Reflections on My First Year of Rock Steady Boxing

Reflections on My First Year of Rock Steady Boxing

Twice a week for over a year, I have been religiously taking Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) classes for Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Has RSB helped my PD?

I believe that my PD symptoms would be worse or my disease would have progressed more quickly had I not taken these classes. There is no definitive proof of this. My dietary changes and the medications and supplements I’ve taken may have slowed the progression of the disease and prevented new symptoms from appearing or old ones from worsening. Before my diagnosis, I was a trained athlete with well-developed muscle memory, which may explain why I am not worse off now. Perhaps it is a combination of all of these reasons.

Other intangible benefits

Although very elusive, the ability to recapture a few moments of graceful movement and rhythm fills me with joy. A dance teacher once told me, “The good thing about ‘losing it’ is that you ‘had it.’” This gives me hope, and I keep coming back to rediscovering that feeling.

Vulnerability plagues me because I feel PD has made me weaker, but RSB has given me moments of confidence and strength.

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Camaraderie

“You don’t appreciate things until they are gone. For me, I miss my friends; I don’t miss boxing, I miss the camaraderie.” —Sugar Ray Leonard

In RSB, the participants relate so well to each other’s triumphs and failures. More than once, I have broken down in tears during class, feeling sorry for myself over what I have lost. Every time that has happened, at least one of my fellow boxers has comforted me, got me back on my feet, and encouraged me to carry on. The empathy is strong among RSB participants and we are always there for each other.

The camaraderie of those classes is incredible. Most of us come to class feeling tired and apprehensive of the workout to come. However, by the time we leave we are all smiling and looking forward to the next class.

What is next for me?

I am so inspired by what RSB has done for my classmates and me, that I have become certified as an RSB coach. When I first started taking RSB classes, my goal was to be the “poster child” for RSB. With the encouragement of my coach, the volunteers, and my fellow classmates, I have completed the certification process. Even if I never teach a class, I believe that taking the course and passing the test makes me stronger and will hopefully provide inspiration to others with PD.

You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” — Conrad Hall

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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At the age of 62, I started writing to inspire conversation about mental illness and suicide after my life partner, Steve Tarpinian, took his own life in 2015. Seven months after Steve passed, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Now, in addition to Steve's story, I am telling my own.

8 comments

  1. Boot says:

    I went to a RSB class to observe and it looked like a bunch of people who waited too long to get active. They could hardly move, and very frail and elderly. A year in and I am nothing like them. At 57, I’ll keep up my own program, but hooray to them that enjoys it!

    • Jean Mellano says:

      Hi, RSB does train coaches in setting up multiple class levels. Perhaps that is something you could talk to the coach about. It sounds like you have led an active life which will most likely serve you well in combating PD. We have level 1/2 and level 3/4 classes where I take class, with 3/4 being more challenging and for PwP that are mobile. I give a lot of credit to those that start becoming active by taking RSB classes and they inspire me. I was a dancer and a cyclist prior to PD diagnosis so exercise and movement was a lifestyle for me. Now I am thankful that the drive to exercise is ingrained in me so that I can be motivated to get to class. With how I feel having PD, I cant even imagine how people who have never exercised before can make it through an RSB class. As it is with medications and treatments for PD; some work for some people and not for others. The same can be said for RSB.

    • Jean Mellano says:

      Hi Loretta, most facilities offer 2 class levels, one for more active people with PD and one with folks with PD who may have balance, walking issues. Before the facility will allow an individual in a class, they will need to provide a letter from their doctor and also will be given some basic tests that help the coach determine which class level to put them in. RSB classes focus on drills that help us in terms of flexibility, strength, balance, endurance and speed. I cant say enough good things about RSB. The camaraderie is off the charts. It is so great to be in a room where we all understand each other and what we deal with because of this disease. It is like a support group. If you havent seen this article yet, I think it represents how much RSB means to me: https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/2019/02/26/rock-steady-boxing-parkinsons-disease-left-room/

      Please let me know if you decide to encourage your PwP to try RSB,

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