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Selecting a Fitness Trainer Who Understands Your Disability

Selecting a Fitness Trainer Who Understands Your Disability

Interacting with people who don’t understand your disability can be frustrating, to say the least. In the realm of physical fitness, however, it can feel almost hopeless. You want to grow in your journey through greater health, and you want someone to help guide you. But oftentimes, personal trainers aren’t able to see your strengths and only see their own projections of your limitations. You know you can do more, and we know it too. Here are some things to look for when selecting a fitness trainer who understands your disability.

Does the Fitness Trainer Have Experience Working With Clients With Special Needs?

Lots of people have big hearts. They think they can offer help to those they deem less fortunate. And, of course, this isn’t to say that people don’t have the best intentions in mind. It’s just that sometimes they don’t really know what they’re getting themselves into. What we mean is that someone may say they can help you on your fitness journey in spite of your disability, not knowing really what variations you need in your workout routines.

You may have limited mobility in your legs, but an inexperienced trainer may make the mistake of thinking you have no mobility in your legs, neglecting the muscles there during your routine. The same could be said for any other body part you have that has differing abilities.

If you have Autism or ADHD, your trainer may not realize the specific benefits that certain workouts offer you. They might be completely unaware that the right workout could strengthen both your body and your mind.

When you’re researching fitness trainers, be sure to stay on the lookout for ones who say that have experience with special needs clients.

Is the Fitness Trainer Familiar With Your Specific Disability?

Special Needs is a blanket term. It covers a wide range, from intellectual to physical disabilities to learning disabilities to sensory sensitivities and more. Finding a personal trainer who says that have experience working with clients with special needs is a start, but it doesn’t paint a full picture for you.

The fitness trainer may mean that they have experience working with adults at a day habilitation center, with those who have general IDD, have Down Syndrome, or even be non-verbal. While they may know how to lead a group in a simple, aerobic activity, they may not have experience working with, say, an independent adult on the spectrum.

Find a trainer who lists differing abilities in their experience, or call around and ask the fitness trainers you speak with which special needs specifically they have experience in. Their answers can bring you one step closer to selecting a fitness trainer who understands your disability.

Does the Fitness Trainer Have Experience in Rehabilitation?

Perhaps you are new to life with limited mobility. We see this happen a lot: One of our clients is a victim of an accident and suddenly walking is a chore, let alone running and staying in shape. An injury this debilitating would have warranted a period of time in a rehabilitation clinic. But what then?

If this is your situation, we wanted to commend you for making this search and finding this blog. It means that, even though you don’t have as much range of motion as you once did, you recognize that you’re still capable of achieving your fitness goals. And you’re absolutely right, if you pick the right trainer.

We recommend finding someone with rehabilitation experience or says that they have worked with clients post-rehabilitation.

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Is the Fitness Trainer Certified to Work With Special Needs?

While it’s certainly not as common as finding a trainer with a general personal fitness certification, there are trainers who specialize in working with people with special needs. Though we mentioned in a previous section that “special needs” encompasses many different disabilities, our special needs certification programs prepare the trainer for many different types of circumstances with our clients. 

Even if you choose not to select a Special Strong personal trainer to aid you in your fitness needs, we wouldn’t recommend that you work with a trainer who isn’t trained in your disability.

Is the Fitness Trainer Encouraging?

This point has more weight that you might imagine. It seems like the easiest, most attainable point on this list, but we feel it’s the opposite. No amount of experience in a specialty can turn someone into a patient, understanding, or encouraging person.

You have a disability, so we don’t need to tell you that sometimes people mean to come off as encouraging, but really they’re condescending. It’s more like, “Good job, buddy,” as opposed to, “Yes! You did it!” While the latter can be empathetic, sharing in the victory with you, the first sounds more like the like trainer needs to convince you that you’re capable of doing the workout. But you’re there, aren’t you? You’re there because part of you knows you can do it. So, who is the trainer really trying to convince? You or themselves?

Some examples of authentic encouragement are:

  • Waiting for you to finish a rep without helping unnecessarily.
  • Talking to you like an adult, not a child.
  • Understanding your limited range of motion, without guilting you into going further than you’re comfortable going.
  • Urging you to go a little further when you want to quit, for strength conditioning. (Training is a balance!)
  • Offering you ways to stay in shape and active, even when you’re not at the gym.
  • Making long-term goals with you, showing that they believe you’ll be there a while and that you’ll grow stronger over time, just like any of their other clients would.

You can get a feel for how someone will treat you in the very first session. If it’s not too much trouble, you may schedule an in-person meeting before your first session so you can see first-hand how this person responds to your disability. While calling trainers to get a deeper inquiry about their past experience is helpful, we find that meeting face-to-face will be the biggest help in selecting a fitness trainer who understands your disability.

Ready to Get Fit?

Unleash the Special Strong Within with one of our Certified Strong personal trainers. You can sign up for private training sessions or boot camp workouts. We’re located in the North Texas area and growing quickly.

Special Strong provides nutrition and adapted fitness for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs certification courses for educators, professionals, and parents who want to learn how to adapt fitness to serve the special needs population.  

GET RESOURCES FOR SPECIAL NEEDS