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The Big Fight Back

“She encourages us.” “I yell at them.” The instructor and her students at Title Boxing’s Rock Steady class are having a pleasant disagreement as to how to characterize the 1-2 days a week they spend in the gym. They may not know that just a year and a half earlier, Roni Stiffler, their friendly yet [...]
614now Staff

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“She encourages us.”

“I yell at them.”

The instructor and her students at Title Boxing’s Rock Steady class are having a pleasant disagreement as to how to characterize the 1-2 days a week they spend in the gym.

They may not know that just a year and a half earlier, Roni Stiffler, their friendly yet tough instructor, was training to teach their course—a growing phenomenon specially designed for Parkinson’s patients—punching and perspiring in an Indianapolis gym, thinking of her grandfather.

“My grandfather had Parkinson’s and the thought of helping others fight the disease made me so excited. The first video I watched was in Indy on the first day of training. I literally cried my eyes out for the first two hours of the class,” she said.

It was in that gym, where Rock Steady was founded as the first Parkinson’s-specific boxing program by a former county prosecutor and a world champion professional boxer, that Stiffler found her new purpose. She’s now one of hundreds that have started their own clubs under Rock Steady’s unofficial mantra: the disease is the opponent.

And when you step into Stiffler’s class in Grandview, it’s easy to see that her troops have the disease on the ropes.

Once hands are wrapped and gloves strapped, Stiffler goes from sweet to intense in a matter of seconds. “High knees! High knees! I wanna see those knees up!” she says, smiling impishly in a tank top emblazoned with “This Is My Happy Hour.”

One of her students, a man in his mid-’50s, sticks his tongue out at her as he passes on a warm-up lap, matching her faux rigor. Playfulness not withstanding, it’s clear that Stiffler’s seriousness is present on purpose. She knows how hard it was for them to get out of bed, let alone get out the door and into the gym. She’s not going to let up for a second, knowing the benefits of what Rock Steady refers to as intense “forced” exercise.

“The best way I have heard Parkinson’s explained is it tries to ‘shrink’ you. Steps turn to shuffles, voice gets small, posture suffers, things like writing and brushing teeth become the hardest tasks of the day,” Stiffler said. “Everything about boxing is the opposite. The focus used on speed bag. The reach to hit the heavy bag. Moving when doing mitts. In class we also work on strides, motor skills, use loud voices while working out. The intensity of the workout helps, too.”

Etta Alleman admits that the instruction—Stiffler, along with trainer Andre Small—is part of what keeps her coming back. “On those days when you don’t feel like coming, you need somebody to push you, that puts the oomph in your bazoomph,” she said.

Alleman, who was diagnosed just over two years ago, has seen her general mobility improve, and her left side weakness has gotten stronger after months of coming to the class.

And often, it’s little things she wouldn’t have noticed before, like the ability to swing her arms freely even when not exercising. Plus, the footwork of boxing increases her ability to keep her keep up her tennis habit up.

She’s also quick to point out that the benefits of Rock Steady extend far beyond that day’s physical improvements. In addition to crediting the exercise with keeping her on a lower level of medication, she credits it the class with helping her ….

“Psychologically,” she says, nodding. “Parkinson’s can come with depression—I refuse to have that.”

Which is where the heavy bag comes in.

“I come and knock the heck out of it,” she laughs.

Some members of the class have larger issues with tremors than others, but the term “stiff” comes up more than shaky. Jenny Arrigo often times can barely walk when she arrives to class, but can stroll out freely on her own after it’s over. Like Etta, she values not only the exercise, but also the camaraderie of the class and the intensity they all instill in each other.

“I try to do some of this stuff on my own, but it’s not the same,” she said.

Such intensity is required for a disease so persistent in its attack.

All you can do is fight it, Stiffler says. Well, and laugh at it.

“We joke about the symptoms. One of my favorite guys walked in on a December day. Now understand, he has decent tremors in his right arm. He said, ‘Roni, I finally found a way to use my Parkinson’s for good.’ He held up his keys in his shaky paw. They were jingling and he said, ‘I can work for Volunteers of America. You know the people who ring the bell at Christmas time!’ He’s a funny guy; great right cross,” she smiled.

Stiffler leaves every week feeling fulfilled by their mission, hyper aware of what her students are fighting at home, and why she started showing up in the first place. Her grandfather, who recently passed, is never far from her heart and mind.

“He will always be the biggest and strongest man I have ever known, and watching what Parkinson’s did to him hurts my heart,” she said. “I couldn’t do a lot to help him. But if I can help other people fight these symptoms, I will. If we can slow some of the progression, that’s all I want to do. It’s the most important thing I do every week.”

