Written by Emily Hatch, CSCS
Obesity is a well-known issue within our society that has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our commutes to work are often through the kitchen, we have more access to food, and when boredom sets in, we often turn to snacking. Obesity, which “is a term that reflects excess adipose tissue,” affects around 30.4% of U.S. adults and 18% of children (Jacobs, 2018, p110). Even more, adults with disabilities have a disproportionately higher rate of obesity (36%) and 22% of children with disabilities are affected by obesity (CDC.com).
According to the CDC, “adults with excess weight are at even greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Not only is obesity linked to an impaired immune system, but it “decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult” (CDC.com). Even more, 30.2% “of [the] hospitalizations were attributed to obesity,” which further shows the duty we, as trainers and societal members, must address this issue and slow the curve of COVID-19 (CDC.com).
Simply put, obesity occurs when the “intake [of calories] exceeds expenditure over an extended period of time” (Jacobs, 2018, p.110). This excess intake may lead to “subclinical inflammation, vascular and metabolic dysfunction, and hormonal irregularities” (Jacobs, 2018, p. 110). Those who are obese may even experience a leptin resistance, which is “a protein produced in fat cells” that tells us we are full (Jacobs, 2018, p.111). So, what are some things we can do to encourage movement, create easier access to healthy foods and prevent further individuals from becoming compromised?
For many adults and children, habit formation is critical to develop healthy eating patterns and exercise regimens. However, within the population we serve, those with developmental disabilities, combating poor food habits and exercise routines can be challenging and often requires a support system. In our experience, we have come across many clients who experience food sensitivities, are on medications that make weight loss challenging, may experience a lack of resources to healthy foods or may suffer from pain that discourages movement. We also have those who are thoroughly into video games, which increases both screen time and sitting time. We acknowledge these challenges but also have some great techniques for both clients and trainers to encourage movement and healthy lifestyle changes!
In my training experience, I have had the pleasure of working with many clients and families who are motivated to make lifestyle changes. And although not everyone has that support, we, as a training community, need to encourage individuals, as well as community members, to promote healthier food choices and lifestyle choices from an early age. The CDC also recommends community engagement within schools, hospitals, and childcare environments where we can teach healthy choices. Working on “neighborhood design, access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages, and access to safe and convenient places for physical activity” is also an essential step for our society to combat the negative effects of poor lifestyle choices, which can lead to obesity (CDC.com). However, as best we can, it is our duty as trainers to continue to fight for healthier lifestyles, create positive exercise environments and develop positive relationships for the prevention of a continued obesity pandemic.
Jacobs, Patrick L. (2018). Nsca’s essentials of training special populations. Library of Congress Cataloging-
Written by Emily Hatch, CSCS
Down Syndrome is characterized by “a genetic disorder that results in a trisomy (three copies) of the 21st human chromosome” (Jacobs, L Patrick, 2018). Along with the trisomy of the 21st chromosome, those with Down Syndrome also experience hyper-mobility in multiple joints. This hyper-mobility allows for an adjustment in training modalities for these individuals.
According to OrthoInfo, individuals with Down Syndrome may experience joint instability within their neck, knees, and hips while also dealing with various foot issues, including bunions and flat feet (2019). In order to improve these areas of the body, it is vital to strengthen the ligaments that are associated with these areas and “have optimal alignment of hips, knees and ankles to support” postural alignment (Gadson et al., 2018). The following exercises are imperative for an optimally designed workout tailored to an individual with Down Syndrome. In addition, these exercises can help to avoid immobilization or surgery.
As important as it is to focus on these target areas, we at Specialty Athletic Training have a main goal of ensuring our workouts are met with motivational fun. And this enjoyment is emphasized through the use music, which is “a universal medium for exercise activities” for those with Down Syndrome (Jacobs, 2018).
