The definition of CrossFit, according to Greg Glassman, is (everybody say it with me) functional movements that are constantly varied, performed at high intensity.
And according to Michael Hynard, Manager at CrossFit HPU in Auckland, New Zealand, that definition of scalability extends to all athletes. Including those with special needs.
Through an Adaptive Athlete program that Jordyn Rouse, a physical education instructor at Sunnydene Special School in Auckland introduced him to, he believes he found his personal legacy.
Rouse was frustrated that her special needs students were simply placed on a treadmill or walked around the block, as a form of exercise. When she came to Les Mills and saw they had a CrossFit kids program, she asked if it could be adapted for her students.
Sunnydene is an evidence-based research school for students needing individualized attention. Again and again, Rouse had seen the research point to physical exercise having a positive effect on the students. “So whatever the research is showing, we are trying to implement into our program. That’s where this started. Because we all know with students, physical education releases endorphins, which is a learning hormone that is promoted by exercise. The more endorphins we release, the better we have in learning. And this is what we’re finding from our students,” Rouse explained.
The class also hits close to home with Hynard as well, as his daughter has cerebral palsy. He believes this program has unleashed his personal legacy, as he wants to now implement more Adaptive Athlete classes.
“It’s about a passion. It’s about that little essence inside of you that sets you apart to want to do this,” he said. “Don’t be scared to do it, just try it. You may surprise yourself that you actually have a gift to work with these people. But do not do it if you are not passionate about it. … Do it or don’t do it, but if you’re going to do it, then get the community behind it.”
But he understands offering this type of class is not for every Affiliate. In order to work with adults or students with special needs, Rouse and Hynard agreed Affiliates must be pushy, but patient and very, very humble. “I was really nervous starting this program because yes, I had a bit of experience working with my daughter, working with children and athletes in South Africa, but coming here and meeting Jordyn … we were really nervous,” Hynard said.
Ultimately, the rewards are worth it to both him and Rouse, and they experience a gratifying experience in every class. Not only have they seen students lose weight, but they have seen the leveling of diabetes and those with behavioral problems learn a better way to channel energy.
“These guys will blow you away with their capabilities and abilities,” Hynard said.