Patti Batt stalks the Fitchburg gym exhorting her students to “Stay strong!” “Show them what you’ve got!” “Keep that back straight!” “Never cross your feet!” and, as if there was ever any doubt, “If you can talk, you’re not working hard enough!”
It’s not a “Rocky” remake, and the 37 middle-age and elderly people at Bakke Athletics won’t be getting into a ring to duke it out with their peers anytime soon.
Their opponent is a degenerative nervous system disease, Parkinson’s, affecting some 1 million Americans and for which there is no cure. Batt’s mission is to help them fight it with methods employed by the sweet science.
Batt, 61, is a personal trainer certified with Rock Steady Boxing, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that’s developed a boxing-based fitness curriculum in line with research that’s shown strength, coordination and agility training can help slow and sometimes alleviate symptoms of the disease, which is often characterized by tremors, slowed movement, muscle stiffness and other physical disabilities.
Jody “Tango” Tang — all Batt’s students have boxing names — said she was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s when she was 46.
“It’s so inspirational to come to class and to be with people who have some of the same symptoms, especially the tremor, I think is the hardest because that’s pretty noticeable,” said Tang, who lives in Madison and started going to Batt’s Monday and Wednesday class just before the pandemic hit. “I have to believe that it’s one of the reasons … why I didn’t have to start medication right away, so my symptoms have stayed low level.”