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Local Paralympian Starts Fitness Nonprofit for People with Disabilities

Former Paralympian Alyssa Gialamas models a side plank (courtesy of Adapt, Move & Gain Fitness)

When 26-year-old Paralympic swimmer and Arlington local Alyssa Gialamas retired after 10 years as a competitive athlete, she decided to devote her newfound time to helping other people with disabilities get fit.

After competing in London and Rio for the U.S. Paralympic Team, she found inspiration for her next venture closer to home, where she saw few accessible workout opportunities.

“I started going to the gym and noticing there weren’t a lot of resources for people with disabilities,” said Gialamas, who was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that keeps some of the joints in her leg from moving easily.

The athlete drew on her expertise adapting workouts intended for able-bodied people to put together exercises and classes for people with different physical limitations. Last month, she launched a nonprofit organization called Adapt, Move & Gain Fitness to bring her exercises to people with differing abilities.

Gialamas aims to hold her first class in early November, with one class per month after that while the organization gets off the ground.

“There definitely are not adaptive classes here in Arlington, so I think it’ll be really cool to start here,” she said.

Gialamas said her organization taps into a pressing need in the local disability community, which includes more than 8,700 people under 65, according to the 2020 census.

“People with disabilities are three times more likely to have health issues like diabetes and heart disease,” said Gialamas. “There’s such a need for it. That’s why I started it.”

She developed three types of workouts: fully seated “Adapt” workouts, seated or standing “Move” workouts, and fully standing “Gain” workouts. The exercises are free to access.

“I don’t want people to not use these resources due to price,” said Gialamas. “Money will come through strategic partnerships and donations. There are some partners in the works. It’s been really cool to have so many people be excited about it.”

As for where the classes will be located, Gialamas said she hopes to one day operate her nonprofit from her own space. For now, she plans to host events at gyms around Arlington.

Folks can try her approximately 30-minute workouts at home, too.

“All of the workouts right now are on my website so you can do them anywhere, which is super cool,” said Gialamas. “There’s also a community page so if you do a workout you can post about it.”

Gialamas says it’s important for people with disabilities to have classes tailored to them and places to exercise with each other.

“I think there’s a really cool aspect of seeing other people like you, in any sense, and being able to base it [workouts] off of each other is really cool,” she said. “You don’t have to be a Paralympian to feel good in your body and about your disability.”

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