Jonny Faison was tired and panting Thursday, ready for a break.
“Got one more in you? OK, ready, let’s go,” class instructor Rob Wagner said, urging him on, and then the two were off, power walking across the gym.
“I’ll beat you! I’ll beat you!” Faison declared.
He gave delighted high-fives to everyone standing nearby when he won the impromptu race.
This is Club R.E.C., a program launched in the fall at the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department to offer workout classes to people with intellectual disabilities.
Faison and other class members might not be comfortable joining a conventional aerobics or yoga class, Wagner said, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from those services.
“You can almost adapt anything to make it work for a person with a disability,” he said. “You’ve just got to analyze the task and break it down.”
At Club R.E.C., which meets Thursdays at the Ambroz Center, 2000 Mount Vernon Road S.E., adaptation includes modifying equipment such as weights and medicine balls so they are soft and have better grips. Wagner keeps things flexible, talking through each step of an activity and adjusting elements to fit the wants, needs and abilities of different class members.
Only four people attended Thursday’s 45-minute class. Wagner said the department is trying to spread the word and can accommodate many more. The current session lasts until Jan. 30, and registration is open for the a February session, which will run Feb. 6 to 27.
Wagner is special populations supervisor for Parks and Recreation; he also coordinates Special Olympics activities. This is another angle on what Special Olympics is trying to do, he said - offer sports and fitness opportunities regardless of physical or mental abilities. Locally, there are about 380 Special Olympics athletes registered in 17 different sports.
But not everyone is ready to join a sport. And many who do join Special Olympics teams still need a regular workout routine outside of practice.
“This population is at risk,” he said. “There are issues of obesity, poor food choices, instant gratification.”
Of course, that makes them not that different than any other segment of the American population - which means workout classes aimed at them are just as vital as those aimed at everyone else.
“Fitness is for everyone,” Wagner said. “It’s very much needed.”