Hello again, after a long absence. Too long! I went missing around here after July 9th. A luxury the site can afford thanks to the great posts from Tim Villegas and various guest bloggers. While away I enjoyed the different offerings provided by an inclusive fitness setting. In the process I achieved new milestones, establishing a new personal best in 5ks (3.1 miles). Plus I completed my goal to walk a half marathon (13.1 miles)!

Zachary Fenell after crossing the finish line to complete his half marathon goal.

Me at the Towpath Marathon Half Marathon finish line October 9th, 2016.

Along the way, I discovered a passion for encouraging others with disabilities to live active lifestyles. Activities like joining a team, going to the gym, or participating in organized athletic events. Sitting down with two others living active lives despite cerebral palsy (CP) remained amongst the initiatives I pursued. Daryl Perry a personal trainer with cerebral palsy. Also Brandon Ramey, a former college football player for Saint Thomas More. I recorded our near 40-minute conversation about fitness. Then I compiled highlights into a four-part Youtube series dubbed “Cerebral Palsy Fitness Round Table.”

Although our discussion concentrates on CP, you will find certain ideas mentioned universal to disabilities in general. Insights that could help you or your loved one thrive in an inclusive fitness setting. A valuable asset as Daryl Perry emphasizes athletics’ importance in the series’ second video. He explains “The other thing about athletics is it teaches you discipline and how to be on a team, this and that. Skills you’re going to need throughout life.”


Ironically a barrier to an inclusive fitness setting comes internally. The person with a disability may feel self-conscious, which breeds anxieties. Suddenly you start second guessing. “Do I want to try out for this team?” “Is the gym the place for me?” If you notice such thoughts creeping into your mind, consider these words from Daryl Perry.

“You think everybody is constantly looking at you. Honestly, initially, they probably are. But it’s kind of like we tell our kids which is don’t worry about what everybody else thinks of you because chances are they are more worried about how everybody is thinking about them. So it’s the same thing with this.”

Meanwhile, Brandon Ramey supplied a reminder what an inclusive setting looks like differs based on the individual. Often the mainstream media frames an inclusive sports story in an inspirational context. A treatment Ramey received in high school by The Cincinnati Enquirer. He recalled the article titled “An Inspiration at Oak Hills,” saying the following.

“I wasn’t just on the team just to fill out a jersey and be, ‘Aw yeah, that’s great.’ I earned the right to play. I won the right to tackle somebody else. That’s not an inspiration. That’s just me wanting to do what I wanted to do and being able to.”

Ramey went on to express gratitude for possessing those abilities. For others, an inclusive setting might mean fulfilling another role. For example, team manager. Said roles still teach useful social skills. Simultaneously they foster the belonging only a team can grant. Evaluating a person’s abilities remains the smartest approach to determine the best role for him or her. After all, you want the position to challenge personal growth.

Leveling Up

Maintaining a challenging aspect preserves arguably the most rewarding part of fitness and athletic pursuits, building character. Maybe anxiety runs through you because starting out you can’t lift heavy weights. Or, you need to hold onto a wall to keep your balance during yoga. Brandon Ramey shared a reassuring truth. “We each start out just really as our weakest self. We all start at a different person. We all start out at a different starting point.”

Individuals around you who seem to move with ease worked to get there. Persistence segues to improvement. A point Ramey identified in his continuing comments. “You might drop that barbell on your chest, but you know what? If you keep going and going and going, eventually you’ll get that up. And you know what? That is one of the best feelings in the world. Something physically you were failing at time and time again, but you work at it, and you achieve.”

Alongside the journey to improvement, lines blur. This occurs when aches and pains clash with a desire to expand your comfort zone. Deciding to stop or push forward leads to indecisiveness. Wisdom from Daryl Perry should assist you in making a sound decision. “The folks I work with what I always say is you want to push yourself. But the number one goal is you want to be able to come back and do this tomorrow and the next day after that.

Better Together

Perhaps nothing above appeased your concerns yet; perhaps Perry can console you. He admits “The first time you walk in there (the gym) it is pretty awkward, but you just do your thing.” His observations ought to uplift you.

“What I’ve found with exercise is you just kind of show up and do the best you can. The people that are the regulars there they kind of see that. They come around you, and everybody comes together and are very supportive.”

Within Daryl Perry’s closing remarks he stressed the power of people. “If you are looking at getting into this, one is it is never too late. So if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, it’s just finding your people.” He suggested “Start a Facebook page. Start a blog. Somebody out there has the same interests.”

Daryl Perry and Brandon Ramey join Zachary Fenell for a discussion on inclusive fitness.

Get in touch with Brandon, Daryl, and/or myself on Twitter.

To close out, Brandon Ramey invited anyone with questions to contact him on Twitter (@Brandon_Ramey). Anyone interested in learning more about Daryl Perry’s personal training services can visit http://yourlevelfitness.com. Whether you contact Ramey and Perry, at least remember the key elements to thrive in an inclusive fitness setting.

Focus on ability to determine how inclusion will look best for you or your loved one. Choose a challenging role which facilitates personal growth. Finally, seek supportive people with similar interests.

For more watch my entire “Cerebral Palsy Fitness Round Table” video series. Due to audio issues with the recorded video, you will want to turn up the volume on the videos and your device. Or, turn on the closed captions.

Photo Credit: Ken Conley/Flickr