Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

On getting caught with my guard down ...

The week before last week I went to a funeral, and have remained somewhat overwrought since. It wasn't the first I've been to as a conductor and certainly won't be the last; perhaps because it is the end of the year and I'm a bit tired or perhaps because lately many of my clients have been really struggling with the series of curveballs that we call life or perhaps because I was just caught with my guard down, but I'm still thinking about it and am sad.

Dave was one of my boxers, someone who had been with me since I started Counterpunch Parkinsons, someone who had chosen the fighter nameThe Greatestin tribute to Mohammed Ali.  Dave -- The Greatest -- loved boxing with us so much that even at the end, when whatever the evil process that was rapidly stealing his mind from him made him confused and unable to communicate effectively, even at the end he would mumble something about boxing or shake his already shaking fist in response to any question I asked of him, even totally out of context, outside of our boxing classes.   

Though he had been very unwell, with a rapidly encroaching and all-encompassing dementia and several falls and pneumonias, and getting worse over recent months, his death was sudden and unexpected.  He was discharged from hospital to the rest home he had recently moved in to on Wednesday.  I went to visit him on Thursday to find that he had died in the night.  The funeral was also sudden, due to religious reasons, it took place the next day.  I cleared my plate to get there and was glad I did – I was given a role in the ceremony, a role usually reserved for a close family member.  It was humbling and a reminder that it is as much an honour and privilege to be welcomed into the inner circle that surrounds a family at times of sadness and loss as it is to stand beside my clients in life. 

David was not an easy person to work with – even before things got the way they were at the end – he was difficult, and angry, and short tempered, and sarcastic.  He got very confused and anxious and a bit aggressive.  But he was also funny – very funny, and a bit nutty, and a lot dedicated -- even when it would have been very challenging for him to come he kept coming and trying.  It broke my heart to see him confusedly trying to put his hand into the closed end of his boxing gloves or looking at me lost and bewildered when he could no longer make sense of my most simple instructions.  And here is the thing – difficult or not, I love all of the people I work with and probably love the difficult ones even more, perhaps because of the extra effort needed to extend compassion in such instances. 

We saluted Dave at the beginning of our boxing class the week after the funeral.  Our boxers, our coaches and coach trainees and volunteers all in a big circle, arms around each other as NZ’s toughest heavyweight boxer lead us through a Maori prayer and song, a moment of silence, and then directed us to the boxing bags for 100 of our best punches to kick off the class with a spirit that Dave would have loved and as our way to give Parkinson’s the finger on his behalf, and then we worked hard and played harder during the rest of the class because that is what this community is about.  When life gives you Parkinson’s, Counterpunch.

I am a conductor.  I come from a discipline where love is recognized as a teaching tool.  And like regular love, conductive love comes with a risk of hurt and loss – there is no way around that, it is part of what it means to be human and to work with people in this way.  It always makes me reflect on my work, my practice, and my relationships, and even when I’m heartbroken I go back in – I choose this work and to love this way despite the risks.

I am a conductor, but also a coach – the head coach – and in that role I must teach the other coaches I train how to work effectively with our boxers.  I am purposeful in how I teach about the role of the group or about the importance of fun and motivation.  And I cannot help but teach about love because it is in my approach – obvious, out there, heart on my sleeve, a part of the way that I work.  I don’t know if I do enough to prepare my coaches for the heartache that comes with working through love, and I don’t know if I could or even should.  I teach my boxers to put their guard up – a boxing term for protecting yourself.  I teach my coaches to let their guards down, and I hope and pray that I am building a community that will nurture and support people who choose to work this way.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

On creating the Counterpunch Community

This morning I had the urge and the time to revisit this blog, which I realize has been sadly neglected over the past couple of years.  I spent quite an emotional morning revisiting some of my previous musings, reflecting on what I have been up to lately, and on the list I've been keeping about blog topics I would like to explore.  And yes Andrew, I am going to try to resume regular writing again.

