TBC is more than a fitness gym: Rock Steady Boxing class led by trainer Mark Fox helps fight off effects of Parkinson’s disease at Title Boxing Club in Loveland
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH – The voice of Title Boxing Club owner Mark Fox echoes above the sound of gloves pounding the punching bags: one-two, roll four, one-two, roll four he shouts out.
Parkinson’s sufferer Ray Karle demonstrates hitting the bag with Mark Fox, Title Boxing Club owner and instructor (Photo by Chuck Gibson)
Ray Karle is one of eight men hitting the big bag with each command from Fox during the Rock Steady Boxing class on any given Tuesday and Thursday morning. Every member of the class attends for the same reason. They are all fighting the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Karle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about one year ago. A friend in North Carolina also has Parkinson’s and told him and his wife Kathy about how the Rock Steady program helps her.
“She goes to boxing,” said Karle. “Kathy looked it up and found Mark down here at Title Boxing Club. It helps, it really helps.”
Rock Steady Boxing is about hitting the bag. Title Boxing Club has plenty of bags to hit (Photo by Chuck Gibson)
Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) began as the first gym in the country dedicated to the fight against Parkinson’s in Indianapolis, Indiana. Researchers found the same workout boxers use to maximize their agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength to defeat opponents in the ring, helps in the fight against Parkinson’s. The disease disturbs the nervous system causing people to suffer weakening muscles and shaking of arms and legs. The RSB exercises are designed to build specific skills to help overcome Parkinson’s.
Fox first welcomed the program to Title Boxing Club in Loveland a few years ago. A certified Rock Steady Boxing trainer started classes here, but moved her classes to another location. People felt the new location was too inconvenient. Fox saw the benefit of continuing the RSB classes for them right here in Loveland.
“I went and got the certification to do it here,” said Fox. “It’s a nice thing to do for our community. Boxing is what helps Parkinson’s disease.”
Hitting the bag is one of the exercises that help. It goes beyond the obvious benefit of building strength. A professor of neurology at Indiana University agreed with Fox, there’s something about the punching combinations that helps. When you think about running, swimming, cycling; it’s muscle memory. The punching somehow helps reconnect for them. As he shouts out the combination commands, they have to respond with the correct combination of punches to the bag.
“It’s muscle memory, we don’t even have to think about it,” Fox said. “They have to constantly think about it.”
What has happened is the dopamine is fading in their brain. The synapses are not connecting. The RSB exercises – calling out combination punches to the bag – help them reconnect.
“We are reconnecting those synapse while they work out,” Fox explained. “Let’s face it; any exercise is going to be helpful. The studies came back that boxing is much more helpful. I think it is the constant changing-up type of workout. I’m constantly giving different combination numbers.”
The Tuesday and Thursday morning RSB classes last about an hour. They start with warm-up exercises that help with balance and endurance. Most of the class time is spent hitting the bag. Fox can see if they get tired toward the end of a workout. He’ll go back to calling out combinations he used earlier. He can tell the difference. The boxing, hitting the bag is primary, but balance exercises play a very important role too.
“When you need your balance most, you’re going to be fresher,” said Fox. “When you reach for something, you want your core to hold you from falling. That’s what we’re developing.”
Karle has been going to Mark’s class since his diagnosis a year ago. He has good days and bad days, wants to take naps, and experiences loss of balance and dizziness.
“Today I’ll feel real good the rest of the day,” Karle said. “Tomorrow, since I don’t do the exercise, I won’t feel as good.”
Title Boxing Club owner and class instructor Mark Fox looks on as Ray Karle sits while responding to commands to hit the bag near the end of a class. (Photo by Chuck Gibson)
Karle attends the classes every Tuesday and Thursday. The off days are what get him. Like the others, he has to fight off the temptation to take naps. He tries to find things to stay active. Staying inside during the winter months is the hardest. He looks forward to the warmer weather of spring and summer to get outside and do things.
“Friday I’ll try to find something to do with Kathy,” he said. “By Sunday I’m really down. I wish I had one of these bags at home.”
Truth is they can stop in anytime they want. Karle missed a Thursday class one week and went in on Friday instead. He worked out for about 45 minutes and felt great. Fox is great about helping out at any time.
“I came in kind of dizzy,” said Karle. “I feel great now. I feel a wave come over me and then I feel good. It’s the opposite at home. A wave comes over me, I get tired. I don’t feel like working out, and I don’t feel good.”
His wife notices. When he comes home from a class with Mark at Title Boxing Club, there’s no dizziness. His balance is better. His energy level is higher.
Jim Clark hits the bag during a Rock Steady Boxing class with Mark Fox at Title Boxing Club in Loveland (Photo by Chuck Gibson)
“Kathy notices when I come home,” he said. She sees a different person. I recommend it for anybody who has Parkinson’s.”
Fellow RSB classmate Jim Clark notices the difference it makes for him. His balance is better, walking is easier and he noticed right away his core got stronger. Two of Clark’s three brothers also have Parkinson’s. One just passed away at 76, while the oldest brother was very athletic and is now 82 years old. The effects of Parkinson’s are just now taking hold in him. He uses a walker and his speech has been affected.
“It’s different for all of us,” said Clark. “Boxing has helped me maintain status as I was. I don’t feel like I’ve declined.”
Clark also credits quicker thinking to the Rock Steady Boxing classes with Mark at Title Boxing Club. Having the numbers called out, then throwing the punches has helped. He feels more comfortable in conversations with other people. His confidence level is higher.
“I’m hoping it will continue,” Clark said. “It’s promising. I look forward to this. I come twice a week. I try to pull another class once a week.”
Mark Fox values those comments from Title Boxing Club members like Clark. It is not only the group in the RSB classes who find health benefits beyond just a fitness workout. There are the two members who were taking insulin to control diabetes.
“They are not taking insulin now,” said Fox. “Their doctor said whatever you’re doing at Title Boxing Club, keep doing it.”
Choosing Loveland for Title Boxing Club was no accident. Fox calls Loveland “the fitness capital of Cincinnati.” He thought Loveland was a great community.
Before hitting the bag, the Parkinson’s RSB workout warmup uses balls and other equipment to work on balance (Photo by Chuck Gibson)
Title Boxing Club is located in Loveland, OH on Loveland-Madeira Road (Photo by Chuck Gibson)
“It’s even better than I thought,” he said. “If something happens, we’ve made lifelong friends. They’re all nice people that help each other out.”
Fox only wishes more people would try Title Boxing Club. It is not what most people think when they see the name of the business. Even he had visions of a gym filled with boxers and questionable characters before he researched it. That’s not it. It is about fitness. A boxing workout gets you in great shape
“What’s so bad about knowing how to protect yourself,” asked Fox. “I had a guy in here who was a heavy weight fighter working out in the same class as my daughter. I wish I took a picture. You are somewhere in between. Do what you can. We built a community of good friends. We help them out.”
Click here for more about Title Boxing Club
Click here for more about Rock Steady Boxing