An intrepid band of seniors gathered on a recent Wednesday to strap up with boxing gloves and have at heavy punching bags hanging from racks.
The group is part of the Rock Steady Boxing Puget Sound program branch, which is affiliated with the national organization that uses boxing-based workouts to combat the effects of Parkinson’s disease. The classes are held at the Northwest Fighting Academy in Redmond.
Carol Robertson and Lolly Anderson are instructors at the academy, and guide the group of up to 20 boxers through the training three times a week.
“Boxing is a forced-intense exercise where everybody is forcing themselves above and beyond what they thought they were capable of,” Anderson said.
Rock Steady Boxing was formed in 2006 by an Indianapolis man who was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s.
Anderson said he found working until exhaustion seemed to have benefits, which the Rock Steady Boxing website said was backed up by multiple studies.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder that leads to degradation of motor skills. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are some 6.2 million people worldwide with the disease, which typically affects those over the age of 60 and men.
The boxers started their class by laying out on yoga mats and running through a series of stretches. Many were wearing the boxing club’s shirts with the phrase “Fight Back” printed on the back.
Martin Hovenkotter, from Sammamish, is 66 years old and has been living with Parkinson’s for the past 26 years.
He attended his first boxing class in February, and said after one session, he started walking without a cane and can get out of bed easier.
While the drills can be tough, especially the boxing drills, he said it’s worth it for him to come every week.
“It’s really the people you meet, because these are fun people,” he said.
Hovenkotter said people drive from all across the Eastside to attend the classes.
As the stretching portion of the class wrapped up, boxers stood up and grabbed foam noodles.
The instructors climbed into the elevated boxing ring and broke out a bunch of inflatable balloons.
This exercise was more of a game, where the instructors threw the balloons out toward the boxers, and they hit them back into the ring with the noodles.
Whichever side had the most balloons on their side at the end of the match lost, and as energetic background music kicked in, the boxers and instructors started wildly throwing themselves into the match.
By the end of it, there were plenty of smiles to go around, and the boxers begun strapping themselves into boxing gloves and forming lines.
The last part of the workout involved groups of two or three boxers positioning themselves around the heavy hanging punching bags and putting in 10 good strikes before rotating.
Abe Kriger is part of the class, and said he’s been coming for around one year after seeing a demonstration in their housing community.
“Everyone’s friendly, helpful and it’s the activity and getting a little workout,” he said that keeps him coming back.
His wife, Lee, also comes with him, and said it’s good for everyone, including family members.
The Northwest Fighting Academy is located at 17519 N.E. 67th Court, and classes are available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for anyone fighting Parkinson’s disease. Visit www.nwfacademy.com.