Luke was born with spina bifida. He walks with forearm crutches, and also uses a wheelchair. For Luke and his family, it has always been important for him to stay active and retain his mobility.
When Luke graduated from high school, he was in a program that focused on work and life skills, but for the first time he was lacking the PE classes that had provided most of his physical activity throughout his life. Melanie, Luke’s mother, first heard of Special Strong through a friend she met at Bible study who shared a brochure for the program.
“Special Strong takes each individual where they are and asks them and their parent what they’re looking for. What are their abilities? And they create a workout for them,” said Melanie. “In Luke’s case, he does better one-on-one. I know that the company offers group classes, but if it’s a group of kids who can all walk, they’re not going to be doing the same things that Luke can do, or have the same needs.”
“As a parent, who would not love that? That really honed-in care of the one you love the most.”
Luke’s multi-faceted, using both wheelchair and crutches, so one-on-one sessions work well for him. He’s also on the autism spectrum, so he likes the repetitiveness of knowing that he’s going to see his trainers at the same place and the same time each week.
Luke’s training has evolved in the six years he’s been with Special Strong. He sees Daniel once a week who helps him focus on building strength and muscle. More recently, he’s started seeing Bridget as well, who incorporates a lot of stretching—something that’s very valuable to help loosen Luke’s muscles and work on range of motion since he spends a lot of time in his chair.
There’s so much more involved than just the physical aspect.
“There’s emotional and social skills as well,” said Melanie. “It gives me time off and gives him time to interact with someone else. Luke is very social and likes to say hello to everyone, so using the gym is a great social outlet because it exposes our kids to normal everyday people and it exposes normal everyday people to our kids. Yes, they all have the common interest in exercise, but it’s so much more because they see that the kids have a lot to offer and are interested in doing the same things that they’re doing, even though it might look a little different.”
When Luke started with Special Strong, he had very little muscle to speak of—for a long time, he wore kid-sized shirts. Over time, he’s worked on strengthening his upper body. Today, his arms are so much more developed that he now wears adult large-sized shirts.
“He’s probably put on at least 30 pounds of lean muscle over the years,” noted his trainer, Daniel. “He is able to do forearm crutch dips, and that’s a really hard exercise. Dips are hard for anyone. Most Americans are not able to even do one dip, because you have to be able to lift up your entire upper body, all your weight. Luke is doing a real dip, just on forearm crutches.”
The one-on-one approach allows Luke and so many others to benefit from advice that caters to their specific circumstances, recognizing alternatives that are in their best interest.
“His upper body is really strong,” said Daniel. “He could easily bench over a hundred pounds on the barbell. However, we don’t use the barbell because people like Luke are already prone to rotator cuff issues. And the barbell is just going to make that worse.”
Because he uses a wheelchair, Luke has also really worked on his posture, which has significantly improved. Anti-rotation movement to counter the regular pushing of his chair—and work to prevent those rotator cuff injuries—is also a regular part of his routine.
Another intangible benefit of Special Strong is the connections that are made. Melanie notes the number of other families they’ve met over the years and how, even if their kids don’t have the same disability, they’re able to support each other through the network they’ve formed.
“You just need people to come alongside you to work together. You can’t go through life alone. You’d be lost.”
If you would like to learn more about owning a rewarding Special Strong franchise, we encourage you to reach out to us today for more information.