AURORA, Colo. — While so much of the world was shutting down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and focusing on our health by washing our hands and social distancing, a group here in Denver took the opportunity to dig deep and improve their health through a renewed commitment to fitness.
“We began COVID with buying punching bags and punching gloves,” said Kelly Wilson, president of the 4Abilities group. “[COVID] really brought out the importance of getting outside and being active and staying active.”
The 4Abilities group offers a community of support in the fitness world, for individuals who often face barriers to physical activity.
“I have four children, now young adults, that have different abilities,” Wilson said. “Some people call it ‘disabilities.’ My family, we’re very, very clear on that. Disabilities means lack of abilities. And they certainly have some fantastic abilities. So in our house, we call it ‘different abilities.’ And I began this organization about five years ago, because there really wasn’t much out there to support my individual people with what they really wanted to do.”
The team meets twice per week at the Aurora YMCA at Wheatlands, where new “EGYM” equipment lets each teammate set their own course for their workouts. Simply by scanning their wristbands, each machine automatically sets seat height and distance, and weight resistance. During the workout, animations on screen train each teammate on accurate pacing and rest periods.
The team, though, has its own human coaches standing by as well, ready to offer feedback and above all, cheers of support. The support of the team offers participants the encouragement to do far more than an extra bicep curl or box jump; it also encourages a level of independence many wouldn’t get otherwise. And that, Wilson said, reaps rewards well after the last circuit in the gym.
“When we start teaching people that you do have the ability, you have all kinds of abilities, you can be independent here at the gym, it carries on beyond this building,” she said. “They are more independent in their jobs. They are actually asking the supervisors at work to teach them new skills, because they know with some repetition — like we do here — they’re going to be able to learn that they’re going to be able to be independent.
“There are certain types of differences that some of the people in my group live with, like Down syndrome. And if you can support somebody with Down syndrome to really develop their muscles and workout, it actually expands their lifespan.”
For the 4Abilities team, independence and teamwork go hand in hand. Their training helped them win second place in the Special Olympics regional tournament a couple weeks ago, and this upcoming weekend they’ll be lacing up and shooting hoops in the state championship.
“They support each other, and that is really cool,” Wilson said.
Editor’s note: Denver7 has chosen to use phrasing involving “different abilities” in this story because the founder of 4Abilities specifically and intentionally uses it to describe members of her family and her business, in contrast to terms like “disability.”