January ACTION Leader of the Month: Eric 

What do you love most about FITBuddies?

Eric loves how FITBuddies improves his dancing. His break dance moves are something unique he’s mastered. He enjoys putting in work to get more fit so he can get better at dancing.



What's your favorite music?

Frozen, specifically “Let It Go” (who doesn’t love that song?!). Eric also loves hip hop dance music.

These are a few of my favorite things…

Running, swimming, riding the tandem bike, hiking and camping. 

What FITBuddies exercise move do you love most? 

The rowing machine and burpees. Eric’s mastered his signature burpee-break dance move! 

Why are you proud to be a FITBuddies ACTION leader?

Eric likes to teach people to be better dancers and better leaders. He likes to motivate and lead by example. He’s learned to self advocate and set a good example for his community; specifically, Eric is an awesome ambassador for Down Syndrome. Eric comes in willing to volunteer, help, and work with other people — this all manifested from coming to FITBuddies.

How does spending time at FITBuddies make you feel?

It makes Eric happy and and an all around better person. Exercising makes him feel good about himself, boosts his confidence and makes him go out there and participate in other activities. He’s more confident and comfortable around other people. Eric is much less a spectator as he was before, now he’s a participator. 

More from Eric's dad and Coach Jen!

As a parent, what goals have you observed being achieved through FITBuddies?

Eric has achieved a lot of goals. The main goal is getting him more physically active and not having him treat it like it's some sort of punishment. In the past, exercise was some type of punishment. Now, after all the years at FITBuddies, he's going in there and willingly participating. That's crossed into other things — 5K races, hip hop dancing, etc. Eric has incorporated more physical activity into his typical routine. Surprisingly, all the activity has led to improvement in so many areas — cognitive, social, emotional, expressing himself, development has been improving all around. That was a surprise, he's become a new person! Eric is more outgoing, more willing to try new things. This carries over into his diet, which is a huge lifestyle change.



What skills learned at FITBuddies does Eric use in his daily life?

His coordination — he was told early on that he had apraxia; he had difficulty with balancing and going up and down stairs. Through FITBuddies, his whole coordination has improved and opened the door for him to try new things. He has no problem going up and down stairs. He never wanted to carry things, now he has no problem doing things. He now steps over the dog and his overall balance and coordination has improved. That has opened the door for many things he perviously didn't like. His core strength has developed and now he's more comfortable sitting at the table, doing writing, etc. Recently, in the last 6 months, he's become a lot more independent. I no longer walk him inside the gym at FiT, no more chaperoning him into the building. Now, we pull up in front, he gets out of the car and goes in and after the activity he goes out on his own. We call him Eric 2.0, he's the revised version. In the last two months, he started talking a lot more and making complete sentences.

What has Eric demonstrated and achieved to be distinguished as this month's ACTION leader?

Eric has achieved SO much but he was chosen as this month’s ACTION leader particularly for his newfound independence. When Eric started at FITBuddies, he barely participated and his Dad attended every single session with him, hand over hand helping him and pushing him to try new things. Eric’s dad deserves a part of this award as he remained dedicated and committed to Eric’s progress. The progress was slow and I think it’s safe to say both his Dad and I really weren’t sure how far we would get or really if we would get anywhere! But twice a week, every single week, they have showed up to class since 2012. Eric has gone from 5 minutes of participation to being fully engaged for the full hour (he now attends classes 3 days/week); his Dad no longer stays with him at class and not only does Eric do the movements on his own but will demonstrate (or show off) for his peers. And the latest — Eric is now dropped off and struts into class on his own with his head held high, high fiving and giving hugs to anyone who will take one!



As his coach, describe Eric's growth that you've observed.

Eric is the definition of growth. In the last 7 years, he truly has blossomed into a mature, independent adult. I think Eric’s growth defines what FITBuddies is all about — it’s 20% about the fitness gains and 80% about personal growth and development. The confidence he has gained is contagious and his newfound sense of independence is really what we, as coaches, strive for with all our young adults. Since March when we had to put a pause on our in person classes due to Covid, I have truly missed working with Eric but could not be more proud to hear about his efforts to remain active on his own — including hiking and taking up swimming. Keep up the great work Eric! 

