Movement is Medicine: The Journey of Adaptive Inclusive Trainer Amy Bois
Fitness For All Podcast: Episode 22
Welcome to another edition of Fitness for All with Cam Jenkins, sponsored by Lebert Fitness.
In this episode, Cam talks with Amy Bois. Amy is a titan in the fitness industry and in the adapted fitness world. She lives in Greenland, New Hampshire, where she not only trains individuals of all abilities under her Fit For Life banner but is also the chair of the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England. She is an avid fitness enthusiast & loves being able to teach others what she has grown to love.
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*The following podcast has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Show Notes - Episode 22
Welcome to another edition of the Fitness for All Podcast. I am pleased to have on the podcast tonight Amy and Tyler Bois; welcome to the show.
Oh, thanks for having us Cam.
So, let's start off, I guess, Amy with you, and can you talk a little bit about you being an adaptive coach?
Absolutely. Yeah, so I am really lucky. I started my career in personal training. Probably it's been about four years now where I've focused on personal training, but been an instructor at a local gym here for over 10 years. I got into adaptive fitness training because my son really needed to have some motivation to get up and get moving. And he's like, yes. And once we started doing that together and I started to put my creative thinking cap on, I realized that there was such a need out there for trainers to specialize in adaptive training. So, I just very quickly said, not only can I help Tyler, but I can help so many that need to get out there and get moving and really bring my expertise to the table. So that's kind of how it happened.
Nice. And you have a business called Fit for Life. So, is that how it came to be a Fit for Life is because of your son, Tyler?
Well actually, so it's, I'm “Fit with Amy B.” That's what I go by on my Instagram page. And that's where I do literally almost all my work. That's where people can sign up with me for one-on-one personal training, small group training. That's where literally it all started was on Fit with Amy B. And that was over gosh, over four years ago. Now when I started that
That’s quite a long time for doing something like that. What do you see as far as like into the future where you want to take Fit with Amy B?
Well, you know, honestly we have a really diverse group. I definitely think adaptive training is my niche. I think that there's a need and it's something that I'm really passionate about. So I think, you know, over the next year we're going to see more adaptive programs and in fact, I've started working with brands on Instagram that are looking to help make their products geared towards fitness for all abilities. So I would say you're going to see me working with different brands to help them be more accessible and more inclusive.
Perfect. And Tyler, let's ask you a question. I see you all the time on your mom's Instagram and you're just working out like there’s no tomorrow. How's that going with your therapy and working out?
They’re really good actually. I'm going to this gym called Project Walk and it's been really fun, and it feels good to move again and not feel crappy all the time.
Yeah, Tyler had, and he'll tell you, he had been in pain, chronic pain, really for a very long time.
Still am, but better
Right. But better.
It feels good to move!
Absolutely. And this place is really motivating him to get moving. It's an adaptive gym here in Stratham, New Hampshire that was started by two parents because their daughter had suffered a very debilitating virus where it left her in a coma for four years. Her name's Victoria Arlen, she's actually an ESPN commentator. So, she woke up out of her coma after four years and the parents had her in a similar type of gym out in California and they decided to open their own Project Walk here in Stratham to really help their daughter rehabilitate and take her life back again. She literally had to learn every aspect. She was a full-time wheelchair user and had to essentially relearn everything. She’s everything back. She was on Dancing with the Stars as well. So it's been cool and the gym is just a great fit for Tyler. Lots of young coaches, they play music in the background, so it's been awesome.
Tyler, what are some of the favorite exercises you like to do there? Do you have any favourite exercises?
I don’t really have a favourite one, I just do whatever they do.
He did one today, Cam, the one where he was sitting on a Bosu. So, they create instability by having him sit on a Bosu and then they essentially throw balls at him and he has to hit the balls with his hands, like out of the way. So the whole point of it is to create instability and your core really has to work to stabilize and then to hit the beach ball. That's what it was. You did pretty good with that, Tyler it's kind of like extreme Dodge balling.
Oh. And that would be amazing to be able to play extreme dodgeball.
I like Dodgeball.
Yeah. See he's into Dodge ball.
I used to play it when I was growing up, back in the 18 hundreds too. So, it was fun.
Oh, come on Cam we know you’re not that old!
Amy with being an adaptive trainer what kind of philosophies do you have when you're training your athletes and how do you adapt to their abilities?
Actually, my philosophy is really, really simple. I train all my clients like they're an athlete. I don't put limitations on them. We certainly talk about, you know, their bodies and what they have going on, what their strengths are, what their areas of opportunities are, but I let them know right from the beginning, that movement is medicine and we are going to get you moving. It’s a joint relationship that we're going to have together, but I treat them just like I would any other individual who I was training and that's my philosophy behind my adaptive fitness business.
