Rock Steady Boxing

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Boxing against Parkinson’s disease

Qualicum Beach resident hoping to start boxing classes for people living with Parkinson’s

Qualicum Beach resident Don Reid says he hopes to bring a boxing training camp to this region to help people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Reid, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 13 years ago, said he and his wife found out about Rock Steady Boxing after his wife saw it on TV.

“She looked it up and she researched it and asked me what I thought about it,” Reid said. “I looked into it and thought it was great.”

According to Rock Steady Boxing’s website, its mission is to empower people with Parkinson’s disease to fight back.

“Rock Steady Boxing, a non-profit organization, gives people with Parkinson’s disease hope by improving their quality of life through a non-contact boxing based fitness curriculum,” states the website.

Rock Steady Boxing is based in Indianapolis and was started in 2006 by Scott Newman, a former county prosecutor, who is living with Parkinson’s. Newman began one-on-one boxing training a few years after being diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s. From there, Newman opened a small gym and boxing ring as Rock Steady’s first home.

Reid said he started to seriously look into the program a year ago, but he added that it took a while for a spot to open up.

Reid said he travelled to Indianapolis in July for the training camp in July for two days. He said the first day was from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the second day started at 8 a.m. and ran until 6 p.m. Throughout the days, there were lectures and intensive workouts that Reid described as “incredible.”

“It’s a heck of a program and it just blew the doors off of me. It was really something to see,” Reid said. “It was a very worthwhile endeavour.”

Reid said Kristy Rose Follmar, the program director and head coach of Rock Steady Boxing in Indianapolis, and Christine Timberlake, who helps teach the program, were a great team in presenting Rock Steady Boxing. He said they were very encouraging and compassionate with their students.

“It’s something that’s got to be handled with a lot of compassion, yet it’s got to be positive,” said Reid, adding that the instructors need to be a little tougher while also understanding the problems.

Reid said the workouts included stretches, push-ups, sit-ups, jump rope, lateral moves, heavy bag, speed bag and boxing with gloves — no sparring.

The affiliate program is a two-day training camp to teach the Rock Steady method. After the training camp, people are certified to teach the method in their own communities — which Reid hopes to do.

However, Reid said he will start out teaching the program and he’s hopeful someone else will take over.

With Rock Steady Boxing, exercises are adapted from boxing drills, according to its website. Boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye co-ordination, footwork and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents.

Rock Steady has also created training programs to meet the fitness levels at all stages of Parkinson’s from the newly diagnosed to people who have been living with it for years.

Reid, who has been living with Parkinson’s for 13 years, said he gave notice of quitting his job, and a month later he was diagnosed with the disease.

“There’s all kinds of different stages and the progression rate is different with a lot of people,” he said. “Some people immediately go into a nosedive, other people can keep going and I’m one of the very fortunate ones.”

Reid said that his Parkinson’s is progressing, but he does still play golf three times a week.

“I’m still pretty healthy. There’s not much I can’t do. I won’t let it get me,” he said.

At one point, Reid said he worked with the University of British Columbia for about 10 months on a walking study. He said people with Parkinson’s have a tendency to shuffle, so they hooked an iPod up to his knee and measured his gait. Reid said the music would stop if he started shuffling.

“More and more research studies are finding that vigorous exercise is key for people with Parkinson’s to slow down and even reverse the progression of the disease,” Reid said.

“A lot of people don’t understand it either because unless you’ve got the disease, it’s tough for them to think it’s going to benefit.”

He said boxing is an ideal form of exercise for people with Parkinson’s because it requires balance, agility, hand-eye co-ordination, core strength, rhythm, speed and focus.

“(Rock Steady Boxing has) people there who are just on the last stage of Parkinson’s, which is phase five or six and that means they’re pretty much done in,” Reid said. “But before that, they’ve actually brought people’s symptoms back, like reduced them and there has been no other form of help for people with Parkinson’s disease, other than medication.”

Now Reid is looking for people in the area who would be willing to take classes.

“What I’m trying to do now, is bang the drum a little bit and see how many people are going to come out of the woodwork that would like to give this a whirl,” he said. “Once we get the numbers, we’ll know if we can pull this off or not. I’m sure we’re going to.”

Reid said he’s hoping classes would run two or three times a week. He added that the four levels of the program would be mixed together at first.

“Your level one is where the guy has just been diagnosed and is doing very well. Level two is a few little glitches. Level three you’ve got more cognitive problems and the fourth is people that are very dire straits,” Reid said.

To find out more about Rock Steady Boxing in the area, contact Reid at 250-752-2795 or seatosky@shaw.ca.

For more information on Rock Steady Boxing, visit www.rocksteadyboxing.org.

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