By Larry McClain, ACE-certified Personal Trainer
My success story isn’t about my success in business as a self-employed, ACE-certified Personal Trainer, but rather one of my client’s successful attempts to "lose five pounds and gain more stamina."
In November of 1998, a client of mine, who I had worked with since April of 1997, asked me if I would be interested in assessing and possibly working with her 25-year-old daughter who I will call LB (Little Buddy). But because her daughter is challenged with Down Syndrome, I was advised not to take it to heart if she lost interest as her attention span is sometimes influenced by her mood, meaning this could be a short-term endeavor. Likewise, I informed my client that I had no training in this special population, but I would be pleased to meet with her and perhaps suggest some basic physical activity, once her abilities were evaluated. With no expectations from either side, the appointment was set and my education with Down Syndrome began.
Prior to our initial consultation, I referred to my ACE Personal Trainer Manual, Health Fitness Instructor’s Handbook by Howley & Franks, and ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, third edition. Surprisingly, nothing was mentioned in any of the resource manuals pertaining to Down Syndrome. Confronted with this, I went to my physician’s office and collected as much material as I could on the subject and found two organizations that specifically work with this population. The National Down Syndrome Society (1-800-221-4602) and the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential (1-800-736-4663). In addition to the personal information gained through her mother, these two organizations were paramount in supplying the information I lacked.
Outside of the obvious, I learned individuals in this population have physiological and psychological characteristics that many would have never imagined. In considering any and all possibilities, I had LB (with her mother’s help) fill out a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire and a Physician Consent form was sent to her cardiologist for any restrictions, etc. Once in place, we were ready for our first exercise session.
In our first session, I was met with little apprehension and a ton of enthusiasm. I explained to LB that I was trained by ACE to promote a GPO (gradual progressive overload) approach to many fitness regimens, whether weight loss or strength gain, it has to be slow and calculated, to avoid injury and boredom, and to be able to set new attainable goals. She understood, and this became the "golden rule."
That was five years ago in November of 2003. Since then, LB has spread the word of exercise to the rest of her siblings, friends and other relatives. She has lost not only the five original pounds she wanted to lose, but also an additional 15 pounds. Her strength and endurance, self-confidence, eye-hand coordination, flexibility and balance have improved to an incredible, unpredicted degree, for which I can only take a fraction of the credit.
Her success story stems from the fact we met only once a week for half an hour. In that half an hour, I simply showed her new safe exercises and then gave her homework to do as a review of previous exercises. Over time, we put together various routines that she could do during the week with minimal supervision from her parents. Activities such as basic calisthenics, resistance training, physio-ball, yoga and the treadmill were the tools used to move her toward the goals she set. But the real success comes from her self-initiative to learn new exercises and do them on a regular, consistent basis.
Recognizing and overcoming all the obstacles including cardiac issues, vision impairment, reasoning, motor skill restrictions, and slowed metabolic rate are a true success story that should be shared with exercise enthusiasts and exercise professionals alike.