Why do you think it's important to do that?
Well, I mean, I think it's important to do that, especially since, you know, in today's society the disabled community, we're fighting for equal opportunity and for accessibility and exclusivity and the disabled community absolutely has a place in the fitness world. So, the more that we create an environment of inclusivity and also equal treatment, the more the perceptions will change of people living with disabilities.
Yeah. And that's just it. That’s what I always try to do too. All I can do is control my actions and what I say and hopefully with the information that we give to people, hopefully it will change and obviously, I would love for it to change a little bit quicker than it is, but it is changing and that's a good thing.
I absolutely think it is changing. I'm seeing the change. I'm having a lot more conversations with big brands online that are very interested in the adaptive fitness community. People are paying attention. So, this is the time now to get out there make your needs heard and to raise awareness.
Yeah. Along with that awareness. Tyler, if I remember correctly was part of a fashion show.
Oh yes. I was recently, it was fun, very fun.
What made it fun?
The clothes were cool. What did you like the out of the outfits? Which one did you like the best?
The shorts were awesome because they had Velcro closure. So easy on, easy off, no buttons, no zippers Velcro. Oh. And the shoes they sent him Merrill's slip on shoes that went right over his Allard orthotics, which was awesome. All these things were donated by who, do you remember?
Zappos. Zappos adaptive.
I remember mom!
He's rubbing my arm, “Mom. I remembered” yeah, they were awesome. They sent Tyler two outfits, two pairs of sneakers and everything that he tried on. Literally you looked great. Because I mean, when you feel good, you know, when you look good, you feel good, and you seemed confident.
I think it’s great for all people with disabilities to be able to have that line of clothing because they're much more confident and they're able to do it a lot on their own as well, which I think is phenomenal towards being independent as well.
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think we're seeing a lot of brands follow in Zappos’ footsteps, like back to what I was saying. In that fashion show I think we had over 15 brands participate in that fashion show. Yeah, it was awesome. I mean, we even had Runway of Dreams, originator, Mindy Scheier was on there and it was just awesome. At the end we had a round table, and we had like four models that got to talk with the brands, the businesses. The round table was awesome because they ask questions and they got feedback and were very receptive to feedback making their products even better.
That's awesome to know that, that's out there and that the world is changing that much more to towards adaptability. So, as well Amy let's go back into the fitness area where you're an adaptive trainer also with, is it pronounced One Kakana?
Kakana actually. If somebody was going to search it, it would just go on to Kakana It's One Kakana on Instagram, that's their handle. But essentially Kakana is a startup business. It's still pretty new. It's a website geared for people of all abilities for adaptive fitness, a place where it's completely inclusive no judgment free zone and we offer live classes daily. Also, there's a complete on demand library where if you can't make the live classes, you can search on demand and take them when you have availability. Which is awesome. I teach with Kakana two times a week on Tuesdays at 9 and Wednesdays at 11. I did one today and I teach strength classes with them.
That's awesome. And how did that opportunity present itself to you?
Actually, interestingly enough Matt Nay is the founder of Kakana and he was talking with a few people that were involved in the beta testing of the program and this is how great Instagram is. One of the beta testers Laurie said, you know what, Matt, you've got to reach out with Amy B, she would be awesome. And initially they were thinking they were only going to hire disabled instructors to teach. But you know what the cool thing about Kakana is, is that it's a mixture of both and that's what it should be because it's inclusive. When Matt talked with me, he was like, my goodness, Amy. I'd say you're a pretty big cheerleader for the disabled community and I told him that I would love to incorporate Tyler into some of the workouts too, when he's ready. And that's, that's kind of how it got taken off.
That’s great. Tyler as much as you may or may not realize it, people see you and they are very proud of you and what you've accomplished, especially through some of the challenges that you've had. You have spina bifida and hydrocephalus which is also what I have as well. Can you maybe let the listeners know what some of the positives of having spina bifida and hydrocephalus is? Any podcasts that you've done to kind of send that out to the world, to let them know what spina bifida is?
Yeah. I mean, essentially by sharing our journey and what you're going through you’re creating awareness and letting them know that you can lead a very active and great life with spina bifida. Important to note because 15 is hard. This is a hard age when it’s not a secret when you're hormonal and you’re learning more about yourself and accepting your disability. But with all that said, Tyler definitely has had the opportunity to be involved with so many different things. And while spina bifida is not without struggle, because it's important to be honest about that, there's certainly a struggle, but I tell you with that struggle comes great clarity as to your purpose here in life and where you're going.
Absolutely. And Tyler, do you like any sports, or have you been playing any sports?
