A few months ago I had the privilege of seeing Olympian and marathon champion Kurt Fearnley speak at a conference I was helping to facilitate. As I sat behind the AV desk listening to Kurt recount his countless hours of training and what it took to become a champion athlete, I started to reflect on my own fitness practice. I’ve always said my personal philosophy is that fitness should be accessible to everyone, yet it occurred to me that someone like Kurt, a super-fit athlete, couldn’t train in our gym the way it is currently set up or the way we run our classes.
Cue the lightbulb moment!
A few weeks later I was talking to my cousin, Lachlan, who is a member at my gym, about my lightbulb moment. Lachy has two remarkable friends – Santiago and Ciara – who are both vision impaired. Long story short, I invited them both to come to a PT session – I train them for free, while they teach me about what we need to do to make our training and facility more inclusive.
What we’ve learned so far
Both Santi and Ciara have different vision impairments, meaning the way we need to approach their training and how much they can do unassisted is very different. But there are some common themes emerging – things all gyms could do differently to make a big difference to how inclusive our programs and facilities can be. From the little things at the beginning, like making all of our forms online forms so they can use screen readers to complete them, through to the big things like the design of the gym space itself, and better coaching habits … it’s exciting how much scope we have to improve!
Most exciting though is the changes I’ve seen with Ciara – she’s now joined the gym and is participating in classes (mostly with Lachy’s help – he’s a good egg) and training regularly. As a result, her balance, strength, and posture have improved ten-fold, and she’s feeling happier and healthier. Imagine what difference we could make to so many other people’s lives if we could make fitness truly accessible!
The journey is just beginning … stay tuned for more updates!