A Sure Thing
Benjamin Franklin is usually credited with one of history’s most famous quotes: “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
I would venture – and I believe any runner north of 50 years old would agree – that there is a third sure thing: there is no avoiding the inevitable slowing down that accompanies aging.
It is difficult at times to not be alternately frustrated, saddened, or disappointed that this is so. Who wouldn’t want to be able to forever maintain the level of performance, the feeling of easy fluidity, and the relatively rapid recovery after a hard workout or race one experienced during the “prime” running years? It is sometimes hard to avoid whining about this, even when one realizes this eventually affects everyone. The fact is, we all succumb.
There are, of course, many people who face far greater challenges and problems than what we chronologically-maturing runners experience. One group that falls into that category includes those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
Parkinson’s is a progressive, degenerative neurological disease that affects more than 6 million people globally, 1 million in the US alone, with 60,000 people diagnosed yearly. It affects people mostly over age 60, but there are many affected even earlier than 50 (called Early-Onset PD), actor Michael J. Fox being among the most well-known. The most common symptom in the public’s awareness is hand/finger tremors/shaking, but it is problems with walking, slowness of movements generally, and frequent falls that are most functionally consequential.
There have been wonderful advances made over the past few decades in medical interventions, but still no cure or preventive treatments. As noted, it is a progressive disease, and the level of degeneration, with its functional effects, can vary greatly from person to person. But regardless of any one individual’s condition, there is consensus that various exercise programs can effectively improve patient function initially, and then slow the rate of decline.
Although PD may not directly affect most runners, I believe it is quite likely that many of you reading this know someone affected by this terrible condition and I would like to take advantage of the space the Chargers have given me to plug one such program in the Syracuse-area so that you may bring awareness of its benefits to anyone you know who is struggling with the effects of PD.
Rock Steady Boxing™ Syracuse is an affiliate of a national program headquartered in Indianapolis, IN. A Not-For-Profit entity brought to Central New York in 2017 by my practice partner and colleague of more than 35 years, Patrick Van Beveren, the program is now located at the Pacific Health Club in Liverpool and currently has more than 45 participants.
The program incorporates a variety of strengthening, conditioning, balance, and coordination exercises, utilizing movements and training techniques associated with the sport of boxing, though of course there is no actual head or body contact in any of these workouts. Classes, conducted by “coaches” trained through the national program, are 60-90 minutes long. By all measures, these sessions can only be described by participants and observers alike as intense.
But this is exactly the point. Numerous studies have confirmed that it is this intensity, as well as the specificity of these exercises, that delivers the benefits realized by participants. The boxing routines in particular help improve hand/eye coordination, footwork, agility, and endurance.
But never mind the studies – one has to work with these determined folks for just a few weeks to see the obvious gains in strength, balance, and function. If you speak with them, or their families and friends, they will state in no uncertain terms that this program has made a significant difference in their everyday lives.
The program has expanded recently to include classes in Tai Chi (effective in improving balance and timing), nutrition counseling, yoga, dance classes, choral lessons, and support groups. All are optional and there are numerous days and times offered to make it as accessible as possible.
If you would like more information on this exceptional program, you can go to the RSB Syracuse website [RSB Syracuse], their Facebook page [RSB-FB], or call Pat Van Beveren [315-729-7178] directly. He will be more than happy to answer any questions and invite you or any prospective boxers to observe a class.
Watching and listening to these boxers is truly an inspirational experience. They, like all of us, are doing everything they can to stay as fit and healthy as possible. Fortunately, there are programs like Rock Steady Boxing to help them in this endeavor, just as there are organizations like the Chargers to help us stay focused on our goals.
The mantra of one of the boxers sums up their attitude perfectly: PD is a speed bump, not a roadblock. They will never give up or ever give in to the hand they’ve been dealt.
And that, I would say, is a sure thing