413 Fitness Brings the Fight Against Parkinson’s Into the Ring

Meet the local gym reinventing senior fitness

“I like to tell potential clients this is not your grandparent's workout,” says 413 Fitness founder and owner Kristi Richards. From battle ropes to boxing gloves, Richards’ gym offers a unique workout regimen for people living with movement disorders that doesn’t just build muscle but cultivates an improved quality of life.

Courtesy of 413 Fitness (Photo by Kristi Richards)

413 Fitness was founded in 2015 at its original Wells Branch location as the first gym in central Texas to utilize non-contact boxing in a fitness facility for people with movement disorders, which are neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease that cause tremors, slowness, and other difficulties with motor control. Richards had been offering fitness programs for the senior populations of Pflugerville and Round Rock when a participant suggested that Richards coach boxing for Parkinson’s. Thus 413 Fitness served to both announce and answer the community need for this kind of specialized fitness, a need that was immediately confirmed by the influx of clients driving from as far as San Marcos and Temple to attend classes. The gym’s success prompted its 2016 expansion into two new locations in south Austin and Georgetown.

Last year, Richards began working with the Georgetown affiliate of John’s Gym, a local martial arts studio and boxing gym, to keep 413 Fitness classes up and running between leases. “JJ Martinez and John [Ramseier] allowed us to offer classes in their space,” said Richards. “It became such a great partnership that we decided to increase our original space from 2,000 square feet and go in with John's Gym to get 4,000 square feet.”

“This concept of boxing for Parkinson's is something that hits close to home,” said Ramseier, co-owner of John’s Gym. “My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's at around 50 years old. He passed away this last year from Parkinson's so being able to have a facility that can give back to people that are dealing with the same ailments as my father is something that words can't describe.”

This September, 413 Fitness will bring boxing for Parkinson’s to the Cedar Park area at the northwest Austin location of John’s Gym. “We have a great relationship with several movement disorder specialists in the area and one in particular was telling us her clients were saying they would attend classes if there was something closer to them,” says Richards.

Courtesy of 413 Fitness (Photo by George Varghese)

By targeting the specific needs of people with movement disorders, 413 Fitness breaks down conventional thresholds of physical strength into fundamentals like mobility, balance, and posture. Clients of 413 Fitness — Richards refers to them as “fighters” — are carefully assessed by coaches and placed in classes based on their individual needs. “Fighters who need assistance devices such as canes and walkers are not going to be working out alongside someone who is capable of getting on the floor to do push-ups.

Coaches also engage social, emotional, and mental aptitudes such as camaraderie, functionality, cognition, and more. “Many of our fighters say the camaraderie is their favorite part of our program,” says Richards. “People can [build] fellowship together and support each other because they’re going through the same kind of situation,” adds Ramseier.

The pursuit of wellness for fighters at 413 Fitness doesn’t end with their work in the ring. The gym builds a tight-knit support system for its members by encouraging friends and family to participate in their loved one’s fitness journey. Fighters are allowed to have a “cornerman,” typically a spouse, to cheer them on while they exercise. “We discovered their spouses were getting as strong and seeing improvements in their quality of life as much as the person with the movement disorder, so we also began offering classes at our Wells Branch gym for the 55+ population,” says Richards. 413 Fitness also hosts monthly social events and organizes support groups for spouses and children.

“There is lots of research that states forced intense exercise for Parkinson's is actually slowing the progression of the disease,” says Richards. “We have seen fighters come in wheelchairs and after a few short weeks, [they are] walking into classes unassisted. Our clients are sleeping better, having diminished tremors, better mood, less rigidity, and overall improved quality of life.”

Through these carefully assessed and intentional workouts, 413 Fitness fighters are exercising in a productive capacity that doesn’t push them too far nor holds them back. “To punch, to move your arms and feet, [fighters] really get that energy out rather than just going to a boring gym and being plopped on a treadmill or doing ridiculous exercises because they're senior citizens,” said Ramseier. “It sparks that inner self that gets suppressed when you get diagnosed with Parkinson's.”

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