June 10, 2016
With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer and athlete of all time, many remember him winning heavyweight titles in the ring, but in the years after his illustrious career, Ali had a long and hard-fought bout with Parkinson’s disease. Although boxing and the devastating nervous system disease do not appear to have an affiliation, boxing trainer Rich Dean and Parkinson’s specific fitness trainer Carolyn Cole have teamed up to offer In-the-Ring with Rich Dean, a specialized boxing program for people with Parkinson’s at Rich Dean Boxing Fitness in Westport.
Cole and Dean got the idea to collaborate from a mutual client of theirs afflicted by Parkinson’s, who thought it would be a good idea to introduce the two. Dean brings a breadth of professional boxing experience to the table. He represented the Bahamas in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and is a three-time Golden Gloves boxing champion and an Empire State Games champion. Cole, whose father has Parkinson’s and maintains physical activity with a trainer, works with her clients on functional training as well as athletic training. The program, which will incorporate both instructor’s specialties, is specifically designed to help reduce symptoms associated with the disease.
“Boxing helps them with their balance, their muscle memory, posture, sequence, and stance. A lot of them have problems with their stance and balance and this really works for them and this really helps them,” Dean said.
“A lot of them will come in here staggering and they can just walk right out of here after — they can walk straight after. It’s like medication for them, it really is,” he added.
The class, with a cap of 10, allows the participants to receive personal instruction in and out of the ring. In pairs, boxers rotate through different stages, including mitt work and sequence punching with Dean in the ring.
A certified fitness trainer, Cole will handle the stations outside of the ring. For instance, people with Parkinson’s tend to shuffle because their muscles are tighter. She works with them to increase their stride by walking with them and putting them through flexibility work. Flexibility training includes activities such as opening jars to strengthen the hands, wrists and forearms and band work among a wide range of other regiments.
In addition to the actual workout, Cole takes into account the individual person on each given day.
“Everybody is just where they are, and it’s important for us to keep track of how everybody is. Did they get a good night’s sleep because of the medication — it affects their ability to sleep? That’s a big problem. ... Do they have side effects? How’s their blood pressure? You always have to check in because it’s always changing,” she said.
“It doesn’t take the clients that long to see progress. I just think it’s amazing,” Cole said. “It’s the only treatment that’s been clinically proven to delay and reverse symptoms of Parkinson’s. The medication doesn’t; it just covers it up for the day.”
The program starts June 9 and will run for eight consecutive weeks. After that session is complete, there will be additional eight week sessions running in perpetuity throughout the year. For information, contact Cole at 203.962.4084.