Retired Beloit police officer Doug Anderson set two plastic foam cups from Dunkin’ Donuts on Tim Scholten’s back and told him to hold steady.
Scholten, doubled over, red-faced and laser focused, did it without trouble.
Silly? Yes. Practical? Also yes.
The cup trick is a balance exercise that helps Scholten navigate life with Parkinson’s disease.
Scholten picked up the exercise from Rock Steady Boxing, a program that helps people with Parkinson’s improve their quality of life.
The program will be offered in Beloit beginning in early February.
Connie Udell has been teaching Rock Steady Boxing at her studio, SOL Fitness, 2100 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville, for nearly a year, she said.
Inspired by her mother who had the disease, Udell was trained in Parkinson’s wellness and care in 2011.
Boxing provides participants with intense exercise that releases dopamine, a chemical people with Parkinson’s struggle to produce on their own, to the brain, Udell said.
The activity also builds confidence and community for those who need both, Udell said. She pointed across the room to a man with an ear-to-ear smile as he hit the punching targets for the first time to demonstrate this point.
The program boasts a tough-love mentality to push participants past mental barriers.
A 22-year-old Gazette reporter in relatively good health learned that to be true after one minute of boxing with Udell.
Coaches work with participants at a speed that matches their ability levels, Udell said. This was clear when she slowed her punching commands for a winded and slightly dizzy reporter.
Anderson, also a Rock Steady coach, became certified for the program after reconnecting with Udell. The two worked together at the police department years ago.
Simple wins are Anderson’s favorite part of the program, he said. He loves seeing participants conquer their fear of falling or perform simple drills they couldn’t before.
About 20 years ago, a Parkinson’s diagnosis was like a death sentence, Anderson said. Now, with help from the program and modern medicine, people are gaining quality years of life.
Exercises and drills are the same ones competitive boxers use but without contact, Udell said.
The program helps participants improve motor skills, gain strength and learn how to get up from a fall on their own, Udell said.
Scholten said his endurance, awareness and attitude have improved since he began working out with Udell. He can walk a 5K (a little more than 3 miles) on rare occasions thanks to her training.
A positive attitude is most important, Scholten said. Parkinson’s affects the mind and emotions as much as it affects physical well-being.
It wasn’t difficult for Scholten to “throw the white flag” on some of his daily activities, he said. He has learned to ask others to drive a car for him, button his shirt or get a wheelchair to move in a busy airport.
Scholten said his handwriting keeps getting smaller and he can’t walk a golf course anymore, but that does not stop him from doing things he loves.
He recently took trips to San Francisco and the East Coast with his son, he said. It’s a fair deal—Scholten pays, his son drives.
They plan to keep traveling in the future and see as many Major League Baseball stadiums as possible.
Whether its boxing with a former cop or taking a trip to Fenway Park in Boston, Scholten refuses to let Parkinson’s get in his way.