ACTION Leader of the Month: Eric 

February ACTION Leader of the Month: Zach 

This month we are honored to highlight Zach and all that he accomplished during his time at FiT and with FITBuddies. Zach passed away in August 2020. We feel so fortunate to have captured this interview with Zach last spring. This month we highlight, honor and remember the strength and energy Zach brought to our group —  he will forever be missed and forever inspire us all to do our best every single day.

What do you love most about FITBuddies?

I love working out with my friends who support me.



What's your favorite music?

Hip Hop

These are a few of my favorite things…

Hikes, beaches, sushi, dogs and rollercoasters!

What FITBuddies exercise move do you love most? 

Pull ups

Why are you proud to be a FITBuddies ACTION leader?

I'm proud to be an ACTION leader because I have worked so hard in my pull ups and other exercises. 

How does spending time at FITBuddies make you feel?

I like going to Fit because everyone is so friendly and working out makes me feel good about myself. 

More from Zach's parents and Coach Jen!

As a parent, what goals had you observed being achieved through FITBuddies?

FITBuddies provided Zach with a supportive environment where he built lasting relationships and learned the importance of exercise and wellness as a way of life. With the help of his coaches, Zach learned strategies to manage his emotions and build resilience.



What skills learned at FITBuddies did Zach use in his daily life?

Being part of FITBuddies taught Zach important life skills like working with others toward common goals and being emotionally available to a friend in need. He learned discipline and the importance of showing up for yourself and others, regardless of how life challenges you. It was heartwarming to see Zach grow into a young adult who embraced emotional and physical fitness. We are forever proud of him.

What had Zach demonstrated and achieved to be distinguished as this month's ACTION leader?

Zach was chosen as this month’s ACTION leader for his willingness to take every opportunity he could to learn something new and stretch himself out of his comfort zone. Zach was a part of our FITBuddies program for 11 years and was a friend to everyone he came in contact with at FiT. He brought an energy and unity to our FITBuddies group that is hard to explain — he stepped up in every conflict offering a solution, provided empathy to anyone having a tough day and always brought a daily dose of laughter (as well as a good joke).



As his coach, describe Zach's growth that you've observed.

Zach started at FITBuddies in 2009 and in the beginning, always thrived off a very set routine and only liked to do movements that were familiar or easy for him. Over the years, we slowly started working on "being flexible" as well as trying to tackle the movements that appeared "too hard" or out of Zach's comfort zone. Before we knew it Zach was revving his engine with Coach Chris to pump himself up and give him the confidence to try all the hard stuff. He was so proud of himself for his ability to be flexible and now thrived off a challenge. Watching Zach's progress brought us all so much joy - the smile on his face and the extra pep in his step were priceless; but I can say with certainty Zach taught me way more than I could ever teach him as his coach. It was truly an honor to work with Zach and I feel so incredibly lucky that he was a part of our community for so long. He will forever hold a special place in our hearts at FITBuddies.

March ACTION Leader of the Month: Zoe 

As her coach, describe Zoe's growth that you've observed.

Coach Jen:

When Zoe started at FiT, she had a difficult time staying on task, would often sit out a majority of the session and would often run off (to watch other clients Olympic Lift — one of her obsessions :). As her coaches, we are so proud of the progress she has made physically, behaviorally and socially. She has matured so much in the past year or two and really just makes movement more fun! Zoe continues to challenge us (especially on reps and sets) but is now easily redirected and proud when she completes a task. She encourages her fellow peers and is always ready for a dance party when one of her favorite songs comes on. I look forward to seeing what the next couple years bring. Keep up the great work, Zoe💪🏻💪🏻

Coach Chris:

If you want to see growth, Zoe is never shy to flex her muscles at FiT. She has always been eager to exercise and since I’ve been working out with Zoe, she has learned a library of moves.

