Everyone deserves to enjoy fitness activities, whether that’s going for a walk or training for an intense competition like a triathlon. Unfortunately, for individuals with a wide range of disabilities, exercise can feel out of reach, often for arbitrary reasons.
A deaf-blind Paralympic swimmer was even forced to drop out of the Olympics because she was denied access to a personal care assistant who could help her navigate Tokyo. Shameful things like this happen to disabled people every day, and then health authorities wonder why this population doesn’t participate in aerobic activities.
At Demetz Online Personal Training, we recognize the many barriers to physical activity that disabled athletes experience, and we are determined to help you attain your fitness goals in ways that work for you.
This is one of the great advantages of personal training – every part of the process is developed to meet your needs, not those of a normative body because really, there’s no such thing. Every body is different and has different needs, which is why we’re working hard to rethink the conditions that exclude people from exercising.
Listen First – Exploring Adaptive Activity Options
Regardless of your health and fitness background, before you begin a new program, it’s important to work with your trainer to explore what activities are safe and appropriate for your body. Part of preparing for your fitness program, then, involves building a relationship with your trainer so that you can work together to plan appropriate adaptations and choose the right activities based on your abilities.
Modifications and adaptive equipment mean that no activity is inherently off-limits – if there is an activity you want to try, we are committed to exploring those options with you. Many gyms and trainers fail to make these modifications, and while it can be difficult to access some adaptive equipment, we’ll do our best to offer you options that work, at home or in the gym.
Function Versus Fitness
Another major concern for disabled people who want to get more physical activity is that, given their difficulty with certain basic daily activities or struggles with fatigue, they can’t work out. That isn’t necessarily true, but it does mean that you may have very different goals than a non-disabled person who is starting the training process. For example, you may need to pace your activities more carefully or you may choose to emphasize activities that will support your ability to complete ADLs.
If you want to increase your endurance during daily activities, then there’s no reason for you to attempt intensive weight training activities or distance running. Getting stronger needs to reflect your baseline abilities as well as your intended end result. Many disabled adults begin fitness activities with the goal of being able to complete errands alone, improve their ability to climb stairs, lift items safely, or bend and squat. Building on these functional abilities is a great goal and we are happy to support you in working on these skills – and doing so doesn’t need to be relegated to occupational or physical therapy.
Not All Disabilities Impact Fitness Capacity
When we talk about disability, many people imagine the “other” – those with serious impairments that keep them from being competitive or strong, and while many disabilities do cause such limitations, someone who is deaf or blind may have no other physical issues that impact their strength or endurance. Similarly, many amputees can outrun their able-bodied peers, and paralyzed athletes can use adaptive equipment to participate in different sports. Just look at the Paralympics, which groups athletes together based on affected abilities for fair competition. Paralympic athletes compete in archery, cycling, rowing, taekwondo, lifting, and many other sports in events that are just as intense and exciting as those that take place during the main games.
At Demetz Online Personal Training, we won’t limit your training options based on your disabilities, but will develop an online fitness training program that attends to your access needs. We don’t expect every disabled person to be a future Paralympian, just as we don’t expect to turn all of our non-disabled clients into Olympians. Tell us what’s working and what isn’t. We won’t push you beyond your limits, but we won’t try to hold you back either.
Acknowledging Invisible Disabilities
One thing many gyms and trainers overlook when talking about disability issues in the fitness world is that we all work with disabled clients every day, even when we don’t know it. That’s because a large percentage of the population lives with some kind of invisible disability that may or may not impact their workouts. These include developmental disabilities like autism or developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia), as well as chronic conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or mental health conditions.
As trainers, we can’t know what you need unless you tell us but, at the same time, we will always be watching and listening for signs that something about what we’re offering you isn’t working. One major advantage of our online training program, however, is that we’re able to make quick changes that aren’t always possible in the gym. Often, the smallest changes – holding on to a surface to improve your balance, using gloves to improve grip, or choosing a different time of day to work out based on how you’re feeling – can make a big difference in how successful your workouts are and how you feel about working out more generally. If it’s all struggle and no joy, we’re not doing it right.
Fitness For Everyone
While there are a handful of gyms that cater to disabled users, but access to such a facility is hardly a prerequisite to starting a fitness program – good news given how few people can access these facilities. Instead, with Demetz Online Personal Training, you can train from home or at a gym you’re familiar with using a plan designed specifically for you. Contact us today to learn more about our fitness training programs and learn more about how we can work together to meet your goals. This is your journey but you don’t have to go it alone. Let Demetz Online Personal Training be your guide.