in Copenhagen. Our daughters, Alissa and Shellie, and their families live in Des Moines. I am a proud grandpa, which gives me plenty of reasons to stay active and healthy!

I retired in 2010 as the communications director for the Attorney General’s Office which included 32 years working with A.G. Tom Miller.  My main volunteer work is for peace.  I’ve always loved and spent a lot of time in sports, traveling, camping, hiking, biking, canoeing. (And yard work!)

Nowadays, I spend quite a bit of time dealing with my health. I was relatively healthy for most of my life until I started noticing changes – this led to a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis in 2014.

The PD diagnosis was a bit of a surprise to me since I didn’t experience the main symptoms most of us associate with the disease – tremors. I still don’t have much of a tremor, but I have learned that there are an almost endless number of other symptoms we may see with Parkinson’s and I have experienced most of them.

People with Parkinson’s can experience stiffness, deteriorating balance and coordination, muscle weakness, fatigue, pain, autonomic system imbalances, weaker executive function, discouragement, and more. Learn more about the disease on the Parkinson Disease Foundation website.

I soon learned that staying physically active can help me live with and slow down some of the PD symptoms, and my neurologist has prescribed some medications that help me stay active.

Some very dear friends who are longtime students of Mary’s encouraged me to try a Strength and Balance class with her online. I had heard them talk about what a superb yoga teacher she is, so I decided to give her class a try. I soon realized how experienced she is at teaching a fitness class for older adults, especially those with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s.

Bram cliff jumping into the water while on his rafting trip in the Grand Canyon.

I’m now a dedicated student in the Strength & Balance class and online studio. Mary’s classes help me manage PD. Although she teaches to a broad audience, Mary’s exercises strengthen my core and postural muscles that help me get up and stay up. She helps me practice and improve my balance, offering many options I can do, especially on days when I feel unsteady on my feet.

We always make time to stretch tight muscles and work on mobility and range-of-motion in our neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles. I am impressed with how much we cover in the 30-minute class every week, and Mary constantly varies the workout routines. We rarely do the same workout twice.

Right now I sort of shuffle and occasionally stumble, but I’m pretty sure attending this class has helped me avoid falls so far. Mary helps not only my body, but she also helps my outlook. I enjoy connecting with the other students before class starts and listening to Mary as she cheers us on in class.

I still notice the advance of symptoms, but my neurologist is pleased with my routine and how it helps slow down the progression of PD and extend my capability and independence.

When friends organized a two-week raft trip through the Grand Canyon last summer, I was worried I couldn’t handle it. But then – buoyed up especially by Strength & Balance – I became determined to give it a try. I got by just fine with a lot of help from my friends.

In closing, I consider Mary to be a very good COACH, and I mean that as the highest level of appreciation and respect.

I have been very fortunate to have several superb, gifted coaches over many years spent in athletics (H.S. football, swimming, track and field, College football) and in other pursuits.  Mary is one of the very best coaches I’ve had.

She is knowledgeable and skilled, communicates well, provides good alternative choices, encourages us, inspires us, and even fosters teamwork in her community of students. Mary is genuine and she cares about us. She knows a lot about the aging process and shares her knowledge and wisdom with her students.

Thank you for sharing your remarkable gifts, Mary – Coach!