I did play tennis for a while and then Covid happened, and nothing has really popped up.
We skied a little bit this winter. He skis with New England Disabled Sports, which is at Loon Mountain here in New Hampshire. We ski through Maine Adaptive too, up at Sunday River, which is a great program. And then tennis, Tyler's going to be getting back into that. We've had some challenges with some upper extremity weakness, post spinal fusion, but with going to Project Walk and getting stronger. Yeah, he's definitely noticing just like today, what did you do today with a tennis racket?
Oh yeah. I hit a ball for the first time with a tennis racket.
Yeah. It hurt, like you said, it hurt, but it felt good at the same time.
It was good pain if that makes sense.
I think sometimes people don't get that. But you're moving and the more that you get moving, honestly it's been the one thing that has changed the most that has helped Tyler the most yes.
Movement. Like I was listening to you a little bit earlier on your Instagram feed and growing that movement is so important and I know that anytime I'm doing a workout with Mark from Lebert Fitness or on my own I, I totally get you Tyler on the good pain because I get good pain. The older I get, the more good pain I seem to have.
Yeah. I know. And I think maybe, sometimes people don't understand that whole good pain, but yeah, the more you get moving, the better off you are, you know, cause it, it takes away some of that stiffness and helps you with mobility and strength.
It makes you happier and a more independent person as well.
For sure. And kind of on the same lines still talking about spina bifida, Amy, you are on the chair for the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England? Can you maybe tell our listeners what you do in that role?
I am chair of Spina Bifida, Greater New England, and we service Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. So, we cover that entire span, and our goal is to enrich the lives of people living with spina bifida, through providing resources, programming, bringing people together and just celebrating together as well. I've been the chair now for the last two years and been on the board for seven years and I'm telling you, we have some of the best programming available out there for our young adults, for teens, younger children. We're just constantly looking to provide the very best program that we can for our community.
Have you done any of those programs, Tyler?
Actually, yes. I've done that's to blame. Yes. Best of Bling, which is a teen empowerment program with like girls and boys.
What do you like the best about best and bling?
Basically. I just like it because it's a bunch of people that like know what I’m going through and just basically are like me, if that makes sense.
We bring the teens together for a weekend and we put together awesome programming. And like Tyler said, it's, it's a weekend where you can just be yourself. You're totally accepted. It's not awkward. Like people get you and it's, it's nice. It's nice to have that opportunity.
Yeah and that's what I've found as well. You know, be it through mental health or with my spina bifid, being able to speak to somebody that's going through similar experiences, so you don't feel so alone is so important to have.
Yeah, because I really felt alone with COVID and just pretty much nothing happening.
Lack of opportunity. It's been tough. Yeah. No, I mean, you're right. Tyler, it's been even more, you know, just in general, it's harder for people with disabilities. And then when you add on a pandemic and lack of resources and lack of services.
So, what do you do Tyler to have some fun or to keep yourself busy during the pandemic?
I pretty much just watch TV.
He loves YouTube, but what's your favourite? Who's your favourite YouTuber?
I don't know, I like tricking and flips.
Tell them why you like that.
Because my mom was a gymnast.
He, he gravitates to very dynamic movement and I think Tyler and I have that both in common because I was a competitive gymnast growing up. So, it was just so interesting that that's what he loves. That's what he loves to watch. It's called tricking.
Is it called tricking because of the dynamic movement?
I honestly don't know why it's called that it’s like break dancing and martial arts.
Yeah. It's actually very amazing. These people are athletes. Yeah. It's really cool. But this summer, luckily with the warm weather coming up, we do have a boat. So we'll be going out on our boat and we're hoping to teach Tyler how to drive our boat next year. He's like, I'm not going to do that.
If I’m on the same lake I have to make sure I have a helmet on incase I see you there with your friends!
We actually go out here on the seacoast, in New Hampshire. So we're actually on the Piscataqua, that area.
If you’re listening to the podcast, if you’re on the Piscataqu make sure you’re not there this summer when Tyler drives.
Right? Oh man. Yeah. Well, think about it Tyler, you’re getting close. Like over the next couple of years, you'll probably start learning to drive too because you're 15.
When are you able to get your license where you are, is it 16?
You can get your permit at 15 and then license at 16. You have to sign up with a driving academy.
So hopefully you can get that and start driving and then you can come up here and visit Mark and I, at some point.
Oh, we would love that! Yeah. Well, we’re all Canadian, you know.
I think everyone should be Canadian personally, but I might be a bit biased because I was born here.
Well, my husband is from the Canadian almost up on the Canadian border in Maine. So, that's like way up in Presque Isle, Maine. Both of his parents were Canadian and then they moved over into Maine after they got married.