 

The area I’ve seen the most growth in Zoe is her communication skills. While training virtually, she was able to communicate when certain movements were too difficult or what she needed help with in order to learn the movement. Also, Zoe has developed much more stamina, completing entire work outs without taking a break.  

Zoe was working out 5 days a week, which would make anyone sore. Rather than letting the discomfort of sore muscles prevent her from exercising, she started expressing how certain moves were causing her discomfort and asked to modify or change movements. If push ups were too difficult on a certain day, she would ask for floor press. If ring rows were too challenging on a certain day, she would ask to do the rowing machine. Her memory of the movements she's learned was impressive, and made finding substitute movements easy and fun.
 

What has Zoe demonstrated and achieved to be distinguished as this month's ACTION leader?

Coach Jen: 

This past year, Zoe has been resilient, flexible and an absolute rockstar! She embraced virtual training with an open mind and eventually started training with Chris 5 days per week. It was hard, it wasn’t ideal for keeping her engaged and just like all of us, there were days when she just didn’t want to move...but she persisted, she was consistent and we are so proud of her!! Prior to this past year, Zoe has also matured so much and really started to become an example to her peers — with her fun personality, her willingness to at least give things a try and her enthusiasm to build strong “muscles!!!”

Coach Chris: 

Working out virtually, Zoe was extra focused during the workouts and was constantly making progress. Zoe also demonstrated great patience during the transition to virtual training. 

When FiT was opened for in person training, Zoe jumped at the opportunity. She showed up flexing her muscles ready to get to business, just like old times.
 



What skills learned at FITBuddies does Zoe use in her daily life?

Zoe has gained much more than enthusiasm for exercise at FITBuddies. She has also improved her social skills, ability to follow directions and a schedule, ability to work as part of a group, and ability to be flexible when routines change, as her needs and the needs of her classmates sometimes diverge.  

 

When the pandemic hit, we could not have imagined that Zoe would be forced to go virtual for an entire year.  When she first attempted virtual fitness, we figured we would try it on a lark, with not much hope for Zoe being able to stay focused. However, for 4 days a week for several months, both Zoe and her instructor Chris managed to do 1:1 virtual fitness sessions over FaceTime.  It was not always easy, but Chris deserves a medal for employing every tactic possible to keep Zoe on task and engaged over a screen.  We are so proud of Zoe’s ability to adapt to this challenging new situation.  Luckily, Zoe now gets to do in-person fitness outside twice a week with Jen, Chris and her longtime friend Olivia.  It’s the only regularly scheduled activity that she has outside the house.  She is always SO excited to grab her mat, mask and go!!!!  (She practically runs to the car.)  We are very appreciative of Jen, Chris and FIT for figuring out creative ways for all of our kids to stay active during this very challenging time.
 

As a parent, what goals have you observed being achieved through FITBuddies?

When Zoe started FITBuddies over 4 years ago at age 13, we were thrilled to have found a fitness program for teens and young adults with special needs.  It is so hard to find programs like these, and we felt especially lucky because FIT is very close to our house.  Our goal at that time was simply to get Zoe to be more active.  

As this goal was achieved and continued, we also saw Zoe’s enthusiasm for various exercise routines increase, as well as her desire to be strong and build big “MUSCLES!!!!” (now a common refrain in our house and at FIT).  Zoe started to incorporate the exercises she learned at FITBuddies in our home gym, especially ring pulls, overhead presses and planks.  As a result of this exposure to “real” exercise, she now loves to watch and imitate various exercise routines that she finds on YouTube, and occasionally joins us as we workout at home.


More from Zoe's parents and coaches!

What FITBuddies exercise move do you love most? 

Plank.

Why are you proud to be a FITBuddies ACTION leader?

I like being strong! 

How does spending time at FITBuddies make you feel?

Strong!

What do you love most about FITBuddies?

