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January Parkinson's Spotlight

Learn More About Jeff Karbowski

January Parkinson's Spotlight

This month, we have Jeff Karbowski as our Parkinson's Spotlight. Jeff runs Rock Steady Boxing at The Ring of Hope. I met Jeff almost 3 years ago when I started to volunteer at his classes. Jeff has put together an incredible class that is filled with so much positivity, camaraderie, and lots of sweat. 

Jeff has worked for the same company (Quad in Saratoga) for over 32 years and has been in many different roles but, for the last 15 years or so, he has been in the IT department helping develop and support web applications.  Jeff enjoys playing the guitar but he says he doesn't play as often as he should.  "To be honest, I have to say that the Rock Steady Boxing class is what I do for fun. I really enjoy doing it. I also enjoy going for walks with my wife and my dog." One fun fact about Jeff is that he has been on 5 of the 7 continents (he still has to get to Australia and Antarctica). "I do like to travel and see different places."

Jeff was drawn to Rock Steady Boxing after watching a story about Rock Steady Boxing on TV. Click on this link to see the story.

Right away Jeff kept thinking that it was something he wanted to get involved with. "It was weird because that never really happened to me before."  Jeff looked to see if there were any classes nearby and there weren't any. About a year went by and he saw another story about Rock Steady Boxing on tv. Again, he checked the Rock Steady Boxing website and there were still none in the area. His daughter was taking martial arts classes at The Ring Of Hope and thought they might be interested in offering classes for people with PD. He talked to Vince at The Ring Of Hope and asked him if it was something they would be interested in. He told him he would get certified if Vince would let Jeff use the gym on Sunday's (when they are closed). Vince said "There is a reason why you walked in the door today" and said they just had a meeting where they discussed sending someone out to get certified so they could start offering classes for people with PD. "I guess it was just fate" Jeff said.

The class runs for an hour and a half. They meet every Sunday from 10am to 11:30am. The class starts out talking and stretching for about 20 minutes. Then, Jeff does what he calls "The worst game ever", which is mostly ab work. He has a bag full of bottle caps with numbers on them and everyone grabs a number. Each number is a different exercise (push ups, leg lifts, etc...). They then go through and do each of the exercises that were chosen. That can take 25 minutes or so. After that, there is a 30 minute routine that Jeff put together which consists of various exercises and incorporates the heavy bags. It's basically a different exercise every 30 seconds and we do a 30 second break every few minutes. The goal is to get the heart rate up AND to use all of our muscles. It's a lot of movement. "I feel like Richard Simmons when we're doing it. It's fun. It's a great workout and it does challenge people's balance and coordination." Usually there are about 7 to 10 people who come each week. Jeff has two awesome volunteers, Bill and Peter, who have been associated with The Ring of Hope for many years and have lots of boxing experience.

Jeff says that he sees people who may be a bit "out of shape" start to feel stronger from his classes. He says for others, he sees an emotional change. "Many times people have called me because they hear about Rock Steady from a friend or family member. At that point, they've been diagnosed but aren't aware of the resources that are out there (support groups, other types of classes, etc...) and that, I imagine, is a pretty bad place. They come to the gym and meet other people who can relate to what they are going through. They share information and give each other advice and support. Plus, they get to punch stuff! I think it's the camaraderie that makes the biggest difference."

Jeff would like to thank all the people at The Ring Of Hope for sponsoring the program. He says without that support, this program wouldn't be possible. "They are an incredible group of people to be involved with." Jeff shared that the classes have been very rewarding for him personally. He feels like he is doing something that makes a difference in people's lives. He enjoys it when he sees someone smile or laugh during class. "You know, they say "laughter is the best medicine" and I'm willing to act like a goofball if it will bring a smile to someone's face. I imagine that it can be very difficult sometimes for people to get up and go to the gym on a Sunday morning to exercise but they do, and that makes me feel like I'm doing something right." Jeff feels like the class has brought people together and that those relationships are turning into something much bigger.

Jeff does his best to stay active by working out a couple times a week at home. He does a routine similar to what they do in class, walks his dog a few times a day, and goes on hikes or bike rides with his wife.  He tries to do what he preaches every Sunday.

Advice from Jeff:

"I would say (although knowledge is power..) don't Google too much about Parkinson's disease. The one thing I've seen is that it's different for everyone. Don't assume you will get every symptom described on the internet, that will be too overwhelming. What you can do is attend different meetings and try different classes. Build a support system by finding the people who you can relate to and figure out which programs are best for you. The Rock Steady slogan is: FIGHT BACK!   You've got to keep on moving. As much as possible, as often as you can."

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