I belong to a unique gym where the disabled are welcome and accommodated. The Siskin gym is part of a complex of medical specialists and services designed to serve the disabled. Originally founded by disabled members of the Siskin family in Chattanooga, the gym and the complex of services for all ages is truly a gem. I have lived in many cities and belong to many fitness centers; few if any are as up-to-date on dealing with the disabled client.
I work out on excellent equipment, some of which is sponsored by Unum, an insurance company with Chattanooga roots. Opposite from me is a young girl with a prosthetic leg who is working hard to build strength in her torso. An elderly gentleman walks determinedly around the track with a cane. A man in a wheelchair is using the specially designed equipment for wheelchair-bound clients. A group of older women are busy changing clothes for an aerobics class in the pool. One of these women takes special care as she removes the braces on both legs and lowers herself into the pool.
A group of business men in suits are proudly shown through the facility. Their guide explains the dozens of innovative accessories to the equipment. The woman on the treadmill is not disturbed a bit by their presence. She is busy working out and watching the televisions, all of which have caption for the deaf. A young man in great shape does not break stride on the stair master. He’s wearing the scrubs of the next-door hospital personnel. He knows he’ll be called on if needed but otherwise he ‘ll workout with the clients undisturbed.
Yoga classes and strength building sessions take place regularly in the gym. The teachers are prepared to accommodate whatever injuries and physical limitations walk through the door. All who attend will be given special attention to their individual needs. Some leave their wheelchairs on the side, others are just recovering from surgery and many have chronic illnesses which pain is relieved with the meditation exercises and stretching of these classes.
I am inspired by the people around me. There are people with severe disabilities who never give up. Others with chronic problems are keeping worse problems at bay. There are elderly clients who make the gym part of their lives and give friendship and support to their cohorts. This is a kind place in a world that has not necessarily been kind to these people. How can we not be inspired by their love of life and dedication? I’ll be back tomorrow.