Are you looking for a place to work out but are intimidated by the bulked-up body-builders that look like Arnold Schwarzenegger at your gym? Is the equipment simply not made for someone with your disability? Have you employed a personal trainer whom, frankly, did not understand your disability? Does this sound like a TV ad that you might hear after all your New Year’s Resolutions are broken? Well, expect the unexpected.
AccessSportsAmerica (ASA) offers personal training sessions year round for people with a variety of disabilities every Monday and Friday, 9am-2pm at the YMCA in Oak Square in Brighton, MA. It is easily accessible by The T, The Ride, or a quick hop from either the Mass. Pike or downtown Boston. There is financial aid available, but their goal is to get you to work out as often as possible; thus the fee is negotiable if you commit to two sessions a week. Just be prepared to sweat and smile.
Nate Berry, ASA Program Director, shared with me, “We have discussed getting our own gym, but then you might not be working out alongside someone that is different than you, and the social aspect of working out is huge!” Trainees are integrated into a normal gym atmosphere where caring, compassionate Trainers challenge them. The ASA’s full time trainers are taught to tailor your work out to your specific skill level. The only difference from a normal YMCA experience is that many of the machines are adapted to accommodate each person’s specific disability. A typical work out involves cardio, core work, stretching, and gait training.
Ross Lilley founded ASA in 1995. He is an innovator in creating adaptive equipment for many sports, which are custom fit to an individual’s disability. They have developed an adaptive device that works with any treadmill, which simulates gait training and is designed for someone who thinks they couldn't possibly step on a treadmill. ASA’s mission is, To inspire higher function and fitness for children and adults of all disabilities through high-challenge sports and training.
Rey Vazquez is a 34-year-old male who suffered a stroke 4 years ago. He describes his ASA experience, “Until I met the crew from AccessSportAmerica, I thought that I would never play sports again. They changed my life. I now play soccer and tennis, and I have learned to canoe, ski, and windsurf. Going to the YMCA and working out with ASA has improved my balance, core, and stamina. They make working out fun, but I definitely feel it after a workout. They have helped me physically and mentally; because, before ASA, I suffered from depression. ASA is a great organization that helps people like me do things that I thought I couldn’t do anymore.”
Nate adds, "It is rewarding to see people do things which they never thought were possible even before their disease, illness, or accident.”
In the Spring of 2011, I briefly trained with ASA at their outdoor facility in Charlestown where they run a program in conjunction with Spaulding. The outdoor sports consist of cycling, canoeing, windsurfing, and many more. Each activity is adapted to one’s personal capabilities. My goal was to complete 5 miles on my hand cycle in Run to Home Base, an event to raise money forHome Base - a program established by the Red Sox and Mass General, which raises money for Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries. ASA was supportive, yet they challenged me to push myself.
I never thought I would be able to finish the 5-mile race. The first time I raced, I finished in 50 minutes without shifting gears. I wanted to race again the following year and improve my time, so in the snowy winter of 2013, I trained with ASA weekly at the YMCA in Brighton. They helped me with core training and conditioning in preparation for the April road race. This time I completed the 5-mile race on my adaptive hand cycle in 35 minutes, using all 28 gears! I have Multiple Sclerosis and am mobility challenged, but after training with ASA, I truly believe that nothing is out of bounds and I now consider myself an athlete. They have instilled confidence in my physical abilities and genuinely have changed my life.
For a life changing experience, sign up now for personal training with AccessSportsAmerica at the YMCA in Brighton. They also offer conditioning and tennis at Harvard University’s indoor courts on Wednesdays, October-May.
AccessSportsAmerica's goal is to, Train for Life. For more information, visit www.accessportamerica.org/participate
Mary Jane Fietze has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for 24 years. She writes for The Burlington Union about disability topics and has been on the Burlington Disability Access Commission, BDAC, for 13 years. Mary Jane has won several awards in hand-cycling and enjoys demonstrating her ability to kids as part of BDAC’s “differently-abled talks” to schools.