In my own experience, our clients with Down Syndrome MUST have the perfect playlist to get ‘pumped up.’ I have listened to a plethora of hip hop and pop music, the most popular being the 2000s throwback hip hop playlist. And I find that the perfect playlist will get our clients moving. I have even learned some new dance moves (that prove much too difficult for myself), have witnessed the positive association between workouts and music, and have even seen the communal bond established between our clients and the student-athletes at Lewis and Clark College, simply through music.
With this being said, the importance of developing a program tailored to joint strengthening in vulnerable areas should always be met with an understanding of the client. Whether it be through weight training, music, dance, or other modalities, being an effective trainer means understanding our clients as a whole human being. So, when you are getting ready to train your next client, turn on those tunes, establish a communal environment and make that workout fun!
Gadson, Andrea PT, MPT; Shimanek,P PT, DPT, (2018, Aug). Physical therapy for adolescents thru adulthood with down syndrome. https://www.nads.org/wpcontent/uploads/2018/08/Shimanek-NADS-2018-PT-for-adolescents-thru-adults-with-DS.pd
Jacobs, Patrick L. (2018). Nsca’s essentials of training special populations. Library of Congress Cataloging-
(2019, Jan). Down syndrome: musculoskeletal effects. OrthoInfo. orthoinfo.aaos.org
As featured in Spectrum Life Magazine Winter 2021 Issue
Providing access to fitness and healthy living to the special needs community has been our mission since being founded in 2012. We started by providing individualized 1:1 personal training instruction and then added small group fitness classes. The pandemic made it difficult for many of our clients to not only access our services, but many of their other daily activities. Being isolated in quarantine with limited social outlets, we noticed that their mental health was being dramatically affected.
We reached out to our dear friend Galen Torrey Fairbanks to create a unique and inclusive virtual yoga series. In August of 2020, we offered our first virtual yoga series for our clients and their families and have been offering 5-10 week series ever since! The classes are for all ages and ability levels, and we encourage for all family members to participate.
How does yoga benefit people with disabilities? (written by Galen Fairbanks)
Yoga can be helpful for all people, including and perhaps especially those with disabilities, in feeling better in their bodies, calmer in their minds, and more connected to their communities. Through my training, research, and experience teaching yoga to individuals with special needs with Specialty Athletic Training, I’ve found that students respond well to the social aspect of class, playful and inclusive breath work and movement, and self-soothing practices. After class, most students express feeling calm and in less physical pain than they were before class.
The consistency and predictability of meeting each week at the same time, with the same group, and repeating the same postures allows students to feel connected and safe with each other and in their own bodies. When the nervous system feels safe, the body feels relaxed, we’re able to socially engage, look and listen, mirror emotions with others, and our heart rate and digestion are optimal. This is a state that as humans, we want to be in more often than not and allows us to be in relationship with others. It may be especially helpful for individuals with special needs or who feel nervous, over or under active, or have difficulty with communication, regulating emotions, or sleeping.
This familiarity allows us to learn and practice additional Yoga skills that help us stay in this relaxed state, and by keeping these playful and inclusive, everyone feels successful. The Pranayama or breath practices we do often include vocalizations like creating the sound of a boat horn, owl, or bumble bee on the exhale breath. This fun and creative exercise allows each student to create their own unique sound while supporting the nervous system in feeling calm and creating community with each other.
We incorporate playful movement through poses like Vrksasana or Tree where I ask students to embody their favorite tree and then give them options to reach their arms out like branches, or stay still, or move in the wind. Since everyone’s version of the pose is celebrated, everyone feels included and successful. Balancing poses like Tree also have functional benefits like helping with balance, proprioception or knowing where your body is in space, and coordination as the pose is asymmetrical.
Moments of more mellow movement and energy can assist in establishing healthy self-soothing techniques. We often give ourselves a hug and then massage our arms, feel the support of the chair or floor beneath us, audibly exhale our breath, or do restorative Yoga poses like Stonehenge. These types of practices help ease the body in and out of movement, support feeling safe in low-key environments, and help create healthy relationships with our bodies and self.
What are some techniques that our readers can practice at home? (Pictures would be helpful.)