Seeing my teachers, Jen and Chris, and being active.



What's your favorite music?

The Knack: My Sharona

These are a few of my favorite things…

Yoga, FITBuddies, school and listening to music,

April ACTION Leader of the Month: Nick 

What do you love most about FITBuddies?

Chris and Jessica and Jen, Josh, Jose and Dion and Thom and all of my best friends alike and Kate!



What's your favorite music?

Twisted Sister.

These are a few of my favorite things…

Horror movies and pie.

What FITBuddies exercise move do you love most? 

Sit ups.

Why are you proud to be a FITBuddies ACTION leader?

I am proud at FITBuddies. Chris makes me happy and makes me smile!

How does spending time at FITBuddies make you feel?

Happy!

Pull_Up.jpg

More from Nick's mom and coaches!

As a parent, what goals have you observed being achieved through FITBuddies?

 

Friendship building; weight loss; better health; finding joy in exercise; a community!!!





What skills learned at FITBuddies does Nick use in his daily life?

 

Running, jumping, balancing, determination, confidence.

What has Nick demonstrated and achieved to be distinguished as this month's ACTION leader?

 

Coach Jen:

Physically, Nick is one of our strongest participants and he has come such a long way; not only learning new movements, but safely executing exercises that require focus, skill and patience. With that progress, Nick has gained so much confidence and has learned to enjoy movement (as he often told me in his early days, he’d rather be watching a scary movie than working out). In addition, Nick has made huge strides behaviorally — from barely participating in a group setting to becoming a leader whom his peers turn to for support; from voicing frustration on hard days with negative behaviors to maturely voicing what he is feeling and handling his emotions properly; and from distancing himself from peers that he may not connect as easily with to finding a common ground (or dance move) that will break the ice and make everyone laugh.

Coach Chris:

The biggest achievement has been Nick's increased involvement in the group classes. Nick started off more of an observer with the occasional joke name for an exercise but quickly found himself going rep for rep with his fellow FiT Buddies. He has a genuine camaraderie with the group and is always looking out for the best interest of each of the FiT Buddies. As for Nick's athletic abilities he has made huge bounds, literally! Since we started training together Nick went from being nervous to do a step up to eagerly doing multiple rounds of box jumps. Nick has an infectious personality and always leaves the group laughing. 

 

As his coach, describe Nick's growth that you've observed.

Coach Jen:

After participating in our group classes for a number of years, Nick also began working 1:1 with a trainer at FiT. It was during this time that I really felt like we began to see Nick shine. When Nick received the 1:1 attention he desired and when his capabilities were unleashed, his confidence skyrocketed and we began to see him truly enjoy working out. Looking back on his first couple of years and the behavioral problems we tackled, I now realize it was more of a coaching error than a lack of progress on his end — I didn’t practice what I now preach for every one of our participants. We were focusing significantly more attention on Nick’s weaknesses rather than capitalizing on his strengths; focusing too much attention on areas of improvement rather than achievements, and that just doesn’t work for our participants. So I am particularly proud of Nick for being patient with us as his coaches and also admire his Mom’s perseverance to keep him involved, to keep him moving and to keep showing up for him as a role model and workout partner at home. Although we no longer work with Nick in person (since he moved to San Diego), we are so thankful that this past year of virtual training has brought us back together. Nick is now a strong leader in our groups, with a gentle heart and a hilarious sense of humor that keeps us all laughing from week to week. Keep up the great work, Nick!!

Coach Chris:

When I first met Nick I had to literally hold his hand to get him to participate. Now he’s raising his hand asking to demonstrate moves. Another area of growth I’ve seen in Nick is his ability to manage his emotions. Learning new exercises and movements can be really hard and frustrating, especially if the moves are difficult, and even more so after a long day. Rather than letting his emotions get the best of him, Nick has developed the ability to keep a level head and explain what he’s feeling or let his coaches know that something is difficult and he needs a little help. It has been amazing to watch his transformation.