Part of the incredibly joy of being self employed is the freedom to allow my practice to flow and develop and change over time.  If you would have asked me two years ago where I saw my work heading, every single prediction I made would have been wrong.  I am so grateful for so many of the life lessons gained from a career in Conductive Education, not least of all the lessons of being able to stand on my feet, to take risks, and work from a place of intuition guided by experience.

Over the past two years I have had the unique opportunity to build something from scratch, to make something happen, to set something in motion that is bigger than me.  That something is Counterpunch Parkinson's.  I correctly read an exciting trend that reflected not only the best practice and most up to date guidelines for exercise for people with Parkinson's, but a trend in community based empowering programs that people are excited to be a part of.  I have been able to take an amazing idea that continues to gain momentum in America through our big sister organization Rock Steady Boxing, and have found a way to not only introduce this program to my practice but to build a New Zealand specific accredited training program so to upskill other coaches and to therefore reach many more people with Parkinson's than I'd have been able to reach single handedly.  We are about to run our fourth coach training program; we now have 27 accredited coaches and programs running at 10 locations with more to be launched in the very near future.  In a very short time we have become a trusted and recognized brand and referral destination trusted by neurologists, specialists, and doctors, mainstream organizations like the Parkinson's society, and physiotherapists from within institutions like district health boards.  To be honest -- I still really can't believe that in such a short time we have come this far, but I am so proud.  It is an amazing and humbling feeling to see photos on Facebook of a coach wearing our branded T-shirt running a program in a gym I haven't been to with people with Parkinson's I've never met.

There have been many very unexpected joys in the program development process --

I have had the opportunity to run workshops for people ranging from absolute no understanding of Parkinson's to a peer and above level professionally  -- we are talking about experienced neuro-physiotherapists -- and to engage with them on a common ground that has become a common passion.

I have enjoyed bringing people from an array of professional backgrounds together - physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers from all walks of life, boxing coaches and professional boxers, kick boxers, and other martial artists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, people with Parkinson's, spouses of people with Parkinson's, and yes Conductors all sitting around the same table over a coffee and a bliss ball, all bringing their open minds and strengths to that table.

There is a community that has developed -- coaches helping each other out, for the good of the program; coaches helping me out because they want to learn ... a young personal trainer working along side of me in my groups -- the whole class is going to watch his first boxing match; a brilliant physiotherapist and elite boxer co-facilitating my conductive education group.

There are communities within communities now accessing our services - one of our fabulous coaches runs a program in a part of Auckland where lots of Pacific Islanders live -- I went to his program launch and was overcome with emotion and humility hearing him speak Samoan to people I otherwise would have struggled to reach.

Finding the place where my husband (a.k.a Head Coach Alexander a.k.a Commander Xander) and my professional lives intersect and being able to work together on something we both love.

To have something that is built into my week that I enjoy so much and have so much fun doing.  People who have trusted me that this journey was worthwhile even though I was not able to promise financial reward.

To see the amazing friendships and camaraderie between our boxers and volunteers of all ages...

To see my business partner Shane Cameron develop his own range of products and services, and thus realize some of his other professional goals, all springboarding from his support of Counterpunch Parkinson's.

And, of utmost importance and a source of immense personal and professional joy, running a service that is so loved and valued by our boxers.

All of these intangible bonuses have brought so much additional pride and joy to my experience of building Counterpunch, and has renewed my passion for my work as well as my entrepreneurial drive to keep developing and building on what I have to offer to people with disabilities and their families.  I feel alive; directed, purposeful.  I hear myself saying things like 'it is one of the greatest joys to be able to do what you were put on the planet to do.  I have energy and focus for my work that I haven't had in a long time and that all feels good.

There is still so much that we want to do with Counterpunch.  It is also sometimes so hard to believe that something that is in actual fact only a tiny proportion of my work hours has had such impact and has helped breath fire into the rest of my practice.  I am inspired; I am excited; and I am composing blogs in my head and having the urge to write and share again.

Please jump over to our website to find out more about our coach accreditation and affiliated programs - you can find us at www.counterpunchparkinsons.com