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Jennifer “Hood Rat” Crowder is currently a boxer at RSB Suffield, CT at Hits & Kicks. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 40. Jennifer Shares her story about living with Parkinson’s disease, finding Rock Steady Boxing, her personal experience with the program, and how she had some help sticking with it. 

Finding A Rock Steady Boxing Gym

Jennifer was a northerner living in a southern city and had to travel an hour to the nearest Rock Steady Boxing Program. Being diagnosed with the disease felt like it greatly limited her independence, and when she had to ask others for a ride to and from the class over an hour away. Although asking for help was a big pill to swallow, she knew she needed support to succeed in this journey.  

“When I first started Rock Steady Boxing, I absolutely HATED it,” Crowder says. “When setting up my assessment with the coach, she did not understand my “accent.” To this day I insist it is she with the accent, not me.” 

Jennifer took Rock Steady Boxing classes at Day One Fitness. Although she felt out of shape and anxious, she said the community was very welcoming. With zero-boxing experience and a defensive attitude, Jennifer didn’t feel like she was going to commit to the program. 

How A Friend Can Help Support You Through Your Training

Sometimes it’s not coaches or bosses that make us stick to a task, it’s the people we do the activities with that make it worthwhile. For Jennifer, she found her motivation to stick with her Rock Steady Boxing class, Rachel. By committing to a gym partner, Jennifer not only found someone to support her but also motivated her to continue when the program got tough. 

Rachel had just been through a disabling injury while serving in our military. She put in a lot of hard work making a comeback, falling back on her competitive swimming regimen, and starting yoga. She was soon transformed mentally, spiritually, and physically. Jennifer had told Rachel about her diagnosis and Rachel was a supportive friend and looked up what to do about it.  She waited for Jennifer to ask her for advice to encourage her to try to Rock Steady Boxing on her own. 

Rachel offered to be Jennifer’s corner person. At first, Jennifer thought that this experience would be a one-time thing, but Rachel was determined to not let her quit. 

The Rock Steady Boxing Experience

Jennifer watched the clock and counted down the minutes of her first class. Throughout the intense drills and reps, Jennifer swore and said a lot of unladylike things. She didn’t care about making friends in the class or talking to the other members because she thought this was the only class she would take. 

Even though the members of Rock Steady Boxing are all in various stages of Parkinson’s disease, the classes are not meant to be easy. Boxing itself is a very intense exercise regimen that is meant to test and challenge the body. Boxing is both a cardio and strength training program that helps relieve stress, improve core strength, and improve motor function. With the right training, research suggests it can improve Parkinson’s symptoms, better control movement, and slow how the disease progresses. Sticking with a regular exercise program like boxing can continue to improve symptoms and daily living with Parkinson’s disease. 

Rock Steady Boxing uses most of the same equipment that you would find at a normal boxing gym. Members wear boxing gloves, hit speed bags, use the same stances and techniques, and move in the same way boxers do. 

Sticking With The Rock Steady Program

Jennifer recalls the moment of relief she felt when the class was over. “I sighed with relief taking off those heavy glove-shaped bricks,” said Jennifer. “I was so sweaty and miserable.” At the end of the class, members stretch and cool down. The class ends when all the members put their hands in the middle and chant “WORK HARD, FIGHT BACK, ROCK STEADY!”

As everyone is packing up, the coach asks Jennifer and Rachel what they thought of the class. Jennifer is about ready to say she never wants to come back before Rachel answers that they had a great time and would be back again for sure. They then gave each other boxing nicknames. Rachel named Jennifer “Hood Rat,” and Jennifer named Rachel “Pterodactyl.”

Jennifer and Rachel’s commitment to each other is what has kept them being Rock Steady Boxers for over 4 1/2 years. Seeing such progress in Jennifer, Rachel and her do other physical activities together like yoga too. Even though they have since moved away from the initial gym where they were introduced to Rock Steady Boxing, they’ve both stuck with the program by finding another gym in their local area. 

Building Up Your Support System

The initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be a scary one, but it’s not one that you have to do alone. Family members and friends will want to be there to support you as your disease progresses and including them in your therapies and treatment plan isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s the start of building a support system. 

Rock Steady Boxing is not just a physical therapy program, it’s also a support group where members and corner people can help support and motivate each other throughout their progression. Jennifer’s story is one of many people with Parkinson’s disease who found a way to fight back and take control by sticking with a program that makes living with Parkinson’s disease easier.  

If you’ve been newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, or want to be supportive of a friend or family member who has, then find a Rock Steady Boxing program near you. Corner people are just as important to the program as the actual boxers and we encourage people to try the program for themselves with a friend.

Join Rock Steady Boxing Today

If you’re unsure if boxing is right for you, talk to your doctor about boxing as a treatment option before you being. Our affiliates go through rigorous training to learn all about how the disease progresses and the best exercises to combat specific Parkinson’s symptoms like balance problems and postural instability. Check out one of our programs for yourself to see if you think Rock Steady Boxing can help you.