“If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.”- Thomas Jefferson
UK Gym Breaking Boundaries with Adaptive Athletes as the Focal Point
The role of a coach can often include getting creative with movement substitutions when it comes to an athlete with an injury or recovering from surgery. While it isn’t that frequent for most, Craig Graham, the owner of CrossFit Alt Movement, is always thinking of new ways to help his adaptive athletes succeed.
One big thing: Graham opened CrossFit Alt Movement, located in the United Kingdom, in January of this year after discovering a gaping hole for athletes with disabilities. He found that many trainers in a gym or even the personal training setting lacked the knowledge of how to modify movements so the athletes could adapt to the activity in a meaningful way.
Graham said he first started working with athletes with disabilities when a woman reached out to him to train her son with cerebral palsy. He was so successful others began to reach out asking Graham to train their children.
“Within the span of a year, my entire business transformed from training your able-bodied clients or your everyday people into a complete adaptive coach,” he said.“It sort of happened naturally and organically and before you know it my business changed.”
Graham’s popularity grew so much so that he created a wheelchair weightlifting club that operated out of a community center and then out of a CrossFit gym.
“We wanted to sort of create a vision around what we were doing but in a cool environment rather than your standard disability training where it’s a very therapy based focus.”
After moving into the CrossFit space, Graham said the class exploded and from there he came up with the “Alt Movement” concept. The idea behind it is the athlete is not moving in the standard way a conventional person would and “it’s exploring ideas of how individuals with a disability can move and how they can still get the same stimulus from a workout, but by using different concepts or different alternative ways of moving.”
While operating out of CrossFit Thurrock Graham toyed with the idea of opening his own gym specifically for disabled athletes.
“We felt that it was a point where we needed to either make that jump or continue at this level. So I’ve done the crazy thing of putting everything on the line, drawing all my life savings and putting my house down as collateral on a unit,” said Graham.
“January this year is when we first launched so we managed to find a unit suitable for wheelchair access with big enough doors, a disabled bathroom. We’ve got everything in place.”
“This has allowed us to bring in more schools. This allowed us to bring in more service providers. So there’s providers that come in and sort of work with adults with disabilities to have after their education is finished.”
Aside from his adaptive athletes in the gym, Graham also brings in local schools who have students with disabilities to help P.E. teachers find movements that work rather than just having them sit on the sidelines.
“Some of the teachers were absolutely all in because they couldn’t understand how we were getting them to do these things, but their traditional methods of P.E. wasn’t necessarily working as well,” said Graham. “A lot of stuff is very different, as you can imagine for physical and learning disabilities. It’s very much game based, a lot shorter workouts and lower skill.”
CrossFit first launched the adaptive training course as a specialty course in 2017. Conversations surrounding adaptive divisions being added to the Games were ongoing, but didn’t come together until 2021—the first year adaptive divisions were added. The Wodapalooza competition in Miami, FL has also historically included several adaptive divisions within their event.
Graham has big hopes to expand into more schools and continue to build CrossFit Alt Movement and shine a light on the adaptive CrossFit community.
“For me it’s so much more rewarding being able to do this than what I was doing previously. Don’t get me wrong. I love working with able-bodied people, I still coach able-bodied CrossFit classes. But I feel like this is so much more rewarding and educating others around it,” he said.
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“It was so valuable”: How Camps like Training Think Tank and Brute Strength are Looking to Professional, On-Site Judges for Quarterfinals
Last season, during the 2022 Quarterfinals, the Training Think Camp crew in Alpharetta, GA experienced “a ton of penalties” on the pistols in the second Quarterfinals workout.
“We were doing our best and trying to uphold the standards,” remembered Training Think Tank coach Adam Rogers, who coaches 2022 CrossFit Games rookie Alexis Raptis, as well four other athletes who have qualified to this year’s Semifinals (Allison Ralfs, Jessica Schwartz, Connor Duddy and Matt Gilpin).
