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Texas Gym Owner Provides Fitness to an Often-Overlooked Demographic

December 18, 2023 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit Iso
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After working in special education in the public school system for 15 years, Karrie Barnes noticed a disturbing trend: A serious lack of physical education programs for those with cognitive and developmental disabilities after they graduate high school.

  • “After they leave the public education system, where do they go? What do they do?” Barnes said of what she had witnessed for years. 

So, as an eight-year CrossFit veteran, Barnes took matters into her own hands.

In August 2022, she purchased CrossFit Iso in Carrollton, TX, with her husband, Leif Barnes, and immediately teamed up with Snap and Clap, a local day program that supports adults with special needs.

The details: Twice a week, Snap and Clap shows up with 10 of their members, most of whom are young adults in their early 20s with either Down syndrome or autism, and Barnes puts them through a workout of the day. This sometimes involves Tabata intervals, where they’re kept moving for the full hour, and other times, Barnes sets up circuits for the group.

  • “We also throw in some weight because they’re so intrigued by kettlebells, and the rowing machine is their favorite,” Barnes said. 

Barnes’ program has only been around for three months, but it’s already making a difference in the lives of people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a gym.

  • “It’s so important that this population has a program like this, especially after they leave the public school system…Obesity is often a problem for them after high school, so it’s so important that they continue to get out and get moving,” she said. 
  • “I want to make sure they’re able to continue moving; that they’re able to get off the floor comfortably without assistance when they’re 45, when they’re 60. Most of them are always going to need support, but they also need a sense of independence,” Barnes added.

Nothing could be more rewarding for the coach.

  • “When they walk in the door, it’s all hugs and smiles. It fills my cup to have them here,” Barnes said. “You really get to see their personalities come out, and the parents are extremely grateful. They keep telling me it’s one of the favorite things they do.”

The big picture: This is just the start for Barnes. She plans to expand to other adult programs like Snap and Clap to provide access to as many special needs adults as she can.

“Being able to provide access is huge. Inclusivity is huge to me. And with this population, it’s hard for them to go to a regular gym and feel comfortable. That’s just not something they can necessarily do. But when they come to our gym, they feel accepted and welcomed. We’re providing that atmosphere, and it’s something that’s not easy to find,” she said.

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