beyond fitness

Delray Gym ‘Beyond Fitness’ Fighting Parkinson’s with Punches

The gym offers fitness classes for kids with disabilities and adults with Parkinson’s. 

Colleen Greenhalgh during a boxing class at Beyond Fitness.

Colleen Greenhalgh during a boxing class at Beyond Fitness.

I get lots of press releases about how to get fit in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, but this news was something I hadn’t yet seen.

Beyond Fitness, a Delray Beach-based gym that focuses on fitness for seniors, began offering fitness classes specifically for kids with disabilities, including those with Autism, as well as classes for adults with Parkinson’s disease.

“We opened in mid-September, and originally we were focused on seniors only, then realized that the community needed other classes that we could offer” says Colleen Greenhalgh, Beyond Fitness’s owner and head trainer, and Delray Beach resident. “We want to be a place that offers something for everyone, and it’s always changing to meet the needs of the community.”

Greenhalgh has worked with people with special fitness needs, including children on the Autism spectrum or with Down syndrome, as well as with adults suffering from the progressive nervous system disorder, Parkinson’s.

Greenhalgh, 36, started working with seniors 13 years ago and loved it.

“It wasn’t until I went to Indianapolis to get certified in Rock Steady Boxing that I got into the boxing component with Parkinson’s. After leaving the training, I knew I wanted to have that class at our gym,” she says.

Rock Steady Boxing is a boxing exercise format that trainers use to reduce, reverse and delay symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, according to its website.

“Ever since then, I have taken certification after certification to learn as much as I can about the clients that I am working with,” she says. “I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a teacher and someone that made a difference in the world.”

Greenhalgh says Beyond Fitness aims to offer safe, challenging, fun, joyful classes, which offer an element of mindfulness. That’s regardless of one’s ability.

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Included in the current lineup of classes for kids with disabilities, participants will also learn to dance. A class starting later in the month will be a mix of strength, cardio, yoga and meditation. The cost is $130 for 10 weeks of once-a-week classes.

For those with Parkinson’s, The Rock Steady Boxing class starts with participants introducing themselves, which creates connections and a family feel, Greenhalgh says.

“We do a warm-up with movements in all directions, balance exercises, strength exercises and coordination. We add some shadow boxing so they are ready for the combinations on the heavy bags …,” Greenhalgh says. “We then do some speed bags, which is coordination. [That] helps them stand up straight, and it just makes them feel good. We then go to heavy bags or focus mitts to work on strength, cardio, memory and coordination.”

Greenhalgh says people in the boxing class emerge more able to move and feel hopeful that they can do something about slowing down a disease with no cure. They have more energy, a support group, better balance, coordination and strength.

“We even have some doctors asking our members ‘What are you doing?’ and they [members] are saying ‘Coming to our gym and boxing,”’ she says.

All the trainers at Beyond Fitness have experience working with the populations they teach. The trainers also have big hearts and love what they do, Greenhalgh says.

In addition to her work with seniors, Greenhalgh worked in various positions, including fitness training, at country clubs for 13 years.

“I loved my last job and loved the members, but I couldn’t ignore this feeling inside. So after one night when I was meditating I began to cry and then found myself in this peaceful place. I went into work the next day and gave my notice. My boss was shocked and was wondering what I was going to do. I told him ‘I am not sure yet, but I know I have to do this,’” she says. “A few months later… we opened up the doors to Beyond Fitness.”

Greenhalgh seems to be finding her calling.

Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has had the luxury of reporting on health, fitness and other hot topics for more than 23 years. The longtime Boca Raton resident, University of Florida graduate and fitness buff writes for local, regional and national publications and websites. Find out more on wordscomealive.com.