Getting Creative in the Fitness Center

Apr 01, 2011
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Because there is often a lack of inclusive equipment in community fitness centers, people with disabilities may have to get creative. More often than not, they must find ways to make use of the equipment that was not designed with their needs in mind. While having to find ways to use the existing equipment is not optimal, it may be necessary until more fitness centers provide equipment that is inclusive and accessible for everyone.

Sometimes it’s hard to get creative, though – either because there is very little to get creative with or because the individual simply doesn’t have the fitness knowledge to use machines in a new way. So, I thought it might be fun to highlight a few ways that I have seen individuals get creative before.

Important Note: Please keep in mind that safety should come first! Do not try to get creative in a way that risks your safety or the safety of others in the gym. Take a close look at the equipment before trying anything – and talk to the staff in the facility to see if they think this could be a safe, alternative option. Not all equipment is the same and neither are all people – the examples below may not work for you or may not work for the equipment available to you.

I will share just two examples today – and hopefully many more in the future!

Example 1: Using a rowing machine from a chair or wheelchair

Getting down onto the seat of a rowing machine can be difficult, and oftentimes the seat does not require enough balance support. The optimal situation would be to have an adapted rower or an alternative supported seat available. These options are usually not available. Because of this, I have seen individuals row from their wheelchair (as shown in the image below) or from a chair that they place at the end of the rowing machine. Be sure that the wheelchair or chair is secured!

Example 2: Using lifting straps or ace bandages to assist with grip strength

Many individuals with disabilities have limited grip strength. The optimal situation would be for every fitness center to have activity mitts or wrist cuffs available. When these options are not available, however, I have seen individuals use the generally available lifting straps or ace bandages to serve this same purpose, as shown below.

I hope to share more ideas in the coming weeks. I would love to hear your examples of how you have gotten creative or seen others get creative in the fitness center.

Author: Carolyn



  • BobLujano

    I think another creative step is the person with the disabilty taking some time to go to their local fitness facility and talk with those in charge about equipment you would need and what type of workout you would like to do. This establishes a contact with your local community fitness center, this helps you see if the staff is willing to work with you and finally it hopefully will help you get a workout plan. Worse comes to worse maybe this fitness place could refer you to a place that does have this specialty equipment. It sometimes is more about us people with disabilities taking the initiative and resolving any potential issues for ourselves and others. These actions would be no different than anyone else going to a customer service business and asking for services.