As seen in the Register Guard November 15th
Rain was pelting down on the CrossFit Evviva building on a recent Sunday morning in Eugene, but it was a brighter scene inside the gym, where Savannah Hendrickson was working with her trainer, Ryan Lockard.
For Hendrickson, who has down syndrome, it hasn’t always been easy finding opportunities to stay active. But by working out with Lockard, who specializes in helping people with disabilities, Hendrickson, 28, said it’s been the most fun she’s had training with someone.
Lockard had Hendrickson do plank workouts for the first time, making sure she took breaks as needed and kept good form.
“Walk forward a little bit more, good!” Lockard told Hendrickson, a Springfield resident, as some of her favorite Justin Bieber music played from the speakers.
Hendrickson’s mom, Jeni Davidson, said Lockard has worked well with her daughter.
“Ryan really understands what she's capable of doing both physically and mentally and he treats her just like any other client, but it’s on her level,” Davidson said. “I'm glad that they're in town.”
Lockard, who lives in Portland, is the founder and CEO of Specialty Athletic Training, which offers training programs for people with autism, cerebral palsy and down syndrome. He started the company in 2012, but October was the first time Lockard began offering training sessions in Eugene.
Lockard is originally from Creswell, and said he’s excited to reconnect with friends in the area and offer courses. So far he has a handful of clients he works with on Sundays at CrossFit Evviva, located at 247 Washington St. He said he hopes to eventually offer more days in Eugene.
“This has always been something I've wanted to do,” he said.
The company has three full-time and two part-time trainers. It also offers classes in Portland, Vancouver and Bend.
The idea of a career helping train people with disabilities came in Lockard’s final year at Lewis and Clark College, where he was a football player. After tearing his ACL and coming back for a fifth year, Lockard found a part-time job as a trainer for a 13-year-old boy with autism.
By working with him, Lockard said he became passionate about working with people with disabilities who often have the same athletic abilities as others but aren’t treated the same.
“I saw that the expectations for him were set lower than his peers in PE class,” Lockard said. “In some classroom situations, he was working on things that were different from his peers’ (work), and I got that on the educational side and the academic side. But physically, he was able to do everything.”
Lockard spent several years going between Europe and the U.S. to play football and help train people back home. After coming home to be with his now-wife, Lockard formed his company in 2012, before it expanded across the state.
Along with standard training certifications, Lockard became certified as a special population specialist.
Aside from physical strength, Lockard’s training also helps people with their confidence and independence.
“The cool thing is just hearing stories from the families, like, ‘My son or daughter was able to take the bus independently for the first time,’ or, ‘They're able to walk up the bus independently for the first time,’ or, ‘We were able to go on a hike, we went Mount Pisgah for the first time, and we're able to finish the hike,’” Lockard said. “Those are the stories that make it really worthwhile.”
During his training with Hendrickson, Lockard uses frequent positive encouragement, and makes sure he prioritizes each client has fun.
Lockard said being in a communal gym setting also helps break down prejudices.
“We’re able to help stop the stereotypes and kind of be there to answer questions for people that have questions about what we're doing, or what was going on with one of our clients if they have a rough day for one reason or another,” he said.
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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.