There were 7 people training at the Innervate CrossFit gym when we visited. Each was doing a slightly different exercise specially catered to them: Some were training deadlifts, others working out with the kettlebells.

Innervate CrossFit is, at the moment, the only CrossFit gym in Singapore to have a programme for persons with disabilities.

An athletic lifestyle for everyone

Moses James, trainer for the Adaptive CrossFit programme, calls all his clients “athletes”.

The Adaptive CrossFit programme sees about 20 regular members attending the 1.5-hour CrossFit sessions at least once a week.

Said James, “We started this programme in March after thinking of what other gaps there are in society, and the service that we are already providing. We have a few programmes that target the youth at risk and senior citizens, and so we realised that the demographics for persons with disabilities are lacking in Singapore… that’s how the idea came about.”

Adapting CrossFit to your ability

Photo of Moses James with a client at an Adaptive CrossFit session

Moses James with a client at an Adaptive CrossFit session

James emphasized the need to have an in-depth knowledge of each disability.

“Research is the baseline of what we do. We have the athletes at our first session and figure out what their disability is and more importantly, to figure out what they can do. We work around that framework and try different things to elicit the same kind of response. So that’s something we develop over time and being familiar with them. From there, we are able to make the relevant adaptation for the relevant individual.”

Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu, who is an Adaptive CrossFit participant, said she was apprehensive about enrolling the programme in the beginning. She is now an avid follower.

“One of the key things that I was looking for when I came here was not to get injured,” shared the 25-year-old swimmer. “Honestly, if you don’t know what it (CrossFit) is, you may think that it’s a lot of high intensity and people pushing themselves till they get injured. But that wasn’t the case. It changed after my first lesson. I didn’t even need a lot of lessons to realise that it’s actually a good and safe workout that is something that everybody can do.”

A community built around fitness

James likes to think of his business clientele in communal terms. “Innervate CrossFit is very much about a family kind of thing. It doesn’t make any sense to exclude persons with disabilities.”

James believes the programme has changed the atmosphere at Innervate. “[After starting this programme], it became a huge draw for the community. The athletes meet different people with different disabilities, interacting in the same space and meeting for the first time. It’s a good thing for them.”

“The benefits of the Adaptive CrossFit programme are, first and foremost, the physical benefits. Just like any other exercise programme. But there’s also soft benefits, such as building confidence for each individual. [It lets them] do the same exercises that able-bodied people can do.”

Wai Yee, another participant of Adaptive CrossFit, said, “It’s a very nice place to work out, and I like the community spirit. I tend to face a lot of negativity outside [in society]. People tell me ‘You’re blind! You can’t do this, you can’t do that’. There are times this gets washed into your brain and you think you can’t.

“But when I come here and finish a class. I tell myself ‘Why not! I can do it!’ It translates to other parts of your life as well.”