So, you’re honorary Canadians basically. So, with the fitness Amy that you do, kind of jumping back to the fitness area, what is the key to having a good fitness program? Be it for adaptive athletes or the able-bodied athletes?
Well, I mean, I think the key is it needs to be sound; you know, I think any type of fitness program needs to be structured organized, not without fun. It definitely has to be fun, but you know, a good fitness program will incorporate strength training mixed with mobility, teaching people how to move their body without hurting themselves pain-free and then hopefully they're that engaged that they'll continue to do the program on their own going forward. By establishing a consistent routine that develops a habit and then the next thing you know, that person becomes invested in their wellness program.
Yeah. That's the hardest thing for me is getting into the habit because what, it becomes a habit after you keep doing it for 30 days or I'm not sure what it is?
No, you're right. Honestly, oftentimes accountability plays a big role in it. So, that's where I come into play as the coach trainer where I provide the accountability and the motivation initially, that's really where it's at and you want to start slow, you know, it's not something where oftentimes, you know, at gyms, you'll see people at the beginning of the year, they'll be coming for like two, even three weeks. But then they sort of burn out in a blaze of glory because they've come at it too quickly and either they're too sore to come back or they just have said this isn't for me. So, I always tell people short, actionable goals lead to long-term success. And you know, you didn't lose your wellness in a day and you're not going to get it back in a day. It takes time and commitment.
That is so true. For the listeners, where can they reach you Amy, if they want to take part in any of your programs. Maybe even before I ask that, maybe Tyler I’ll ask you one last question. Okay. So, my question Tyler is what advice would you give to someone who also has spina bifida and hydrocephalus?
Pretty much. Hang in there, talk to people. Don't get nervous because you're in a wheelchair, get moving. Just because you're in a wheelchair doesn’t mean life is always going to be so hard. Just keep fighting, learn, and just make people understand you.
No, no, you're right. You're right. I mean, I think, yeah, that was really well said. Tyler, I think, I mean, basically you're like, don't count yourself out.
I don't want to say something, and people get mad because honestly I feel like people like me are just outcasted and like not mentioned at all and I hear words all the time that are super offensive.
Well, that's where we come into play because we're raising that awareness too.
Yeah. It just annoys me so much that like we have to do that.
I know. I know it's tough, but that's why we're doing things. No, no, no. It's okay. And you're, you're great. Yeah. I mean, that's right. I mean, when you're 15, it's really it's, it's on the forefront, you know, and like trying to help change the dialogue, you know, how can we change the dialogue for people with disabilities to be accepted, be accepted just like everybody else creating a more inclusive world. I mean, it's, it's a challenge and it is tough and frustrating.
Having to do that, Tyler, I completely understand where you're coming from. It was a few years ago when I was 15 and in saying that even today at my young age of 47, I think I am actually born in the 18 hundreds. But yeah, it's hard to get the world to change, to see you as a person or, you know, cause I’m no better than you and you're no better than me. I think you gave some absolutely great advice for people, not only with people with spina bifida, but just people with disabilities. Always be yourself Tyler never, ever be afraid to say how you're feeling because that's how the world's going to change and it is exhausting when have to stand up for yourself, but I know you and I see you on the lives with your mom and see how much gusto and just passion you have. And you just keep that up.
Cam, that's actually called sass. He's got a lot of sass which will serve him well in life. He says what's on his mind. So he's got that covered.
If somebody wants to kind of pick any of your classes or do your classes, how can they find you?
They act really easy, you know, the best place probably to find me right now is on Fit with Amy B on Instagram. I post daily workouts pretty accessible on there. I work with many different brands and businesses on Instagram. I'm also on Facebook as well, Fit for Life with Amy. I know I'm not on Facebook as much as Instagram. It's just not, it's not the same. I'm on there for groups, so either one and then also on Instagram, if they prefer they can email me too. My email’s located on there.
If they're interested in training, I have personal training options available for all abilities. I definitely specialize in rehabilitative fitness, adaptive fitness is my specialty. But I also work with high school athletes. I work with, for instance, I have an 11 year old who I'm training right now who had a broken ankle who's coming back from that. So, definitely have a well-versed set of skill sets. But if anybody's interested, they can sign up for a training session with me and yeah, that's about it. And if they're interested in classes, they would want to go onto the handle One Kakana on Instagram to check it out. Or they can just type in Kakana in Google and the website will come up to sign up for classes.
Perfect. Well, Amy and Tyler, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the Fitness for All Podcast, and I certainly hope to have you on again and I'm sure our listeners will be following your journey.
Awesome. Thank you very much, Cam for having us, we really appreciate it.
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