Wasatch Training Center taking punches at Parkinson’s | ParkRecord.com

Wasatch Training Center taking punches at Parkinson’s

Local facility offers program that helps manage disease

Rebecca Roberts, owner of the Wasatch Training Center in Park City, runs through a mitt drill with Mark Kweller on Saturday morning. Roberts runs a program called Rock Steady Boxing, which is geared toward aiding those with Parkinson's disease through boxing.

It was a Saturday morning when Park City native Mark Kweller was in the middle of making rounds at the Wasatch Training Center.

He started off with a simple mitt drill, throwing left and right jabs as trainer Rebecca Roberts barked out orders while taking the blows. With each strike, Kweller let out a yell.

He then hopped on the stationary bicycle, but instead of staring into the distance or listening to music, Kweller solved math problems posted on flashcards Roberts displayed. He also completed a mirror boxing drill, where Roberts yelled out words such as happy, sad and excited for Kweller to act out the expression in his face.

"Although I hate all the work doing it, by the time I walk out of there, I feel a lot better," Kweller said.

Kweller's Saturday drill isn't the average boxing class, but rather a specific program, Rock Steady Boxing, for those with Parkinson's disease. It takes place at the Wasatch Training Center in Park City, which came to fruition last year and is currently owned and run by Roberts.

"What we're trying to build is a Center of Excellence for all of the other people," Roberts said. "Any special interest group or any group that wants to work out together — Parkinson's patients, a club team — we're offering a totally comprehensive program to people."

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Roberts teamed up with Dan Ivie of Wasatch Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, which has offices in Park City and Heber, last year to create the Wasatch Training Center. The idea of the partnership was to have physical trainers, movement specialists and nutritionists, among others, available under one roof, something similar to U.S. Ski & Snowboard's Center of Excellence.

The Wasatch Training Center offers a number of programs, including workouts and training for special interest groups, such as clubs or even companies looking for a team-building activity. It also offers personal training and has classes open to the public.

Growing nationwide, the Rock Steady Boxing program, which was created about a dozen years ago in Indianapolis, aids the Wasatch Training Center's mission of helping those who may face physical challenges in the area. The program has picked up steam throughout the spring and participants like Kweller are grateful to have found physical improvement.

"[Studies have] found that through boxing, it starts to arrest the disease," Roberts said. "It doesn’t make the disease go away. It doesn't solve the problem. What it does do is it helps stop it where it is. The tremors become less noticeable. People are able to use facial expressions a little bit more easily.

"They can walk a little bit more easily. They have an easier time getting up and off the floor. It just really has shown to have dramatic effects in patients who have Parkinson's disease."

Kweller was diagnosed with Parkinson's 12 years ago, and he knew immediately he couldn't stand idly by and let the disease control him. Instead, he decided he would exercise enough so the disease's side effects wouldn't take over his life.

He lived in Santa Barbara for a month last summer and came across a local gym that hosted Rock Steady Boxing classes. While he was living there, Kweller participated in the class for four weeks, but when returning to Park City, there was no option for him.

Enter Roberts, who has been in constant communication with the University of Utah and University of Indianapolis to ensure she offers the best services and protocols to her Parkinson's patients. Although Kweller does other things to help subside the disease, he said Roberts' class is different.

"She works on memory situations," Roberts said. "She works on the whole variety of things. It's not just boxing. Boxing is the center of it, but these other things lead into the boxing."

Kweller said he's gained muscle in his upper arms and shoulders, as well as has regained some of his balance. Roberts said the other patients in her Rock Steady Boxing program also found success in the short time the facility has been open.

"Every single one of our patients, their disease has arrested and all other signs of Parkinson's has started to subside," Roberts said.

Those interested in Rock Steady Boxing, or any of the other programs offered at the Wasatch Training Center, should contact Roberts at wepacku@gmail.com or 435-640-8695.