2. Vrksasana or Tree Pose
From seated or standing, begin to walk, march, or jog in place. As you feel ready, keep one foot lifted off the ground and use the support of a wall or chair as needed to balance. Turn the lifted knee out towards the side of your space and place your toes on the floor or sole of your foot on the inseam of your opposite leg. From here, you might lift one or both arms out or up; you might flow in the wind or stand tall and strong. After a few moments, shake out your legs and try it on the other side!
3. Stonehenge Pose
Begin laying down on your back with your feet near a chair or couch. As you’re ready, lift your lower legs and rest them on the seat of the chair or couch cushions. Rest your hands on your torso and focus on the texture of your clothing or the rise and fall of your body and you breathe in and out. You might place an eye pillow over your closed eyes or a blanket over your body. Relax here for as long as feels comfortable.
As featured in Spectrum Life Magazine Winter 2020 Issue
Imagine that you walk into a room and are instantly paralyzed by the bright lights. While standing there motionless, erratic and unpredictable sounds are so loud that you can’t hear anyone speak, even though you see lips on the blurred faces moving everywhere as you observe the room. There is a weird aroma in the air, part Axe body spray, and part body odor. The aerosol from the body spray and other cleaning agents in the air quickly overwhelm you and make you feel that someone has a death grip around your throat. Welcome to the weight room.
Aside from feeling intimidated by all of the machines and not knowing what to do or where to start, the experience described above can also make visiting a fitness facility a nightmare for many. This is especially true for Specialty Athletic Training clients who experience sensory processing issues or who have been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Even with these challenges, exercise still needs to be a part of daily life for these individuals in order to decrease other comorbidities that may arise and live a prolonged and healthy life. Virtual training can be (and has been for many) a great alternative to visiting the gym.
People seek personal trainers for several reasons, but they usually are seeking guidance and accountability. Connecting with a trainer who provides a virtual training option can provide both benefits without the negative in-person gym experience.
At Specialty Athletic Training, our virtual training option has been our lifeline throughout the pandemic. With all of the regulations that have been placed on gyms over the past year, offering online training to the people we serve has allowed us to still be able to work with our clients in 1:1 and group settings. It has enabled us to keep our sense of community and our clients active. Both have played a crucial role in maintaining their mental health during such an anxiety-ridden time in our history.
It has also allowed others to have access to our services that they may not have received prior to COVID. Proximity to the locations we offer training has been a barrier to access in the past; however, virtual training has made it possible for us to work with clients worldwide and provide our services to our clients while they are on vacation.
Although virtual training can be a great alternative for many, some need and crave our in-person instruction. The word “struggle” doesn’t even begin to describe the experience that some of our clients have had with “distance learning” over the past year, let alone trying to receive workout instruction via a computer screen. We take pride in building relationships with our clients, which in turn leads to earning their trust. This can be difficult without the in-person experience.
Our approach is to make fitness fun and encourage self-esteem building and healthy lifestyle choices. We are passionate about the positive effects that exercise can have in the lives of our clients and their families!
We have worked with over 450 individuals with a wide range of disabilities and health care needs, including but not limited to Autism, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Williams syndrome.
Virtual training can provide the guidance and accountability that one may need to stay on track to reach their health goals without stepping foot in the typical gym setting. It has allowed us to remain a part of our clients’ lives, even though we haven’t been able to see many in-person since March 15, 2020.
We look forward to the day where individuals will have the option of accessing our services physically at one of our Oregon or Southwest Washington locations or virtually worldwide, whichever best suits their needs.
As featured in Spectrum Life Magazine Fall 2020 Issue
Normal. What is normal? Whatever your definition of normal may be, your “normal” daily life shifted completely back in March when COVID-19 began to make its presence felt in our country. The fitness industry took a huge blow, as many did many other industries, when the shelter in place orders took effect. My business was no different, yet we will be a stronger business and able to serve more individuals because of how society has shifted during the pandemic.
