This summer I am thrilled to be working for Supportive Living Incorporated as a fitness trainer/research intern. This internship has two parts. To start off, I’ve been helping run a three day a week fitness program for adults with brain injuries. Later this summer, I will be working off site on a research project that will hopefully help SLI improve their wellness program as well as advocate for state funding. As the research portion of my internship is not fully underway yet, I’ll spend this blog post talking about the fitness program and my experience so far working as a personal trainer.
About Supportive Living Incorporated and the Wellness Center:
Supportive Living Incorporated (SLI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that adults with brain injuries lead meaningful, fulfilling lives in their communities. To do this, SLI has created four residential programs that provide affordable and supportive housing for brain injury survivors. Brain injury can effect anyone at any time, and its impact is usually far reaching and life long. SLI recognizes this, and is a unique organization in the brain injury rehabilitation field because it offers comprehensive care that takes into account the many different needs of those living with brain injuries. First and foremost, SLI houses are not nursing homes. The four residential centers operated by SLI were all developed to be the least restrictive environments possible and to focus on opportunities for independent living. As a public health student, I am fascinated by SLI’s all inclusive and life long approach to brain injury rehabilitation. SLI aims to not solve the individual challenges faced by those with brain injuries, but rather the entire puzzle. In addition to independent housing, SLI offers social programming, career services, family support, life skills training, case management support, money management, health care services, and more. SLI also conducts research in the brain injury rehabilitation field. You can read more about the history of SLI here.
My Experience so far as a Fitness Intern:
Working as a personal trainer for SLI’s wellness center has been a phenomenal experience so far. On my first day, my supervisor, Peter Noonan, sat down with me and the other fitness interns, and gave us a “crash course” he called “Brain Injury 101.” We learned the difference between traumatic vs acquired brain injuries as well as the common complications that occur after a brain injury. We then met with personal trainers from an organization called Access Sport America who developed and run the fitness program for SLI. Finally, I met the individuals that I personally will be working with.
From 2:00-3:00 I will work with Terry, a middle aged garden enthusiast who suffered anoxic brain damage after having a heart attack about six years ago. Terry was confined to a wheelchair for about a year but is now able to walk completely on her own, though she still struggles with coordination as well as memory issues. Terry’s goals for exercising are to improve her coordination, core strength, and cardiovascular fitness so she can participate in one of her favorite activities- horseback riding.
From 3:00-4:00 I will be working with Lisa, who is quite a bit older than Terry but nevertheless full of life. She loves telling, and retelling, stories from her youth, including how she lead her high school basketball team to win the state championships and about how her two brothers “toughened her up.” Lisa usually uses a wheelchair but is adamant about using her walker for the fitness program. With Lisa I will work on walking and strength training to maintain her current level of fitness and keep her from being dependent on her chair full time.
Finally from 4:00-5:00 I work with Louise, who suffered her brain injury as an infant when she fell out of a window. Louise is also of advanced age, and is not afraid to speak her mind! I’ve found working with Louise to be particularly beneficial because she is always giving me tips and advice on how to safely and respectfully do things like help her stand up and walk. Louise suffers from seizures but other than that has very few cognitive impairments from her injury. With Louise the focus will be entirely on walking, as she does not get a chance to walk during the rest of the week, and needs to maintain the muscles and circulation in her legs.
I am loving that I can experience three totally different cases, each with different goals and needs for this program. An important thing I have learned about brain injury rehabilitation is how individual each person’s rehab journey is. Just like no two brains are the same, no two injuries are the same, and so SLI’s fitness program tries to offer one-on-one training as much as possible, so that a trainer can focus on one person’s individual needs at a time. This also creates a wonderful interpersonal relationship between the trainers and the individual they are working with. I can’t wait to bond with Terry, Lisa, and Louise at a personal level!
My career goal is to become a physical therapist. As a fitness trainer, I will be doing therapeutic exercises to rehabilitate people with disabilities. This work will prepare me for the work in physical intervention I hope to do as a physical therapist. I will also be making connections within the physical rehabilitation field, which will be invaluable as I begin to network relationships with physical therapists that can assist me in my prospective applications to graduate programs.
My academic goal is to apply and expand upon what I have learned as a Health, Science, Society, and Policy major. In the fitness program, my responsibility of administering therapeutic exercises will utilize and expand upon my academic knowledge of physiology, biology, and exercise science. Working with the brain injury community will further my knowledge about the disability field, which I have studied academically. My duties as a research intern will utilize/expand upon my academic studies of epidemiology, statistics, research methods, as well as health policy.
My personal goal is to form intimate relationships with the adults in the exercise program. Interacting with this population every day, I hope to be a fitness trainer, and also a friend. As a physical therapist I want to be as supportive and understanding as possible towards people with disabilities and know how to best serve their unique needs. While teaching this population, I will also discover a great deal about disability on a personal level, something I believe you can only truly learn through hands on experience.
That’s all for now! To see what the space and fitness program looks like, check out this video:
– Julia Doucett ’16