Meters Rowed 860,5678
Minutes on Rower 4,281
Estimated weeks to go 5
In October 2015, I became a Rock Steady Boxing certified coach. When I retired in earlier that year in February, I knew I needed to exercise more and that I wanted to help others cope with their journey living with Parkinson’s. What I didn’t know at that time, was that Rock Steady existed. February to October 2015 was a bit of a whirlwind to say the least!
From Diagnosis to becoming a Coach
I was told I was living with PD in March of 2013. It took a little less than two years to pull the trigger on one of the biggest decisions of my life … retire from my career. I knew that I needed to exercise more, it is one of the very few things someone living with Parkinson’s can do to help mitigate their symptoms and potential slow progression of the disease and in my heart, I knew exercise would never get higher priority than work if I didn't retire.
The other driver of the retirement decision was that stress is commonly thought to accelerate symptoms. Work certainly added stress, so my logic was to get a two for one … reduce stress while at the same time increasing exercise HAD to be good for my disease management.
I met Eric Johnson in November 2014. He had started Movement Revolution In Chicago to help people living with PD as well as other neurological conditions get the right exercise. I started with him the week after my last day at work. It was amazing how quickly I started to feel better. A couple months later, he began integrating boxing into our workouts. Shortly thereafter, he founded Rock Steady Boxing Windy City. I combined my personal training with a Rock Steady class. On the 3 hour commute home after the first Rock Steady Class I attended, I told my wife, “I don’t know how, but I am to figure out how to start a Rock Steady in Peoria. I am convinced there are people who need this!” This was in May.
By July, I had met Heidi Bauer and Doran Mosack. Heidi taught some exercise classes locally for people living with PD and Dorian, her brother in law, owned a gym in Peoria and was an amateur fighter. This was perfect, I had found the people that could help bring Rock Steady to Peoria! We did a trial of a few exercise classes for people living with Parkinson’s that incorporated boxing to see if there was an interest and quickly decided to establish Rock Steady Boxing Peoria.
Dorian, Heidi and me at Rock Steady Training Camp
Being a Coach
The three days we spent in Indianapolis getting trained are some of my favorite and most life changing I have experienced. I immediately felt a kinship with Kristy Rose Follmar, retired world champ professional boxer & co-founder of Rock Steady and Christine Timberlake, who came to Rock Steady because her husband is living with PD and first became involved as a volunteer. Meeting others taking classes at the gym in Indianapolis was a very moving experience. I know I was not alone in my coaches training class shedding a few tears over the 3 days.
Kristy Rose Follmar, Christine Timberlake and me at graduation.
I never set out to become a coach and an exercise advocate for those living with PD. It just kind of happened.
However, I am convinced it was meant to be. I have met and become friends with hundreds of people from around the world. The Row to Slow Parkinson’s that I am doing this year was because of having dinner with fellow Rock Steady coach, Jojo McDuffie. Being a coach has been a huge positive impact on my life these past years. I am even now an ACE certified group fitness instructor … another thing I didn’t even know about a few years ago.
If I am having a bad day, or feeling a little down, coaching lifts me right back up. I have never had a bad coaching experience. I hope the fighters I work with get even half as much out of working together as I get. Helping others feel stronger and better about themselves is a tremendous way to spend your day.
At the same time, it is not easy. I need to make time to ensure I get my own exercise as well. It is tempting to "count" coaching as exercise. I often am sweating when done coaching, but it rarely gets me enough of the high intensity work I need to help manage my disease progression. It can also be emotionally taxing. I love talking with the other boxers and sharing knowledge with each other. It can be really tough when someone you know and care about goes through a tough time with their disease. I have to keep in the forefront of my thoughts that everyone's progression is different ... I can't focus on what might be, worrying does no good.
In some ways, it seems impossible it has already been five years being a Rock Steady coach. Then again, I almost can’t remember what it was like not being a coach. Paraphrasing Michael J Fox, I retired from my career and found my life’s work.