I was excited to hear that Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) will receive the Bonander Award at the Unity Walk this year. Over the last two years, RSB has become a very important part of my life. It has taught me a lot about fighting Parkinson’s disease (pd) and not giving up. The more we learn about pd, the more we learn that staying active through exercise is important. A body in motion stays in motion! There are many ways to stay active such as running, swimming, walking, yoga, etc. Just pick what you like to do and start doing it!
Two years ago at the World Parkinson’s Congress in Montreal, my wife, daughter and I attended a working seminar called Rock Steady Boxing. I immediately fell in love with it. It’s everything I had been searching for. I was so excited about this program! That same year at the Unity Walk, more information was available about RSB. The problem was they were in Indiana and I live in Massachusetts. I was searching for answers and trying to figure out how I could bring RSB to my area. I was getting frustrated but then I heard some good news. There was a boxer in Rhode Island who was going to open up his gym to Rock Steady Boxing. My prayers had been answered!!! Rich Gingras, along with my fellow pd warrior Mike Quaglia, had gone to Indy to get trained and BINGO, RSB had a home in Pawtucket, RI. That’s how I got involved. Now let me explain why I love RSB.
The word “boxing” scares some people off. They think we get in the ring and pound each other. Even though that might be fun it’s not what happens. We do everything else a boxer would do such as, footwork (don’t shuffle!!), stretch those muscles (so we don’t become rigid and hunched forward), and yes, putting on the gloves and hitting the heavy bag, hand pads and our new toy, the dummy. Our classes include people living with pd at every range along the continuum of this disease, from those confined to wheelchairs to those just diagnosed, and everything in between. Men and women, ages 30 to 80, all come to battle pd and take charge of our lives.
Everyone who enters our gym immediately becomes part of our band of brothers and sisters. We laugh, cry, enjoy the good days and help each other through the hard days. We are ONE, fighting back at pd!! When you enter our gym it is time to get to work. Get your hands taped up and start walking or jogging. We need to get our hearts pumping. It is now proven that a strenuous exercise program can slow the progression of pd. I have seen it over and over again at RSB. After we warm up, we do a good 15 to 20 minutes of stretching. This is so important in fighting the stiffness that pd tries to give our body. We learn new ways to stretch. We can do these on our own at home too. Last but not least, get the gloves on!! “It’s just you and me now pd … and I feel good. I am going to knock you silly!!” Every participant in the class works with a partner and we encourage one another to work to the best of our ability. We are all learning to take control of our lives and knock the crap out of pd. It feels good to let loose and pound that bag. You are swinging with your left and right hand, your good side and your bad side. You are stretching to hit the bag. You are using footwork. All things that we pd fighters have trouble with from time to time. Magically, you are swinging, jabbing, punching, and moving those feet – not every time, some days are a struggle. You actually feel good and you forget you have pd!!!! It’s a strenuous workout and if you do it right, you feel great and you’re exhausted.
There is also a bonus I did not expect from RSB. You become close to your fellow boxers; they become like family. We all know how much pd has tried to take away from us. But now we fight back – we sweat, fall, work through the times the meds are not kicking in, laugh, and cry … don’t mess around with my new family!! I love them all. At the end of every class we gather with a chant – one, two, three … FAMILY!! Outside of the gym we do the best we can. This is my life. This is how I take charge. These are my people!! What are you waiting for? Find a RSB near you and change your life forever!!
Note: pd is purposely not capitalized. I refuse to give it any respect.
Team Member, Team DominACHIN over PD