SPIRIT Club is on a mission to make exercise accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability. Plus, now with virtual programming, your location doesn’t matter either.
From independently owned boutique studios to big-box gyms, thousands of fitness facilities exist across the United States. While some are more niche than others — there are women’s gyms, CrossFit gyms, powerlifting gyms, and spinning-focused gyms — most have a similar purpose and function.
Yet, one gym in Maryland is doing things differently. The SPIRIT Club, located just outside Washington, D.C., has a unique approach.
Founder Jared Ciner wanted to help every person (and body) achieve their fitness goals, and he recognized that many mainstream gyms were ill-equipped to assist those living with physical and emotional disabilities.
“SPIRIT Club was founded in 2012 to ensure any person of any ability could easily access meaningful exercise opportunities,” Ciner tells Healthline.
“At the time, I was working as a support counselor for adults with disabilities, as well as a personal trainer at a conventional gym. While many of those I worked with… had health and fitness goals, the standard gym setting did not offer accommodating solutions to support them. Believing that those with disabilities deserve equal access to exercise programming, I founded SPIRIT Club,” Ciner further explains.
According to the company’s website, the SPIRIT Club is a place and space where individuals can go to work toward their fitness goals. Its owners don’t describe it as a gym, at least not in the conventional sense. Rather, it’s an organization that promotes whole-body health.
“At SPIRIT Club, we believe exercise is not only essential to living a happy and healthy life, it is also a human right,” the website notes. “Therefore, fitness should be made accessible to you, regardless of your circumstance.”
“Whether you’re experienced with exercise or a total beginner; comfortable in gyms or don’t feel like they are the right fit for you; or able to participate in typical fitness programs or face limited opportunities due to a disability, SPIRIT Club is the place where you can successfully work toward your fitness goals,” the website goes on to say.
“SPIRIT Club’s mission is to create a universal design for fitness so that people of all abilities can enjoy the many benefits of exercise together,” Ciner tells Healthline. “SPIRIT Club prides itself on making fitness accessible to everyone, whether or not you have a disability.”
“All of SPIRIT Club’s lead trainers are dual-certified, ensuring that they are qualified to work with those with and without disabilities, and about half of SPIRIT Club’s trainers are people with disabilities [themselves],” Ciner adds.
Not only can trainers physically assist members, but they’re also able to foster a culture of support and encouragement, and it means that there’s no segregation or isolation.
All SPIRIT Club fitness programs are scalable, meaning exercises can be modified to accommodate limitations or progressions. According to the organization’s website, “SPIRIT Club members with different needs and abilities exercise side-by-side with one another, with modifiable exercises and personalized programs.”
Currently, the SPIRIT Club proudly services over 4,000 people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, mental health and substance abuse disorders, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and intellectual disabilities, to name a few.
Yet, while the SPIRIT Club caters to members of the disabled and differently-abled community, everyone is welcome. Why? Because Ciner believes the more the merrier.
“Through welcoming community members with and without disabilities, we have created a culture that welcomes everyone and celebrates diversity,” he adds.
While things changed for the SPIRIT Club in 2020 — like many establishments, the fitness center was forced to (temporarily) shutter its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic — the future looks bright for this amazing organization. SPIRIT Club welcomed members back for outdoor sessions and classes late last year.
The club now offers virtual training sessions for those who cannot make it to or through their doors. The SPIRIT Club meets members anytime, anywhere, and as vaccine rates continue to increase, the SPIRIT Club looks forward to reopening its doors and resuming in-person classes and activities as they were pre-pandemic.
“SPIRIT Club plans to continue teaching classes on its new virtual platform, while also expanding its in-person services by hiring trainers and opening gyms in locations where our virtual following is thriving,” Ciner tells Healthline.
“The network that SPIRIT Club has developed has generated the company great contacts and advocates. We’ve provided virtual services to organizations across 33 states since the start of the pandemic. SPIRIT Club intends to leverage those relationships to create new in-person service hubs across the country… [where we] can offer in-person group classes and personal training sessions.”
Keep your eye on this up-and-coming organization that’s making fitness accessible to all.