Sarah Strohl, a 23-year-old Zionsville resident, works out for 30 minutes twice a week at CrossFit AFCO, engaging in exercises that are designed to her ability level as a woman with Down syndrome, according to her mother, Valerie Strohl.
Casey Good, founder and head coach at CrossFit AFCO, said he focuses on specific exercises with Sarah that accommodate her skill level and comprehension while keeping her engaged and playing Disney music during her workouts. The goal of the exercises, he said, is not to improve Sarah’s gym skills, but to improve her functional movement so she can enjoy a better life outside the gym.
“Exercise is more than just exercise for your body, it’s exercise for your brain, particularly for people with intellectual disabilities,” Valerie said. “For Down syndrome, which is a degenerative disease, this physical exercise also keeps her exercising her brain.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that more than 1 in 4 adults in the United States aged 18-64 has a disability. While adults with disabilities are three times more likely to develop chronic diseases than those without, the CDC states nearly half of adults with disabilities do not participate in aerobic exercises that could help reduce the severity of such diseases.
Serena Good, Casey’s wife and a doctoral student of occupational therapy, said she occasionally collaborates with Casey to cultivate workouts for Sarah that help to get her faster and improve her body awareness when performing functional activities. However, Serena said Sarah has a motivation that is hard to find.
“We’re not just trying to get her in here to work out for 30 minutes two times a week, we want her to go on walks on her days off, making it more of a lifestyle change,” Good said.
Casey said CrossFit allows people to fulfill their athletic potential regardless of age or ability level.
“Casey has me work so hard sometimes, but I really love doing CrossFit and I work very hard,” Sarah said.
Valerie said she and her husband participate in Long Haulers, a class at CrossFit AFCO that focuses on long-term fitness, and she feels her family is more readily able to connect over their shared experiences with CrossFit.
CrossFit has not only allowed for bonding within their family, Valerie said, but it also has helped Sarah feel more connected within the community while keeping her happy and motivated.
“I notice that after she’s exercised, she’s more alert, her communication skills are better, her communication skills are better, she’s stronger and it helps keep her stay happy and healthy,” Valerie said.
For more on CrossFit AFCO, visit americanfitnessco.com.