Volunteering at his local gym to being the owner of Rock Steady Boxing San Diego, Victor Rosas is looking to find the balance to help more people with Parkinson’s Disease attend his in-person class.
RSBSD is owned by Escondido native Victor Rosas who has been boxing since he was 15 years old. The boxing program is for people who live with Parkinson’s disease by providing boxing/workouts, and support by connecting with other people who live in the same shoes. The majority of the fighters build bonds with each other throughout the program.
Parkinson’s Disease is a brain disorder that can cause a patient to have troubles with walking, balance and coordination. It can also cause behavioral problems like stress, anxiety and depression.
RSBSD works with people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and are looking for a place to stay physically active. Members are called fighters at RSBSD and have been serving the North County area for years.
RSBSD main focus is to help fighters empower people with Parkinson’s to fight back. The program focuses on rigorous exercise, emphasizing gross motor movement, balance, core strength, and rhythm, flexibility, posture, gait, and activities of daily living.
RSBSD starts at 9 a.m. two times a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and starts off with a little jog down the curbside outside of the gym. Each week is a different lesson, one week fighters can be learning the fundamentals of boxing like punching the boxing bags and another week can be basketball workouts.
“We always want to do is mix it up just for them, but also for their bodies to create different, exchanges within the movement,” said Ray Warren, RSBSD assistant coach.
At the end of class, fighters gather up on the big mat, and gym doors close for a small session of meditation.
“They got rid of the old boxing coach that they had and then they brought me in, I started taking on a larger portion,” said owner and head coach Rosas.
During Rosas’ volunteer days he noticed that the previous owner did not teach any boxing skills to his fighters, and the fighters at the time wanted to learn more boxing that led the previous owner out of the program. Rosas took the appropriate steps to become a certified trainer and go to Indianapolis to get certified by the Rock Steady program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he took over ownership in the Escondido location.
“I was a first-time business owner … it was very challenging but I wanted to keep everything together and didn’t want everyone to lose their home,” said Rosas when he became the owner of RSBSD.
When the pandemic started to close, businesses and activities were limited for people with Parkinson’s because they were unable to attend physical therapy and any fitness class they may have been attending.
RSBSD had to close its doors for a couple of months when many other businesses around the world did because of COVID-19. They started to offer virtual classes through Zoom in order to not lose their clients who have been attending the program for a while.
“A lot of people did not want to come in because of what was going on … we lost 60 percent of our memberships that we had,” Rosas said.
“People are starting to slowly come back now because the vaccine is out … we’re nowhere near where we used to be and definitely want to get back to that point,” he added when they started to slowly do in-person classes.
Ray Warren is a retired trainer who now volunteers to assist Rosas with the in-person training.
“The disease’s male-dominated if you look at this class, it’s female-dominated because they were the first to feel comfortable to come in person … until about three weeks ago, we only have one guy,” Warren said.
RSBSD offers virtual classes through Zoom on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for any fighter who is not comfortable attending in-person class.
“They don’t have heavy bags, and they don’t have speed bags and all that, it’s called shadow boxing,” said Warren. “All this stuff that we do is probably 50 percent physical and 50 percent emotional well-being and when you take away the in-person class, it loses some of the dynamics of the interpersonal connection.”
Exercising and maintaining a stable emotion improves a person with Parkinson’s symptoms and mental health when they are busy exercising or interacting with other patients because they are too busy not worrying if they have Parkinson’s.
Steve Frisina and Josephine Stanlon are two fighters who have been attending RSBSD for more than five years. Stanlon shared her experience with in-person class and virtual class by saying, “I’m less motivated, I don’t have a big space, it’s difficult to move in my room, I enjoy being with other people.”
Frisina said, “I much preferred being with others and sharing the activity and challenge.”
As time moves forward and things slowly start to go back to normal, Rock Steady Boxing San Diego has been taking steps to reopen. Temperature checks are continued as well as requiring face coverings for all customers and people coming in and out of the gym. Social distancing is applied and also providing hand sanitizer. Keeping the gym clean is important before and after a class, which is why they have an electrostatic sprayer that cleans out bacteria.
Rosas shared about the electrostatic sprayer that “within 10 to 15 minutes it is already safe for people to come in.”
The majority of the time spent at RSBSD is exercising and creating a family with the fighters.
Frisina said, “I met my future spouse here at Rock Steady, we are going to get married in June.”
“Anybody that needs help that’s just been diagnosed [with Parkinson’s] and you know, they’re alone, maybe they’re depressed, they don’t think that there’s anything else they can do right now … we’d love to have them in here,” said Rosas. “Everyone here loves the camaraderie. They’re all going through the same exact thing so they can share their experience together and they can grow and benefit together at the same time.”