February 06, 2013
Trainer Anna Woods reports great success adapting the CrossFit program to clients with disabilities, whose PRs are measured not in seconds or pounds but improved daily function.
When I tell people I am a CrossFit trainer, the first assumption is that I work with skilled athletes. And I usually respond that I work with a different kind of athlete. I train athletes with more determination, fearlessness, ability and competitiveness than most any other trainer I know.
The athletes I train have developmental disabilities—disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism and Asperger syndrome—while others are bound to a wheelchair. What’s so unique about training this population is that their fitness routine is truly a lifeline to their ability to function in life. Their days outside the gym are often filled with little variance, low intensity and varying levels of function. Conversely, CrossFit is the prescription that counteracts the routine of their day-to-day lives.
There’s a saying that it doesn’t matter what level you’re at because the feeling of accomplishment is the same. This couldn’t be more true than when it comes to the group of people I work with. Progress may not be highly recognized by common standards in the fitness world, but for my clients, their progress is something we celebrate.
Waking up with less pain, having the newfound ability to comb your own hair, regaining the ability to transfer yourself from the wheelchair to the bed, losing enough weight to fit into a new wheelchair or climbing an entire flight of stairs without assistance are the kinds of achievements we celebrate every day.