Parkinson’s Disease Changed My Life…
It’s true. PD changed how I viewed my role in the fitness industry. I will explain more later. First, I think it is important to clear the air - I do not have Parkinson’s Disease. I am a Strength and Conditioning Coach who develops exercise programs to help PWPs (People w/ Parkinson’s) live as well as they possibly can with a progressive neuro-degenerative disease. However, as my good friend Sheldon Vicks (“The Voice of Rock Steady Boxing”) once stated, “Whether you have PD or live/work with someone who does, we are all living with PD.”
So back to my original statement – “PD Changed my life.” In 2016, I met a woman named Judy, who was in search of a boxing instructor willing to train a 70+ year old woman to box. The short of it is, Judy found me. A strength coach and boxing instructor who knew nothing about Parkinson’s Disease, except that the greatest boxer of all-time (Muhammed Ali) and Michael J. Fox had been diagnosed with a “disease that made people’s hands shake.” I did not know it at the time, but Judy’s influence would hit harder than Ali’s right hand to George Foreman. I stepped into the ring with an unforgiving monster (PD). I have yet to step out. And I don’t plan to. Judy’s story altered my course and made me realize that maybe my future was more about developing programs emphasizing quality of life, and less about looking like a Greek statue. I traded in my Muscle & Fitness and Flex Magazine subscriptions for “Parkinson’s Disease” in my Google search engine.
This year, my goal is to bring the fitness industry to the Parkinson’s Community. To do so, I (along with my good friend Ned Neuhaus) started the “Row2SlowPD” campaign, each rowing 1 million meters over the course of 2020, to bring awareness of the benefits of exercise in combatting symptoms of PD. As of today, I have rowed over 100k Meters. Long way to go, however, we are not alone! There are 15 Rowers – some rowing on land (Concept 2 Erg), others rowing on water! In the month of January, our team amassed 1.6 million meters. We are on pace to do something special!
The PD Community is willing and ready to try anything that could potentially reduce or even reverse their symptoms of PD. PWPs want to experience normalcy. They want to dance with their partners without fear of falling. They want to play on the floor with their kids or grandkids, get off the floor by themselves, and simply feel strong and confident while performing activities of daily living. So to all my fellow Fit Pros out there, reach out to your local community center or PD Group. Use your knowledge and talents to provide purposeful fitness. Get creative or keep it simple. Strengthen the PD community to help them Power Over PD!
About Coach Jojo
Jojo McDuffie, Senior Adviser to POP, is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, residing in Charlottesville, Virginia. He currently works at The University of Virginia in the Department of Intramurals Recreational Sports, as Senior Facility Coordinator and Instructor/Personal Trainer. He is also the owner of Rock Steady Boxing Harrisonburg and Head Coach at RSB Charlottesville, working directly with athletes diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.