Adaptive Athletes

Empowering Disabilities Through Fitness




Adam Mainey has always enjoyed keeping fit. From his younger years playing sport, to his previous jobs as a Bricklayer and running his own Masonry business, he was always challenged, or so he thought, until the day he changed careers and tried Crossfit for the first time.

He says he had done the gym thing before and never got into it, but Crossfit beat him up and he fell in love with the challenge of it and its community of people.

From there, what started as a new fitness regime quickly turned into a passion and another new career change. It wasn’t long before he studied and completed his Level One in Crossfit, followed by his Level Two and a Health and Fitness certificate. When he completed that, he jumped ship becoming a Personal Trainer full time.

He quickly built a rapport with his Crossfit classes and wanted to expand on another interest close to home for him; fitness classes for Special Needs.

It all started five years earlier with Adam’s brother in law, Awatea who has Autism and Down Syndrome. Adam recognised he was getting older and unfit but there was nothing for him to do. He started putting something together once a week and with connections through Awatea and the Special Needs community, he formed a small group.

Currently run twice a week by Adam and assistant coach, Danyelle- Marie Hughes, the Adaptive Athletes classes are Adaptive Crossfit on Fridays, with a focus on simple body weight movements and an Adaptive Powerlifting class on Tuesdays.

Through the Special Needs community, Adam became involved in the Special Olympics where he met Jake Osborne, who would become one of his first Adaptive Athletes to train in Powerlifting

It was through Rowena Massey, a member of the Special Olympics committee that introduced him to Jake who has high functioning autism.

“When I met Jake, I went out to East Auckland to watch him train and Jake decided he wanted to train closer to home and for me to be his coach, but I also recognised powerlifting was a need for these guys in the community” says Adam.

While his Adaptive Crossfit class is open to everyone, his Powerlifting class isn’t. Adam says while they try and allow everyone to give it a go, it does require more ability and there are more health and safety needs.

“For people with Down Syndrome, they can have a soft spine so they need a doctors approval before they can come along. Generally with any kind of heavy weight on their backs, it can be dangerous, but we do allow them to do push pull (an effective workout that trains related muscle groups together in one workout) and make sure they are ok with that.”

While his athletes are all high functioning and aware of what they have to do, he says teaching both classes is really no different to coaching mainstream Crossfit.

“The mainstreamers can be just as difficult sometimes because there are one hundred different personalities! but I treat my guys the same as I would any other class. I respect good behaviour and try and have a laugh at the same time. They are no different to anyone else, just a few different challenges to face.”

He is proud to see them build strength and confidence and says seeing their smiles when they reach a new goal is worth it because they don’t hide their emotion. They feel what they feel and share it with everyone.

“Seeing their faces when they realize they are more capable than they thought, is awesome. They remind me that the smaller things in life, aren’t that big of a deal.” says Adam.

Currently the Special Olympics Counties New Zealand funds the Adaptive Athletes programme at a cost of only $5 per class. In 2020, Adam wants to create more awareness and availability to offer the classes Monday to Friday, but says they need funding and volunteers to make it a reality.

He’d also like to see a space where athletes can come train, hang out after and feel comfortable.

“Outside of classes, a lot of these guys don’t have anything else to do. They get lonely and don’t know how to make friends which is why I encourage them to be a team. It would be great to have a gym that is accessible for everyone, not just those with disabilities. No barriers.” says Adam.

With funding the deciding factor, the Christmas break will be time for him to reflect and 2020 will be getting the ball rolling to continue hitting the ground running in 2021.


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elocal Digital Edition
February 2020 (#227)

elocal Digital Edition – February 2020 (#227)