by Teunisje Gruber, BScOT, MC

“This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of working as a coach for the Beast Mode Fitness First Experience group.  The goal of the group, is for young men and women (16 to 30) to learn about and benefit from improved physical fitness and wellness.  Over the past 9 weeks, it has been extremely rewarding for me to observe the participants improve in coordination, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.  However, what has impressed me the most were the additional benefits of this group to the participants.  Being a part of Beast Mode is to experience the enthusiasm, strength and connectedness that one feels as a member of a cohesive team.  The participants arrive 15 to 60 minutes prior to the start of the group to connect socially and develop friendships.  The fitness program is individualized for each participant and they receive the attention and encouragement from the coaches so that they experience success.  This builds self-esteem and self-confidence.  As they develop their skills and comfort levels improve, they are asked to take on leadership roles, and it is inspiring to watch how they rise to the challenge.  The strength and success of Beast Mode also comes from the community partnership that The Sinneave Family Foundation (SFF) has with the University of Calgary, Kinesiology Department, and interest is growing among other fitness professionals and facilities in the community.  In addition, the coaches have a wealth of experience and diverse backgrounds to address the unique needs of the participants with ASD.  Most importantly, the positive attitude and enthusiasm of the participants and the coaches is contagious.  Beast Mode participants feel the thrill of being part of a team and achieving a personal goal at the same time.

Beast Mode is more than a program, it is an experience! There is a wealth of research that suggests that individuals gain substantial health benefits from a combination of activities that include fitness, flexibility, and strength training exercises.  The Beast Mode fitness model is designed to promote interest in developing mobility, flexibility, strength training, cardio conditioning, teamwork, and social skills related to gym etiquette among young adults with autism.  The importance of creating a comfortable environment and encouraging a team atmosphere is a priority.    

SFF is evaluating this program to understand its effectiveness and to identify key learnings to share with fitness and recreational organizations and staff in the broader community.  We are interested in learning what barriers may exist for adolescents and adults interested in participating in fitness and wellness activities in the community, what unique need(s) we are  meeting, and what  key components of the program model make it successful.  We will be seeking input from past and current participants, coaches, and partners. We also encourage input from others in the community who have an interest in sharing their perspectives, knowledge and experiences related to fitness for individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities.  If you have questions, or to provide your input, please e-mail us at info@theabilityhub.org with “Fitness and Wellness” as the subject line.

A new session of Beast Mode Fitness First Experience is planned for October, 2016.  If you would like more information about becoming a part of this experience, please e-mail Mike Barrett (mike.barrett@sinneavefoundation.org) or phone The Ability Hub (403-210-5000).    

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