Rob Felber

Rob Felber, an InMotion client from Twinsburg, boxes using a punching bag he set up in his garage. When InMotion was open, Felber boxed there. 

What started for InMotion as a bout of Friday the 13th bad luck resulted in a spark of genius.

InMotion, a nonprofit center in Warrensville Heights that provides exercise, music, support and educational classes to about 1,200 members of Northeast Ohio’s Parkinson’s disease community and their care partners, closed its doors that March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But InMotion’s board and staff knew temporarily closing meant more than making sure the building’s refrigerator was empty and lights were turned off. Without consistent exercise, InMotion’s clients could lose all the progress they’d made to improve their gait, balance, coordination, strength and mood, and to prevent falls, InMotion CEO Cathe Schwartz said.

InMotion’s team decided their specialized programming would continue through posted videos, live virtual video classes and chat groups so their clients could receive the relief and communication they need while at home.

“We felt that it was really important not to close our doors without being able to give our clients something that they could do at home, because exercise is such an important part of living with Parkinson’s disease,” said Schwartz, a member of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, where she also lives. “Our primary concern during this whole pandemic has been on our clients’ well-being and making sure they have the tools they need to really be able to feel better every day, which is what InMotion is all about.”

The Monday after closing, InMotion’s chief program officer and co-founder Ben Rossi and some of the center’s coaches had already uploaded a number of exercise videos on InMotion’s website.

Like all of InMotion’s services, its virtual programming is free and available to all in need.

As of mid-June, Schwartz said InMotion has almost a full schedule of programming. And two of the center’s support groups have been meeting remotely, and it has hosted a number of education events through virtual video chats.

It offers classes ranging from “Better Every Day,” a fitness program created for individuals with Parkinson’s disease; boxing; drumming; singing; “mindful movement,” a yoga-based class; and tai chi.

“Just about everything that we offer is now available remotely,” Schwartz said.

After a brief learning period where staff taught clients Zoom, Schwartz said she considers the temporary virtual transition to be a success.

“It’s been really positive – I give our clients a lot of credit,” Schwartz said. “These folks are fighters to begin with, otherwise they wouldn’t be in InMotion. They’re people who are very proactive about taking control of their disease and their lives. Along with doing the exercises they do, they’ve also mastered Zoom.”

Schwartz said InMotion is planning for when its doors will open again. There is a possibility for the center to resume on a limited basis, and offer some classes at the end of summer.

In late fall, InMotion will move to 23905 Mercantile Road in Beachwood. It will also hold its virtual InMotion’s Pals in Motion 2020, with challenges and activities on Aug. 13 and the Pals in Motion event on Sept. 13. The Cleveland Jewish News is a media sponsor of the event.

After seeing the unexpected benefits of the online programming, and how it could allow for those without transportation or those who travel to exercise wherever they are, Schwartz said there are discussions about some of its virtual aspects continuing after InMotion reopens.

“People come to InMotion not only for the exercise and the great coaching staff, but they also come because we have this wonderful sense of community,” Schwartz said. “That helps with some of the social isolation and some of the emotional challenges that people with Parkinson’s sometimes face. Bringing all of our clients together in a slightly different, but safer way remotely has really helped build and maintain that sense of community.”

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