To join Rock Steady Central Ohio, call Title Boxing (955 W Fifth Ave.) at (614) 507-4252, or email [email protected]

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Health & Fitness

The Great Outdoors (Are Always Open): An easy scavenger hunt to ease you into nature

Linda Lee Baird

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Quarantine. Isolation. Social distancing. The words defining our historic (and historically difficult) moment are all about solitude—and we’re bound to be using them for some time to come. But getting through these long days doesn’t mean we need to be inside. In fact, even under the “stay at home” orders currently in effect, getting out in the fresh air is still very much allowed. Spring goes on springing, and the time away from schools and the office gives us the opportunity to soak it in, observe, and enjoy the changes. 

For those who have been disconnected from nature for a few years, or never connected in the first place, here’s a beginner’s guide to the plants and animals you may see around our Metro Parks, woods, and rivers this spring. We went with common species—because it feels good to be able to check things off your list—but think of this as a starting point for paying a little more attention to the natural world around you. 

And if you are one of the many people who is suddenly leading a homeschool, you can use this as an educational scavenger hunt. My “class” will be taking this list up to Highbanks on the first warm April afternoon. 

Birds

Robin

My mom used to point out the “first robin of spring” as March turned to April every year—a sign that the season was changing and more birds would soon be joining their song in the trees.

Hawk

Look up! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… actually a bird. Our flat lands and wide skies are an ideal combination to catch a hawk carefully circling in  the sky.  (Because this is an easy scavenger hunt, any bird of prey can check this box. We won’t tell). 

Warblers

The Ohio Division of Wildlife calls warblers, “one of the avian highlights of spring.” While there are several species that visit our state, the blue-winged, golden winged, and yellow all have bright yellow coloring that perhaps makes them easier to spot in the trees. ODW recommends Greenlawn Cemetery as a local spot to see them.

Animals

Deer

They’re everywhere in Ohio, but there’s still something magical about spotting one in the wild and looking into its tranquil eyes.

Butterflies

Yes, there are many different types of butterflies that live in Central Ohio and yes, they are most active later in the year, but the common painted lady starts fluttering around as early as April. If you find a butterfly of any species this early in the season, we’ll give you full credit. 

Frogs

Head down to the water and open your ears for that familiar croak. You’re likely to spot them chillin’ on the bank or the nearest lily pad, but it’s really fun if you get to watch them swim. 

Baby… anything

It’s spring, the season many species welcome their babies into the world. And if there’s anything cuter than an animal, it’s a baby animal. Ducklings, bunnies, birds nests; anywhere you can spot an animal family will let you tick this box. 

Plants

Fiddlehead ferns

One of the first signs that the earth is returning from winter is the emergence of fiddlehead ferns. Their distinctive spiral sticking up from the ground portends more plants to follow. (They are also supposed to be delicious when cooked, but since this is a scavenger hunt occurring in a public park, please leave them for the next visitor). 

Lilac

You’ll probably smell them before you see them. There’s a reason lilac is dried and used in aeromatics year round, but—lucky us—we’re quickly approaching the season to experience the real thing. Those small, purple buds that smell like absolute bliss? That’s lilac. 

Maple tree

Sure, it’s at its peak in the fall when the leaves turn gold and red, but can you identify a maple before it’s leaves are in full bloom and it’s not producing any syrup? Now’s your chance to find out. 

Fungus

Mushrooms count, but the best fungus in my opinion grows on old tree stumps and boasts beautiful stripes.

Feature photo by Rebecca Tien.

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Health & Fitness

COVID-19 Coverage: Expert tips for staying healthy during your stay-at home

Mitch Hooper

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It's been nine days since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has placed the state under a shelter-in-place order. However long this will last is unknown, but Dr. Anup Kanodia has a suggestion: use this time for your own self-health.

Dr. Kanodia, an Akron-native, is the owner and head MD at KanodiaMD in Westerville. He did a fellowship of alternative, integrative medicine at Harvard University and went on to earn his Master's in Public Health. His practice focuses on integrating functional medicine with conventional medicine. In addition to owning his own private practice, he works part-time with addiction clinics and part-time with urgent care.

"What we're finding, in my practice, is that a lot of people want to know how do they help themselves in this time. What can they do beyond social distancing and hand washing?" Dr. Kanodia said.

To find ways to cope and grow through this situation, 614Now talked with Dr. Kanodia via Zoom. Here are some of his tips to finding happiness and peace during these stressful times.

