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Jared Ciner (back left) leads a SPIRIT Club class —Image courtesy of Sasha Feinman

Who’s Got Spirit?

Denver native Jared Ciner’s fitness classes reach an often-overlooked audience.

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Personal trainer Jared Ciner’s clients aren’t comfortable at most gyms—but they are, perhaps, the folks who most need to be there. Ciner, a Denver native, often works with people who have developmental disabilities (such as Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders), a group that’s 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. This month, the 25-year-old brings his first-of-its-kind SPIRIT (Social, Physical, Interactive, Respectful, Inclusive, Teamwork) Club, an eight-week health and fitness program, to the Mile High City.

The fitness club was born in April 2013, when Ciner was working part time as a disabilities support counselor in Maryland. He noticed a gap between the need to improve the physical health of people with disabilities and available services. “I was surprised that there was nothing else out there providing consistent exercise for these people,” Ciner says.

So he started a weekly class with six participants at a health club in Washington, D.C.; it quickly grew to 11 classes per week serving more than 70 clients. Ciner and his staff—which includes Sam Smith, a certified personal trainer who has an autism spectrum disorder—teach at four facilities in Maryland and now one in Denver (a local test run will be held on November 26 at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center).

Each hourlong class (the eight-week session costs $180; scholarships are available) comprises 50 minutes of interactive exercises aimed at improving balance, stability, flexibility, agility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance using equipment ranging from medicine balls to boxing gloves. Ciner and Smith modify or exclude gym equipment that may not be a good fit for certain clients. The last 10 minutes are devoted to social interaction over a healthy snack and a discussion about “homework”—a health tip or exercise that members practice outside of class. Ciner says he sees the confidence of participants climb because the class is designed specifically for them. The proof is in the numbers—not only in SPIRIT Club’s surging participation, but in individual members’ weight loss (drops of 15 to 25 pounds have been reported). “It gives me more energy, and it’s toning me up,” says SPIRIT Club member Mary Jo Wybierala of Chevy Chase, Maryland. “And I really like meeting new friends.” spirit-club.com

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