Adapted Fitness: A Personal Perspective

During the first article in this series, we laid out what is and is not, the definition of Adapted Fitness. For the rest of the series, we will narrow the focus. We will analyze, illuminate and compare adapted fitness to what’s out there in the world. Make sure we tackle the misconceptions and preconceived notions of disability and fitness.

It’s important to understand adapted fitness from the personal level. We spoke with Emily Ladau, author of Demystifying Disability and founder of, and Haleigh Rosa, former NBC anchor, ADA advocate, and Off-White brand ambassador to get their opinions, as they are two die-hard fitness enthusiasts that are not inside the fitness industry.

When someone says their workouts are ‘adapted,’ what does that mean to you?

EL: An adapted workout is one that empowers everyone to come as they are. It’s fitness in whatever way works best for their body. This is totally contrary to so many mainstream fitness trends and products that are designed for and marketed to people with very specific “typical” body types and ability levels. But the reality is that no two bodies are alike and workouts that feel good for one person might not feel good for someone else. So rather than assuming fitness can simply be one-size-fits-all, we need to shift toward making fitness accessible by creating spaces that support adapting movement to honor everyone’s individual needs.

HR: An adaptive workout is different for everyone. This means the workout is tailored to a specific person and their current needs. Adaptive workouts range from major to minor injuries and can be used for anything from disabilities to pregnancies.

Does the world understand what ‘Adapted Fitness’ is?

EL: Honestly, I don’t think so. I believe there’s a widely held assumption about adapted fitness (if people know what it is at all) that it’s only for disabled people. But it’s actually something that should enable anyone to participate and get something out of it. For example, my non-disabled cousin joined me for a few Kakana workouts and I think she initially believed she wouldn’t get a lot of it, but by the end, she was sweating and her heart was pumping just as much as mine.

HR: I don’t believe that the world truly understands what adaptive fitness is. An adaptive workout can still be tough and make someone work hard. The common misconception seems to be that adaptive fitness is only for the disabled community.

Have you come across a company that has adapted fitness for its employees? Fitness created to be accessible first and not 5 videos in a stack of 10,000 in their HR offerings. If yes, who (let’s name names in the positive!)

EL: I don’t know of any companies that offer adapted or accessible fitness options to their employees. I’d like to believe such a thing exists, perhaps at a big tech company, but my guess is that it’s still an area where companies are completely behind.

HR: I have not seen any companies that have offered adaptive fitness for their employees.

What do you think advancement in adapted fitness can do for accessibility in general?

EL: When we raise consciousness about the importance of adapting activities for all bodies, we’re directly contributing to a mindset shift about who is welcome and included in the world around us.

HR: In general, I believe adaptive fitness can help a variety of people. Adaptive fitness is truly for everyone. Those that are injured, born with disabilities, those that may have to adapt workouts for pregnancies, etc., can all benefit from adaptive fitness at some point.

You exercise daily. What types of workouts do you do?

EL: Truth be told, I spend far too much time in front of the computer working. I’ve made it a point to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. A way to make sure I’m taking care of myself. I like to vary my workout routines and keep things interesting. I switch between cardio boxing, crosscycle (Kakana’s boutique cycling class), dancing, and light hand weight exercises. Crosscycle is definitely my favorite!

HR: Currently, I work out four times a week, three hours each day. During those 12 hours, I am relearning to walk using a walker, practicing standing balance and sitting balance.

What makes adapted specific fitness platforms different than other fitness programs?

EL: Exercising daily means that doing the same old routines can get boring pretty quickly. Because I’m a wheelchair user, I pulled together a playlist on YouTube of seated workout videos, but it’s not particularly motivating to repeat workouts that were recorded years ago. Working out with other people and getting live feedback from fitness instructors can really help keep me going. And that’s what initially drew me to Kakana — the idea that I’d be able to work out virtually with other people.

The absolute best thing about Kakana is that I get to take live virtual classes with instructors who are themselves disabled and/or have knowledge of how to appropriately adapt and modify workouts for people based on their abilities. I feel safe to move without being judged for what I can or cannot do, as the classes have a welcoming community atmosphere. I truly get excited each time I sign up for another one. And when I can’t make a live class, I love tuning in to the class recordings whenever I have time in my day to get moving.

HR: I truly don’t know of many, maybe from lack of knowledge, purely because I spend my workouts at the same gym every day. But, Kakana caught my eye because it truly seems to have a mission of inclusivity. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to work out, no matter the level. The instructors are energetic and the classes are exciting and challenging.

What do you hope to see from the fitness industry to make fitness more accessible?

EL: My hope is that the fitness industry will move away from exclusionary, ableist standards of who belongs in that world. It’s far past time for companies and individual instructors to take meaningful action to be inclusive of any and all people who choose to participate. Kakana is a key part of making that happen.

HR: My hope is that more companies become inclusive. Those that use “adaptive workouts” want to feel included too — and we are capable of working out hard.

Want to read the first article in the series: ‘Adapted Fitness: What it is & what it is not.’ Head to our Blog.

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