As the virus began spreading rapidly on the east coast, I took notice on how businesses were being affected; in particular, small fitness studios. I also began paying attention to how the same businesses were affected in foreign countries and the future was appearing to be very grim for Specialty Athletic Training and other fitness companies. I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Moneyball, “Adapt or die.”
In the movie “Moneyball”, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane who was the General Manager for the Oakland Athletics during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Athletics did not have the budget to sign the talent required to compete for the pennant, at least not in the traditional sense. Beane had to think outside of the box and adapt if he wanted the organization to thrive. This required going against the traditional ways of baseball operations and adapting to the situation.
Over the past eight years, I have taken pride in partnering with facilities and creating an inclusive community to provide access to fitness for our clients. This community has allowed our clients to thrive in a supportive environment and has helped break down common misconceptions and stereotypes that society often associates with their diagnoses. In-person training was our traditional way of providing services to our clients, but that quickly became no longer an option.
The shelter in place order came quickly and swiftly shifted the way that we had to provide services to our clients, a population that is already susceptible to obesity, anxiety and depression. We pivoted to offering online virtual training sessions. We had to “adapt or die.”
We have had the ability to train in this capacity for several years, however clients loved the in-person connection and socialization aspect that came from our traditional services. However, they also had to adapt to the new way of living as the restrictions were placed on what services were considered essential. Virtual became the new norm for EVERYTHING and they still craved the interactions with their peers and trainers that they had come accustomed to at our facilities. Their longing for some type of normalcy and routine, along with our ability to pivot our business, we started offering our services virtually to all of our 100+ clients.
Location used to be a barrier to accessing our services, but with our new ability to train virtually it no longer is. We are now set up to train anyone, ANYWHERE. We have gained several clients outside of our traditional service areas and will continue to offer virtual services in the post-COVID future.
As our state attempted to return to the old normal and eased restrictions, it provided a way for us to adapt once again. With the aid of my Portland facility manager, Brad Carter, we converted my garage into a weight room and immediately began offering in-person services to local clients that were going stir crazy and craving some personal connection.
These circumstances have forced us as trainers to find new ways of communication, be creative with exercise selection, and forced us to do more with less; overall making us better trainers and develop skills that will carry over to the post-COVID era. We had the option to “Adapt or Die”. We chose to adapt and look forward to continuing adapting in order to break down barriers to fitness for the community that we serve.
Al (Alex) is a former Specialty Athletic Training intern and employee. He now is attending the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy and is helping create change for himself and his peers. Continue reading for the full article that was published on The Daily Barometer.
By Zoë Sandvigen
Students in Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy are standing up for their peers who have allegedly been discriminated against within the college and university due to their race.
A recent meeting between students made headway for the small group who are fighting for equality within their school. Over 70 students attended and listened as pharmacy students of color shared story after story of the harmful experiences they have endured within the College of Pharmacy because of the color of their skin.
As a result, many more students, faculty and alumni stepped forward to share their own experiences. Al Jones, class president of the 2022 cohort and appointed diversity representative and ambassador, Daniela Olivas Shaw, College of Pharmacy student ambassador and Raven Waldron, also a College of Pharmacy Ambassador and appointed diversity representative, looked at the problem their community was facing and began curating the Project Achieve Diversity.
The plan’s intentions were written in a draft by the PAD team. The document stated to “create strategic planning documents, organize peer College of Pharmacy students, and provide support for those students who have been most affected by bias and prejudice within the college and university.”
This effort was also accompanied by Megan Alhadeff and Caitlin Morris, fellow College of Pharmacy students. Using the PAD foundation, members created an initiative detailing the goals and values of the group aimed to recruit peers who were interested in joining forces. A petition was also created and began circulating in order to gain enough traction to request a meeting with administration.
The student’s first request for a meeting addressing the death of George Floyd’s death was June 1. The first meeting took place on June 4 between students and the meeting with the Dean and representative from the International Diversity faculty member took place June 11.
Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Grace Kuo, and Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Charlene Alexander and Assistant Director for Outreach Brandi Douglas agreed to a Zoom meeting with over 100 graduate and professional students in the audience.
Alexander is one of the university’s diversity leaders and works alongside partners to implement institutionalized change as needed to advance diversity and equity.
“The importance of advancing inclusive excellence at Oregon State has never been more important during these challenging times. Diversity is important to innovation and creativity, and strengthens our society,” Alexander said by email. “Additionally, the demographics of Oregon are rapidly shifting towards more racial and ethnic diversity, and as a community we must demonstrate how we are for each other."
Alexander said she is fortunate to have a great team to work beside when questions of diversity are called to action. Alexander and her partners stay committed to their mission and work through issues in order to develop a plan to tackle problems that arise within the university, she said.
Accounts of the meeting as written by Jones, Shaw and Waldron stated, “Student leaders shared a list of demands, backed by research, that will help to improve the climate and environment in the College of Pharmacy. While Dr. Kuo and Dr. Alexander offered helpful resources already available to all OSU students, they also recognized the work being done by student leaders and the need for more intentional programs to be implemented by the administration to specifically support College of Pharmacy students.”
In the wake of this meeting, Alexander said all members of the OSU community need to be constantly mindful of all voices. She also said herself and her team’s decision making is always based on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice.
“I want to recognize our student leaders for their courageous work and efforts during this time,” Alexander said via email. “They continue to hold us accountable and ensure that we continue the momentum started through their engagement and participation in several town hall meetings.”
Since the meeting, members of the PAD have been assured that Dean Kuo is in meeting with faculty and staff within the College of Pharmacy addressing the demands and changes. Students hope these alterations will be implemented soon. At the time of publication, there are no updates from faculty addressing the PAD’s demands.
“We are confident that the college is committed to working with us to achieve the key needs we expressed in all the meetings and are already seeing improvements in transparency and speed of action in response to student concerns,” Jones, Shaw and Waldron said via email. “In the past week, the students involved have felt more seen, heard and valued than ever before in their entire time in the program.”
(As seen on www.seahawks.com on 6/8/20)
Good afternoon, 12s.
Here's a look at what's 'out there' for today – Monday, June 8 – about your Seattle Seahawks:
Bringing A Smile
Bringing some positive interaction with local athletes, Jacob Hollister and his twin brother, Cody, had a very special surprise for children across Portland and Central Oregon. They partnered with Specialty Athletic Training, a company that works to provide personal training services exclusively for clients with special needs. For those who may have previously had negative experiences with exercise, Specialty Athletic Training helps their clients exercise in a thoughtful and engaging way.
Hoping to turn these negative experiences into positive ones, the organization looks to set up their clients with professional athletes like Jacob and Cody Hollister.
As Oregon natives, the Hollister brothers understand the impact that one surprise call can make: "It just puts everything in perspective, where it's easy to get caught up being in this bubble and just being in the NFL and being used to it. You think back to when we were kids and just how excited we were just to be at an NFL game… That just puts it all in perspective… It makes the day, it makes the week.
(KPTV) – While gyms remain closed, more and more groups have turned to virtual workouts that might be more of the norm after the virus subsides.
Ryan Lockard found his career calling while playing, then coaching at Lewis & Clark.
“I found a job on Craigslist working with a 13-year-old boy with autism and that part-time job ended up becoming my independent study, so I wrote a paper on autism and my experience working with Ben. He is the one that the logo is designed after and the inspiration behind the whole company, and he is like a little brother to me,” said Lockard.
That initial connection with his buddy Ben led Lockard to creating Specialty Athletic Training nearly eight years ago to serve athletes with special needs.
“A lot of people, especially now with social media, were reaching out to us saying, ‘We’d love if you were in this area or that area of this state so, geographically we were limited,’” Lockard said.
Normally working with four gym spaces in Portland, Vancouver, and Bend, Lockard’s trainers have gone fully virtual without skipping a beat or workout.
