Personal Trainer Profile: Greg Kirk Jr. provides “fitness therapy” for adaptive-needs clients.
Subject: Greg Kirk Jr.
Company: Fitness Training Unlimited
A Speciality Business. One of the words Greg Kirk Jr. uses to describe his business, Fitness Training Unlimited, is “special.” This term is accurate because Kirk and his staff serve a population not typically found in the average fitness facility. Fitness Training Unlimited, in Macomb, Michigan, caters specifically to adaptive-needs clients who have a wide variety of injuries and myriad other considerations. “[We] work with . . . people of all ages, suffering from various kinds of disabilities,” says Kirk. “That’s what makes this company so special. It’s also a specialized community that welcomes working with clients ranging in age from children all the way to the elderly.”
Getting “The Call.” Kirk’s passion for working with special-needs clients began in college when he was a head regional coordinator for the Special Olympics. “It amazed me how popular this event was and how much it meant to the participants, parents, coaches and community,” he recalls. “After the Special Olympics ended, I was hooked and knew that making a difference in these indviduals’ lives [was] something I wanted to pursue.”
Kirk decided that he would create a facility geared toward empowering this population and helping them understand that their circumstances are not limitations. “We believe fitness is within everyone’s reach,” he says.
A Fitness Community. Kirk has worked hard to create an atmosphere that is free of pressure and is based on social interaction—characteristics he feels are imperative to his clients’ successes. “Many of [our] clients are confined to their homes all day every day,” he says. “Therefore, [our facility] serves as a consistent and stable environment where clients can come any hour of the day and socialize with one another. It is a great place for clients to escape to and feel normal,” he smiles. “Each member respects and understands what the other members have been through and can relate to the lives they lead day in and day out.”
While many of his clients simply arrive for their scheduled appointment and leave upon completion, Kirk strongly encourages everyone to come early and/or stay for a while afterward and chat. “Interaction and support among our clients is highly encouraged to promote a positive, productive atmosphere,” he adds.
Specialty Programs. Working with all types of special-needs clients has enabled Kirk to create a variety of unique and effective programs. “We have developed programs for clients who have traumatic brain injuries; spinal cord injuries; orthopedic limitations [such as rotator cuff injury]; and individuals who are visually impaired.” He and his staff also specialize in working with wheelchair-bound individuals and those with multiple sclerosis.
Despite what might be considered hefty limitations, clients are encouraged to reach for goals beyond their expectations. “We strive to help each client realize that there are unlimited ways to overcome whatever obstacles have been set in their path,” he says. Kirk notes that his wheelchair-bound clients appreciate his approach to training because he gives them the opportunity to experience exercise out of the chair. “Our training staff usually encourages . . . using floor mats, exercise balls, therapy tables, reistance bands, weightlifting machines, etc. These clients sit in a wheelchair almost all day, so it’s nice for them to get an opportunity to work outside their usual environment.”
Training the Whole Person. Another unique aspect of the programming at Fitness Training Unlimited is that Kirk and his staff “step away from the traditional model of postrehabilitation, which is to condition only the specific area that’s injured.” Instead, they implement exercises that help to condition the entire body. “We design our programs to enhance ability, improve movement, increase strength and flexibility and, above all, make our clients realize that their goals are real and attainable.”
Kirk concedes that his job isn’t always easy. “There are ups and downs and highs and lows along the course,” he says. “However, watching these individuals overcome their challenges and face adversity to accomplish a goal and achieve success is what makes my job truly rewarding.”
SIDEBAR: Calling All Trainers
Do you own a business that breaks the mold? If so, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know why you think your personal training business is unique.
Ryan Halvorson is the associate editor for IDEA and a certified personal trainer.
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