Rock Steady Boxing helps build ‘power’ over Parkinson’s
EAGLE GROVE — Wayne Fuhlbrugge was angry when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“I was mad at the doctor,” said Fuhlbrugge, of Webster City. “I said, ‘Who the hell are you to tell me this?'”
And then, slowly, he began to accept his life with Parkinson’s as the new normal.
Recently, Fuhlbrugge has been able to add a new tool to help manage his condition — Rock Steady Boxing of Wright County, 211 W. Broadway in Eagle Grove.
The Rock Steady Boxing class, which is held at Slay fitness studio in Eagle Grove, is a fitness class aimed at enhancing the daily quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease. It helps those people build power, strength, flexibility and speed.
For Fuhlbrugge, the class has been working.
“Since I’ve been in this class, I’m thrilled,” he said. “This is really, really wonderful. It’s been the next step from the exercise at home. This is what I can’t do, but through training, I’m getting it done. This makes me feel wonderful. And I’m not walking around with a cloud over my head anymore because I had this ‘thing.'”
Most noticeably, Rock Steady Boxing has helped Fuhlbrugge with his balance.
“And I’m getting better all the time,” he said. “What you haven’t seen, from the time I left the hospital in Des Moines, I was in a walker. Then I progressed a cane and now I don’t even bring that anymore because I have confidence.”
Those are the exact results Rock Steady Boxing instructor Lisa Russell hopes the people in her class see.
“I’ve noticed posture changes,” she said. “A lot of the issues they told me exists with their disease don’t seem to be showing up as much. For example, issues with balance, really stiff joints, the shuffling of the feet or issues with their gait and posture.”
And it’s not just physical changes Russell has been noticing.
“I can see significant changes in them mentally, they’re just happier,” she said. “They’re getting stronger every time they come. I’m just amazed that within a month, I can already see changes.”
Russell opened Slay fitness studio in November 2018. Last year, when her dad told her about a farmer friend of his who had Parkinson’s and was looking for a Rock Steady Boxing class, she learned the closest were in Des Moines and Mason City.
“That kind of sparked the idea to open one up in this area,” she said.
So she started taking the online training to become a certified Rock Steady Boxing coach and instructor. She also completed a training at the RSB headquarters in Indianapolis.
She started offering the classes at her fitness studio in February.
While exercise in general is good for Parkinson’s patients, Russell said boxing is especially beneficial.
“Rock Steady Boxing has been proven because specifically, the boxing movements are good at delaying the disease, just because of the neurological connection, the way the brain functions when doing those punching moves,” she said.
The community aspect is also part of what makes the workout successful.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the group setting,” she said. “When you work out with a group, you try harder and you’re more motivated and inspired by other people. I think that helps as well.”
Rock Steady Boxing is a way for Parkinson’s patients to gain some power over their condition, Russell said.
“It’s a way to fight the disease and the progression of it without taking another pill, without taking more medicine,” she said. “It’s something they are in control of based on if they show up for class, if they work as hard as they can.”
Fuhlbrugge likes that the class challenges him.
“I know where my weaknesses are and I have the tendency to fall backwards … this is going to make me feel confident in myself, this is giving me confidence again in my ability to be what I used to be,” he said. “I used to walk in the woods all the time, I’m a forester, and I don’t feel like I can do that right now. But I’m getting to be strong enough to be able to eventually go back and do what I used to be able to do.”
Doug Townsend, of Fort Dodge, another member of the class, agrees that the class is challenging, but in a good way.
“It’s definitely challenging,” he said. “It gets me off the couch instead of being a couch potato. It makes me want to be more active, physically.”
After just a few weeks of the class, Townsend is already seeing the difference.
“It helps alleviate some of the stiffness and pain in my neck and shoulders,” he said. “It’s given me a little bit more upper body strength, I think, and a little more ambition to do stuff instead of just sitting around doing nothing.”
Duane Vorrie, of Humboldt, was the friend that Russell’s father had talked to her about. Now, he’s taking the class with her.
“We’re just getting started, but I know it’s going to help my balance,” Vorrie said.
The community in the Rock Steady Boxing class is what Vorrie enjoys the most.
“The people around, the company — they’ve got the same problem I have, so it’s kind of easy to talk,” he said.
Vorrie is motivated to take the Rock Steady Boxing class because he knows the exercise will help keep some of the progression of Parkinson’s at bay – the more exercise he does, the better off he is.
“I’ve seen some that don’t exercise at all, and it doesn’t take them any time at all before they’re done, they can’t get up out of the chair, they can’t get out of bed,” he said. “Exercise is absolutely the most important thing there is with Parkinson’s. I walk a half an hour every day at the Rec center in Humboldt. And that’s what’s keeping me going. I’m still in stage 1 yet, I’m not getting any worse.”
Fuhlbrugge agrees with that philosophy.
“Although, I’m on a lot of the medication, it’s the medication plus the exercise that’s keeping this Parkinson’s disease (at bay),” he said. “It will never progress unless I let it progress. And I believe it’s the exercise, in combination with the medication, that’s doing that.”
While Russell only has about three Parkinson’s patients taking the Rock Steady Boxing classes currently, she hopes to see it expand. As of now, the classes are offered from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“As it grows, I plan to offer more classes throughout the week,” she said.
After a life-changing diagnosis, Fuhlbrugge feels that the Rock Steady Boxing class, and Russell as the instructor, has been just as life-changing.
“She’s done a marvelous job in making me feel like I can be who I want to be,” he said. “That’s what this has done for me.”