So after last season, Rogers and the other Training Think Tank coaches started to wonder whether judging was a role a coach should even play during an important event like Quarterfinals.
“Even though we see the movements done all the time…I think that we have seen in the last couple years with the penalties that have been assessed that (judging) isn’t really something we should be trusting ourselves with,” Rogers said.
Welcome to Wodcelona: The Most Inclusive Competition in the World
Starting a new CrossFit or functional fitness competition from scratch can be difficult. Very difficult.
But not for Marc Gil, the founder of Limited Edition Athletes, a non-profit based in Spain whose mission is to “better the quality of life for people with disabilities through CrossFit,” as he explained. Gil is a long-time CrossFit athlete who is also visually impaired.
Gil has a rare genetic condition called Stargardt disease; he realized that Europe was in need of more functional fitness competitions for adaptive athletes, so he teamed up with José Picañol and they decided to create one.
The result was Wodcelona—a competition they hosted next to the water in Barcelona that Gil described as having a similar feel to Wodapalooza in Miami, FL—and in its first year it attracted 1,200 athletes to the online qualifier and 900 competed at the inaugural in-person event.
“It was very unexpected,” admitted Gil about the competition’s quick success.
In fact, Gil didn’t even do much to market his then unknown event, he explained. It just happened organically, as people were attracted to the message: The most inclusive competition in the world.
Needless to say, the event’s success meant keeping Wodcelona going in 2023 was a no brainer.
The 2023 details: This year’s Wodcelona will offer 21 divisions, including 11 adaptive divisions, various levels for able-bodied athletes, as well as masters divisions and teenagers.
The online qualifier opens on April 3 and starts in June, and the in-person event will run from September 15 to 17 in Barcelona.
Because of how quickly last year’s competition grew, Gil and his team are limiting the in-person competition spots to 1,000 competitors.
The big picture: Though he’s hoping for another successful event that raises funds for his non-profit, Gil’s bigger goal is simply to offer a great experience at the most inclusive fitness competition in the world.
“I want it to be 100 percent inclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or masters athlete, woman, man, or adaptive athlete, you should have the opportunity to participate,” he said.
And he hopes the event will continue to grow well into the future, not necessarily in numbers, but in grandeur.
“I don’t necessarily want to make it bigger, but we want to make it greater in terms of experience. We just want people to go out there and have fun, understand the message behind the event, and see an incredible showcase of adaptive athletes killing it on the floor.”
2023 CrossFit Team Quarterfinals Test Descriptions
The 2023 CrossFit Games Team Quarterfinal workouts are officially released. Teams have two 24-hour periods to complete and submit all four tests before competition wraps up this Friday.
Score submission schedule:
Thursday, March 30: Registration and Workouts 1 and 2 due at 12PM PT
Friday, March 31: Workouts 3 and 4 due at 12PM PT
Leaderboard Updates: Similar to the the Individual Quarterfinals, the leaderboard will be “blind” until one hour after each submission window closes. The leaderboard will be finalized on or before Monday, April 10, per the 2023 CrossFit Games Rulebook, section 2.09.
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Good luck to 16-year-old Ella Nicholson from Root 18 CrossFit in Medina, OH competing oday in the IWF World Championship in Albania.
Congratulations to Father Brice Higginbotham from CrossFit Trastevere in Rome, Italy on the back squat PR of 535 pounds/242.6kg. Father Brice is a Catholic priest currently studying for his doctorate in Rome. When home in the United States, he belongs to Thibodaux CrossFit in Thibodaux, LA.
Congratulations Hannah Black from CrossFit Jaakarhu in Austin, TX on the 265-pound/120kg clean and jerk PR.
Congratulations to Sydney Smith from CrossFit Laminin in Vestavia Hills, AL on the 212-pound/96kg thruster.
Congratulations to Ava Khalipa, daughter of CrossFit Games veteran and NCFit Owner Jason Khalipa, on ringing the bell for five years cancer-free.
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