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  • Writer's pictureNed Neuhaus

"Oh, The Places You'll Go!"

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Meters Rowed: 195,328

Minutes: 933

Days this week working out with Jimmy Choi: 2

The Dr. Seuss book "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" is often associated with graduation. However, I find a parallel in this title and my journey with Parkinson’s as I graduate further beyond the acceptance of my diagnosis.

What a day

A full day with Jimmy Choi: It’s humbling and amazing to see the impact he has on people on a daily basis. I don’t know that this was just like any other day for him, but I’m going to assume it is.

He arrived at the gym for his first class at 5:30 AM. He worked out for at least two hours doing the same classes he would coach later in the morning, to be sure he knew exactly what everybody else was going to experience and how it felt executing the exercises.

I arrived about 9:15 AM. Jimmy introduced me to Missy Huffman who also came from out of town like me. She and I were partners for the work out. We were also the only two in class living with PD (Jimmy was coach for the class). The workout was called “nickels and dimes”.

Each 5 minute section of the circuit was split between two exercises with a one minute rest between sections. Five of one exercise and 10 of the other one and repeat the cycle until the end of the 5 minute section. The exercises range from box jumps to one legged Burpees, from Broad jumps to Bosu ball goblet squats, from push-ups to pull-ups, and from med ball slams to med ball Vees. “Nickels and dimes”? … I was spent! It was great working out with Missy. She and I encouraged each other and found challenges that were difficult for each of us and easier for each of us. The push-ups and pull-ups proceed to kick my butt. After grabbing a bite to eat, Jimmy and I met up with Bryan Pressner and Doug Bland. They are both from Indianapolis. Byran is a member of the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters team where he is also a coach. Doug is a boxer there. We met last year at the Chicago Spartan Sprint where we were part of Jimmy’s “Shake it Off” team.

We spent a big part of the afternoon going over ninja obstacles since Brian and Doug were very interested. About couple hours into that process Jimmy took time out to record a podcast where he was helping somebody cope with their diagnosis. A bit later, Jimmy took a scheduled call from with somebody I believe was from New Zealand talking about another project coming up sometime later this fall.

After dinner, we proceeded to work out for another couple hours on the ninja course. Warming up we spent time doing box jumps I got semi proficient on a 30 inch jump which was a big accomplishment for me. I made good progress on a balance and jumping obstacle. My arms were simply too spent to do most of the upper body work on the rings and ropes etc. Doug did great on many different challenges, thoroughly enjoying himself and making improvements on his technique. Bryan, who has submitted an application to be on American Ninja Warrior did very well with Jimmy’s coaching.

The Next Day

My shoulders are sore my legs are sore. But, as I begin to wake up and take my medicine to deal with my curling toes, I realize it’s going to be another great day spent in the presence of Jimmy. Lying in the hotel bed at 7 AM, I realize Jimmy’s already been at it for probably close to two hours this morning as he helps his friend Yoko complete her marathon on a treadmill that she was unable to run in Tokyo as the entire event was cancelled. We all meet again at 9:30 for another workout and help Yoko by running on the treadmill as part of our circuit. The teamwork of everyone at the gym rooting each other on for 6 classes in a row is awesome. Jimmy is lead cheerleader as 26.2 miles clicks over with Yoko on the treadmill!

What I Observed

A few words come to mind when I think of Jimmy. Drive is the biggest of those words, followed very closely by humble and generous. I realize he is committed to ensuring everybody else with Parkinson’s understands they can fight back. The more time I spend with him, the more I realize it’s my honor to pay forward all the time and counsel he shares with me. I begin to understand why my girls giggle when somebody says I’m inspirational. Jimmy is inspirational and motivational beyond words. I am lucky to live close enough to him to directly share in some of what he does. By paying what I learn forward, I hope others will be able to benefit from my good fortune. I am also impressed seeing how he interacts with the hundreds of people that he knows through the gym. From small kids to adults, everyone knows Jimmy. While I am sure everyone there is impressed by him, I am also sure many probably don’t even realize what he goes through every day living with his Parkinson’s. Perhaps that’s the most impressive … here’s a guy who is influencing and empowering others, not just those with Parkinson’s, but everybody he touches.

He is also an excellent coach. Several times during the work out, he provided me with just the right piece of advice or cue to make my exercise much more efficient and proficient. It’s a rare combination to be an outstanding athlete in outstanding coach at the same time. Jimmy is both! What Does It All Mean?

As humans, we constantly compare ourselves to others. I believe those of us living with Parkinson’s take this to a new level of expertise. As soon as two people living with PD are introduced, you can hear a chorus of: “When were you diagnosed?” “What are your main symptoms?” “What meds do you take?” Do you have DBS?”, etc.

We are all interested to learn more about how this incredibly complex disease operates. I think we secretly hope that we will find solace in knowing there is someone out there just like us. But there isn’t. We all have a different manifestation of Parkinson’s and we all deal with it in our own way.

It becomes more and more apparent to me: Rather than compare ourselves to one another, the more important thing to do is to learn from each other and to contribute as best you can to making the world a better place. Few can do what Jimmy does on a daily basis. But all of us can take a lesson from how he leads by example and inspires and motivates others to do their best.

Thinking of Jimmy, he motivates me to be even more committed to doing what I can to make the world a better place, especially for those living with Parkinson’s.

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