MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Seems only fitting that a terrifying, debilitating disease meets its match in a boxing gym.

Tom Renshaw was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011.

“Most fulfilling thing is just hitting something really hard,” Renshaw said.

For several years, the Title Boxing Club has been his refuge. The gym holds twice-weekly sessions for people battling Parkinson’s. They come to exercise body and brain by making connections between hand and eye.

“I like to believe that it’s helping,” Renshaw said.

Lead trainer Mike Faragon says it’s not the force of the punch, but the mere fact they can.

“They are dedicated, they come every week, they’re consistent and it really does benefit them,” Faragon said.

Renshaw likes the camaraderie.

“Every month we go out afterwards to a tavern and have what I call a therapy session,” Renshaw said.

He enjoys hanging with others in his shoes.

“Because that’s one of the things with people with Parkinson’s, people withdraw from their social life and this gets you in contact with other people like you,” Renshaw said.

Terry Teppen’s initial diagnosis wasn’t from a doctor.

“I got it from my sister at first. She wondered why my arm wasn’t swinging. It’s a common trait among Parkinson’s people, they don’t swing their arms,” Teppen said.

Now, along with 20 others in the class, he’s literally swinging for his life.

“I guess we all like to hit something at some point or another – it’s a way of releasing some aggression, too, I guess,” Teppen said.

Wanda Sieben’s been battling the disease for 20 years. She says the workouts give her stability.

“I think it’s given me a lot more ability to use my legs – they’re stronger and I don’t fall over,” Sieben said.

Trainer Faragon says his students have their good days and bad.

“You still try to push them, push them further than they are usually able to and they end up leaving feeling better than they came in,” Faragon said.

Staying active won’t cure Parkinson’s, but it just might delay an early knockout.

“I’m pretty convinced my exercise is holding my Parkinson’s at bay,” Teppen said.

Will and desire are powerful medicine.

The club meets every Tuesday and Thursday at the Title Boxing Club in Arden Hills.

Bill Hudson

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