“How are you going to motivate someone via FaceTime or via Zoom? We always knew that we could do it, but it was definitely the unknown,” said Lockard.
Virtual interaction certainly isn’t the same as physical interaction, but those smiles still feel the same.
Henry from central Oregon made a connection with a pair of NFL twin brothers, Jacob and Cody Hollister from the Seahawks and Titans while working out with Specialty Athletic Training at Boss Sports Performance, the home of Philomath-raised Super Bowl champion Kevin Boss. It’s where professional athletes, like Beaver-turned-Minnesota Viking Blake Brandel had been sharing the same space.
“It’s pretty special and I think that is the biggest thing I pride myself in and going places of creating that community. Just being extremely grateful for that, but they are also grateful for seeing our clients and having them integrated in their environment as well, so it is always mutually beneficial. It really helps us breakdown the stigmas of special needs and diagnoses these kids sometimes have and then having those guys witness that too and see that our clients are putting in the work and then also have our clients see the work that what it looks like at that level, it’s a great experience,” Lockard said.
When asked how this virtual way will set them up going forward, Lockard said, “For us, it’s more of us setting it up where now we are able to go virtual and offer our training to anyone, anywhere, no matter what’s going on, which is pretty awesome going forward.”
Over the years, Specialty has grown larger than I ever could have imagined. With 4 training locations in the Pacific Northwest and having served over 450 individuals, our promo vid needed to be updated.
I looked around and immediately clicked with Travis Thompson of Elevation 0m and knew I wanted to work with him. The plan was to shoot at all four locations over the span of a month and release the new promotional video in April. We filmed Bend (Boss Sports Performance) on a Sunday, SE Portland (StrengthFarm Performance) on Monday, and then our world was put to a halt on Thursday due to COVID-19.
Sports has taught me a lot during my life and the lessons of handling adversity I still use on a daily basis. I coach football at La Salle Hugh School and we address handling these type of situations by the equation "E+R=O". The "E" in the equation stands for an event, the "R" stands for your response, and the "O" stands for the outcome.
Life happens and will throw you a variety of events that you have to respond to. Your response to the event determines the outcome. It is the only thing that you can control.
When COVID-19 turned my world upside down by shutting down gyms and placing my shoot with Elevation 0m on pause, I had a decision to make. To a sit and sulk that things didn't go as planned? Or do I look for a new way to serve our clients and potentially more people all over the world by shifting our business? I chose the latter.
This past Thursday, Travis came up to Portland to film Bradley Carter and Emily Hatch providing our services in the new virtual world 🌎 This wasn't the initial film that we intended to release, however it is a new business opportunity that will allow us to serve more people long term. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends (it will eventually). Remember that you always have a choice on how you can respond to events that happen in your life. It is your response that will dictate the outcome.
Access to services is a common barrier that many of our clients face on a daily basis. The fitness world is no exception. Founder Ryan Lockard created Specialty Athletic Training in 2012 to provide access to fitness to the special needs community. Since then we have trained over 400 individuals of various diagnoses (autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADHD, anxiety, Williams Syndrome, the list continues) ages, and ability levels.
During the first six years of being a company, we focused on growing our Portland Metro community. However we continued to hear the need for our services in Central Oregon. In 2018, we found a home in Central Oregon and began training clients at Boss Sports Performance in Bend, OR.
We strive to make fitness fun for all of our clients, but also promote inclusion, acceptance, and awareness for the disability community. Boss Sports Performance is a community based training facility that welcomed us with open arms and shares the same values; strength is for everyone. At our Central Oregon home, it is common to see our clients training along side Olympians, professional athletes, as well as their other peers that are looking to improve their fitness levels. It is a special place and we're happy that you get a glimpse of it in this video. We look forward to serving the Central Oregon community for many years to come!
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS*D, CSPS*D is the Founder and CEO of Specialty Athletic Training. He is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. Lockard is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the advisory board for the NSCA Oregon chapter.