1.) Get into a routine

Working, sleeping, living, and eating in the same place can make the days feel like they blur together. Dr. Kanodia says a daily routine can be exactly what you need to help create a separation of your work and personal life as they collide together at home.

"[It starts] with having a regular sleep schedule," Dr. Kanodia explained. "And then getting out of the house first thing in the morning; meaning go for a walk, or go get something. But if you're stuck inside the house all day long, that's going to ruin your mental health."

For folks working at home, he also suggests making your work space separate from your bedroom. Don't work in bed, he says, and try to work in a different room than your bedroom if possible.

2.) Sleep is crucial right now

Sleep is the time our body repairs itself making it a vital part of a healthy immune system. But with schedules out-of-order, the long hours inside can make falling asleep difficult. Things like exercise throughout your day can help at nighttime, and Dr. Kanodia suggests writing before bed if you are struggling to fall asleep as well as limiting blue light exposure.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself waking up much earlier than usual, he says to simply go about your day, but it's important not to take naps as they can throw off your sleep cycle.

3.) And so is staying physically active; better yet if you can safely get outdoors

He says that functional medicine is finding that there are even more benefits to the immune system and overall health of the body through doing outdoor activities and being in the sunlight.

"Walking out in nature is even more beneficial if you could. Sunlight, outdoor light, or daylight helps us make Vitamin D, helps us shutdown sleeping hormones, and helps with depression."

However, there is a limit to exercise. He warns that if you feel tired roughly two hours after a work-out, you might've overworked yourself. Be cautious as being overworked can lead to a lowered immune system.

4.) Continue social distancing, but use technology to stay connected and close with loved ones

Dr. Kanodia suggests folks use applications like FaceTime and Zoom to stay in-touch with their families and friends. KanodiaMD also offers video chats—both in groups or solo—for anyone with questions or struggling in this time.

He also suggests alternative ways to do this such as video games and online games. Additionally, forums and chats are great ways to stay connected, he says.

5.) Keep a positive outlook with healthy outlets

It's difficult to do so in times like these, but Dr. Kanodia says a positive outlook is vital right now. And having a positive attitude doesn't mean you are immune to the fears, rather, it's coming to terms with them, he says.

"We have to accept our fear, [being] overwhelmed, and anxiousness. [...] Stress and mindset are unmet expectations. If I have expectations of how long this will last, if I will get COVID-19, that I don't like working from home; any of these expectations make us more stressed. If I go with the flow, what's the best I can do with this one minute? And keep going down that path."

For this, he suggests finding hobbies that brought you joy when you were younger. For some it's adult coloring, for others it's sports.

"Figure out in the past what kept you calm. Whatever it is that is your stress reliever, now is a good time to do it."

For more information on Dr. Kanodia, or to download his free COVID-19, Cold, and Flu Top 3 Recommendations, visit kanodiamd.com.

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Health & Fitness

5 unique ways to improve wellness without a treadmill

Jeni Ruisch

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big percentage of the resolutions we make every year involve getting in shape and/or improving our overall wellness. But running on a treadmill is only slightly more attractive an activity than, say, waiting in line at the DMV. And unless you can sit still for more than two minutes, meditation is out of the question. If you want to really challenge yourself to step outside your normal bubble, face your fears while finding balance. You’ll conquer your phobias AND the scale.

Float

True REST Float Spa
truerest.com

You can achieve a state of buoyancy akin to floating on a cloud. The key is a pod filled with hyper-salinated water, heated to the temperature of your skin. Reduced Environmental Stimulus Therapy can help your mind find peace.

Flip

Life Energy Yoga
leyyoga.com

Did you ever dream of becoming an acrobat? This exercise consists of poses done with a partner. You can make human pyramids, or even learn to stand on each other’s shoulders, or contort yourselves into knots of fun.

Climb

Infinity Aerial
infinityaerial.com

Raise your skills to the roof with aerial silks, the skill made popular by Cirque Du Soleil and performing artist P!nk. A long swath of fabric pours down from ceiling supports, and the performer uses friction and strength to support themselves in poses among the waterfall of silk.

Dive

Columbus Scuba
columbusscuba.com

The depths of the ocean hold more mysteries than the surface of the moon. Brave men and women strap Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus to their backs every day the world over, and dive into the unknown.

Fly

The Buckeye Bounce Club
thebounceclub.com

If you thank your lucky stars for gravity, and the hard ground under your feet, maybe it’s time to shake yourself free of the terra for a few ticks. The Buckeye Bounce Club is a gym where the workouts are done on wall-to-wall trampolines, or rather, ceiling-to-ceiling, as the walls themselves are bounceable, just like the floors.

Originally appeared in (614) Magazine December 2017

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