There are no physical limits.
Especially for these Adaptive CrossFit athletes.
At CrossFit AERO in Lutz, trainers have developed a modified program allowing individuals with permanent physical disabilities or severe injuries to complete the Workout of the Day, or WOD, and become comfortable with the fundamentals of functional movement.
“The way we see it, with CrossFit, everything is scalable,” said Ellaine Sapin-Ancheta, the AERO Adaptive CrossFit director and head trainer.
“So, if there is a workout of the day — say its rowing — every single person that walks in the door, we want them to be able to do that, no matter what your ability or disability is,” Sapin-Ancheta said.
“As soon as they walk through the door, we try to modify it from what we see and what they tell us — that’s the beauty of CrossFit: to have functional fitness, safety for longevity, and to have fun with it.
“It may look different when they’re doing it, but they’re still working the same muscle groups,” she added.
Wesley Chapel resident Stephanie Beaver always thought she was in shape, until she tried Adaptive CrossFit, modified for her body.
“I’ve come a long way,” said the athlete who was born with spina bifida.
“The movements we do here translate into the things I have to do every day, from moving around at home or to picking things up. It just translates into everyday life for me, so that really helps a lot,” Beaver said.
“Never in a million years I thought I would ever be doing the things I am doing today while at CrossFit,” she added.
Sapin-Ancheta explained: “She thought she was fit, but she was always falling to the side with a certain move, so we worked really, really hard on core strength and she worked really, really hard to improve that.
“Sure, she looks good and she’s ripped, even now, but getting back into the chair from the floor is way easier for her than before, too.
“So, she has no function of her legs, so we just modify (workout moves) for her or all of our adaptive athletes. They might be doing something different, but we’re still trying to simulate the same function and growth as any other athlete.”
Indeed, Adaptive CrossFit athletes will perform traditional CrossFit moves — such as deadlifts, overhead presses, wall balls, even rowing — however, the modifications are individually customized for each athlete.
Beaver, for example, will use special handles attached to a fan bike that allow her to perform cardio exercises.
“When people see the things that I am doing here, they immediately want more information and, unfortunately, it is not at every gym,” Beaver said.
“And the community here is really nothing I’ve ever been a part of before,” Beaver added. “I don’t feel any different when I’m here, not like other gyms where I feel like I stand out. Everyone just sees me as another athlete here.”
With CrossFit, inclusivity is — and always has been — key. It’s no different with Adaptive CrossFit.
“I think that, like all of CrossFit, that really it’s about inclusivity,” AERO CrossFit owner Josh Willis said. “CrossFit is really about everyone being able to do it, so that means those with disabilities, too, and they are always welcomed into a CrossFit community.”
“I’m a physical therapist,” Sapin-Ancheta said. “I have always loved working with (people with disabilities), but (CrossFit) was not available to them and why not? They want to work out and be part of the community, as well.”
And it’s true — they just want to work out, too.
“It’s still CrossFit,” Beaver said, with a sly smile. “We still get our WOD in like anyone else.”
Where: CrossFit AERO, 4450 Pet Lane, Suite 102, Lutz
Details: An athletic program that focuses on individuals with permanent physical disabilities or severe injuries. Sessions provide additional support and experience so impaired individuals can become comfortable with the fundamentals of functional movement. Sessions are open to every type of physical disability: amputation, limb salvage, neurological damage, sensory impairment or traumatic brain injury, and with or without mobility aids such as wheelchairs, hand crutches and so on.
Info: Email trainer Ellaine Sapin-Ancheta at ./">, or visit CrossFitAero.com.
Published September 21, 2022