An instructor once told Carrie Seigenthaler that she couldn’t do a Zumba class because she was blind.
Her personal trainer and owner of Coronado Fitness Club, Christopher Foote, said you don’t tell Seigenthaler what she can or cannot do. “She showed our instructor how it was done,” he laughed.
That has been a testament to who Seigenthaler is: a person who just happens to be blind, and who doesn’t let that stop her from living life to the fullest and getting fit.
Even though she was self-sufficient on the fitness floor, Seigenthaler said it was a bit difficult finding her way around a gym. She could hurt herself tripping over equipment that was left out, and she grew tired of the anxiety of not knowing exactly where to go and what to do. So, she began searching for a personal trainer.
“There’s been lots of them that haven’t been great,” she explained. “They’re often not that comfortable with trying to adapt what they do to somebody who can’t see. When I started working out with Chris, it was immediate to me that it was going to be a completely different experience, because Chris is really, really creative.”
While past trainers had stuck to their first explanation of a movement, unable to transition to a new way of explaining and demonstrating, Seigenthaler said Foote adapts. “There’s occasions he’ll say to me, ‘You know, I can’t exactly describe what I want you to do, so hang on to my arm, hang on to my leg, and let me show you how it’s supposed to look,’” she explained.
The creativity hasn’t stopped in Seigenthlar’s personal training sessions. For example, she had been wanting to workout on an elliptical, but the display panels were really flat and didn’t have any raised buttons. Seigenthlar asked Foote if she could put a few clear, raised markers on one of the machines for her to use.
Foote’s response was more than positive: Instead of putting markers on one or two pieces of equipment, he put markers on them all.
In the personal training sessions themselves, Foote said speaking clearly and effectively, as well as his delivery, are the crucial elements in training Seigenthlar. “I always ask questions and try to get as much feedback as possible, and this helped me establish trust in the beginning,” he said. “She knew I cared about her and listened to her needs.”
Ultimately, Seigenthlar wished more people with disabilities could have the luxury of personal training like she does. She encouraged more gyms to be as open to adaptation like she has experienced at Coronado Fitness Club.
“Chris and his staff have a total, ‘Sure, no problem, can-do’ attitude and it’s really positive and welcoming,” said Seigenthlar. “I think that is what gyms need to work on more. They just have to be more inclusive and open to creative ways to help people.”