I’ve Found a Place I Belong at Unique Fitness

I’ve Found a Place I Belong at Unique Fitness
I’ve Found a Place I Belong at Unique Fitness

“You able to get loopy?”

Damon Vincent, each the founding father of this gymnasium and my private coach, greeted me the identical manner he usually does earlier than my exercises. Sometimes he makes use of each tacky statements and unhealthy puns to inspire his purchasers, like when he says “Let’s develop!” as an alternative of “Let’s go!” I smile at this. 

These foolish quips are a method he encourages his purchasers to push past their perceived bodily limits. Another is his humorousness, which I’ve written about before. That is particularly essential since this gymnasium was established for these with disabilities.

Unique Fitness isn’t a typical gymnasium. It not solely accommodates people with developmental and social disabilities however exists to serve them. Instead of struggling to suit right into a world designed for the able-bodied, this gymnasium is a particular kind of haven the place we’re not judged by or ashamed of our disabilities. Instead, we will really feel that we belong right here.

Feeling that I belong anywhere has by no means been simple for me as a affected person with Friedreich’s ataxia. I’m fortunate to have family and friends who do all they will to accommodate me, however the situation’s slow degeneration saps skills that I as soon as took with no consideration, similar to strolling, chopping my steak, handwriting, and sitting with poise and steadiness. Since I usually want others’ assist to get by, I typically really feel like an inconvenience, a burden on these round me.

But at Unique Fitness, lodging are the norm, not a particular request. No one there has to, for instance, request an adaptive piece of train gear, as a result of each piece there’s adaptive.

Thus, folks with particular wants can really feel that they belong when they’re at this gymnasium. And belonging is crucial for human improvement, beginning in childhood.


On this specific day, as I used to be heading to fulfill Vincent, able to “get loopy,” I handed a few folks in wheelchairs and some others who’d both had well being issues since delivery or developed them as the results of an accident. 

Unique Fitness turned its personal facility after Vincent, who was working at one other gymnasium, beginning main a bunch train class for people with developmental wants, which he named “Unique Fitness.” The class turned very talked-about and shortly outgrew that room, so Unique Fitness moved to its personal constructing and have become an unbiased gymnasium. It started by specializing in these with developmental wants in group lessons however expanded to coach anybody with any varieties of particular wants.

I knew he needed to have some connection into this “distinctive” world, so I requested Vincent if he had any direct relationship to the world of uncommon illness or incapacity. He advised me that as a toddler, he was identified with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). He has been taking medicines and coverings all his life as a consequence of his malfunctioning adrenal glands and their poor hormone manufacturing. He is at the moment on an experimental model of a brand new CAH therapy from the National Institutes of Health.

Vincent is aware of firsthand the ostracism that comes with dwelling with a uncommon illness. This propelled him to create this environment of belonging at Unique Fitness.

During my coaching session, Vincent helped switch me onto the matted flooring to do workouts exterior of the wheelchair. As he lifted me, I observed the tattoo on his wrist — his medical alert info. He is required to put on a bracelet detailing his medical info as a CAH affected person in order that EMTs wouldn’t unknowingly give him an injection of hormones that may be dangerous to him. But he grew uninterested in sporting the identical sort of bracelet every single day. Damon has fought in the MMA, and his sponsor knew he hated sporting it, so he promised to pay for a tattoo if Vincent gained his subsequent struggle. Now, his medical alert badge is indelible. 

Vincent has been perpetually modified by his uncommon illness expertise, and he makes use of this to assist others. His expertise is tattooed not solely on his wrist, however on all the gymnasium.

He helped me onto the mat and a glimpse of the tattoo jogged my memory that I’m in good arms.

My hope is that you just, reader, discover your personal model of Unique Fitness, a spot the place you belong and may always push your self to your bodily limits with out feeling like a burden.

As I settled on the ground, I ready to train away from the same old help of my wheelchair. It’s unfamiliar to me, however I’m in a spot I belong.

As a sensible man says, “Let’s develop!”

Matt, left, getting loopy and rising with Coach Damon Vincent. (Courtesy of Matt Lafleur)


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a information and knowledge web site concerning the illness. It doesn’t present medical recommendation, prognosis or treatment. This content material is just not supposed to be an alternative to skilled medical recommendation, prognosis, or treatment. Always search the recommendation of your doctor or one other certified well being supplier with any questions you’ll have concerning a medical situation. Never disregard skilled medical recommendation or delay in searching for it due to one thing you will have learn on this web site.The opinions expressed on this column are usually not these of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its guardian firm, BioNews, and are supposed to spark dialogue about points pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.

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