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The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
It looks like a typical fitness class in any gym, and that's the idea for volunteer coaches Wade and Diane Crawford.
Beginning with jumping jacks and pushups, the high-energy hour is designed to help athletes gain strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.
The Get SO Fit program — SO standing for Special Olympics — helps children and adults with disabilities learn to exercise, achieve personal fitness goals and make healthy food choices.
"I do the same Crossfit workout as Navy SEALs and others more fit than me, because the workout is scaled down to my abilities," said Wade. "This group is doing the same workout, scaled down to their abilities."
"Fitness is inclusive, so everyone can work out together," he said.
The Crawfords founded Get SO Fit four years ago at Chesapeake City Park. The program changed locations several times, before finding a home in November at the Simon Family Jewish Community Center.
"We want to attract as many athletes as possible, and this is a central location and a great place to do that," said Diane.
About 20 to 30 athletes have been attending the fitness class, which meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
Get SO Fit is free to Special Olympics athletes and JCC members, but anyone can join in the class for a $4 drop-in fee.
Many participants are preparing for the winter season of Special Olympics, which includes competition in basketball, bowling, speed skating and swimming.
"Exercise is hard for everyone, disabled or not," said Wade. "We're looking for incremental improvement. And when we see it, we point it out and encourage the athletes to keep it up."
Dorin Spivey, a professional boxer ranked second in the country by one organization, brought in his championship belts and showed the class proper form for hitting a punching pad.
"They all work hard and listen," said the 45-year-old Pembroke resident with more than 50 fights to his record. "You just have to give them love and attention."
The enthusiasm and excitement in the class continues as a group game involving exercise is introduced. A talk on nutrition, sleep and healthy lifestyle follows.
"I get 20 to 30 texts a day asking if it's OK to eat a particular food, or I might get a picture of a menu and questions about what's OK to eat," said Diane. "They're asking questions, and that's what we're trying to do."
"You can't outwork bad nutrition," said Wade.
The JCC is working to add more special needs programs, according to wellness director Tom Purcell.
"We're all the same, so everyone should be welcomed," he said.
Eric Hodies, firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Get SO Fit
When: 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
Where: Simon Family JCC, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Virginia Beach
Cost: Free for Special Olympics athletes and JCC members; $4 drop-in fee for others.
Info: Call Tom Purcell at 757-321-2310 or visit www.simonfamilyjcc.org/ fitness-wellness/get-so-fit.
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