Yesterday was one of those days at FITBuddies that left me smiling from ear to ear. At FITBuddies, we definitely have days that are frustrating, overwhelming and chaotic (okay almost every session is what I like to call ‘controlled’ chaos:). As an instructor for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities you have to be mentally prepared to not make progress for an extended period of time and to celebrate the little things; it requires a type of patience that I will forever admire the parents of Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities for. To some, yesterday may seem like one of those little celebrations, but as I took a step back and let FITBuddies take a step forward, I felt like we made HUGE progress….
In our workout yesterday, as mentioned below, we completed loaded box squats (barbell back squats to a 12 inch box). My normal Monday volunteer was unable to come at the last minute and I knew this was going to be a tough workout to complete by myself: there were multiple bars being used, everyone was using a different weight, a slightly different height box, and although we have done similar movements, this would be the first time for box squats. My main concern was that they would not understand how to keep their midsection (back and abs) tight as they sat down on the box which could 1) place an excessive load on their low back and 2) cause them to fall over as they tried to stood up. I thought about changing the workout at the last minute but then thought about what Spencer would say when he walked in, “It’s Jen’s story and she’s sticking to it!” So, I stuck to it.
Jeremy went first as he has the most controlled back squat and Spencer followed with a lighter bar. Spencer initially had trouble because “it was something new’ but I explained how it was similar to other movements we had completed and then he looked at me and said, “I’ll get it, practice makes perfect, right?” Right! Here we go, onto the girls. My jaw dropped when I saw Xenia, perfect form and the weight looked like a feather. Kristen was a little more unstable but able to safely execute the movement. One problem was universal: they all would lift their heels off the ground every few reps (some more, some less) as they sat down to the box.
As we headed into our second set, I looked at my watch and decided if we were going to move ahead as planned we needed to go two people at a time. I hesitated as we would now be using more weight but decided this was the perfect opportunity for a ‘trial run’ to see if the buddies could instruct/teach each other. They often do not fully understand what I am asking of them when I correct a movement and I thought that focusing on their peer and correcting their movement may help ingrain my cues/visuals. Jeremy started as Spencer’s ‘instructor’ and he was thrilled to be ‘in charge.’ In a very serious tone, he politely corrected Spencer the minute he saw his heels lift off the ground. At the end of Spencer’s set, Jeremy reported back, “he did great but he lifted his heels three times and needs to work on his stomach (meaning that his back was slightly rounded).” While I of course saw the whole thing, it was a great learning experience for both Jeremy and Spencer. But then it progressed…
Now they were all excited to be “instructors” and so I gave them all pointers, specific cues and explained what they were looking for. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be beneficial or just end in complete chaos. I stood in the middle of the two squat racks so I could see both people squating and the two resting were the “instructors.” Jeremy continued to help correct Spencer’s form; Xenia LOVED being able to give commands and her and Kristen were extra helpful switching the weights for each person. Kristen, at one point, was even down on her hands and knees so she could get a better view of Jeremy and Spencer’s feet as she made sure their heels stayed on the ground. It was priceless and more beneficial than I expected. Not only did they help each other but it worked: each time they improved on their own squats as they had a better understanding of what the movement was suppose to look like.
As we continue working towards creating a more independent atmosphere, yesterday was huge progress in that I was truly able to take a few steps back as FITBuddies stepped up to the plate.