Special Guests: Adaptive Fitness Program


Rachael Lee, a CrossFit athlete from Brunei, recently visited Manila and organized and facilitated a Special Olympics fitness session with some guests in our very own CrossFit MNL Mall of Asia. Here’s a short Q&A we did with her on the topic of her program.

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photo credit: Martin Jalbuena

Q: When and why did you create the “Adaptive Fitness Program”?

A: After one year of being a basketball volunteer coach at Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam (SOBD) for athletes with intellectual disabilities, i decided that it was finally time to pursue further in my ambition and passion for the field – that is to develop a suitable and adapted fitness program for athletes with intellectual disabilities and motor dysfunction.  And so I launched the “Adaptive Fitness Program” at SOBD in September 2015. I created it to supplement the respective sports skills, performance, as well as improving well-being and daily movement needs of athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Before the “Adaptive Fitness Program” existed, the athletes at SOBD would only attend their sports training sessions. This weekly fitness programme is an extra curricular activity they now look forward to away from their regular sports training.

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photo credit: Martin Jalbuena

Q: Is this the first time you shared your program with other countries/ organisations?

A: This is my first cross border workshop away from Brunei. I have plans ahead to do the same at other neighboring countries and communities in the coming months. I was in the Philippines for a week long of planned business trip and as the Sports Director for SOBD, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to meet and visit other athletes with intellectual disabilities as well as coaches from Special Olympics Philippines (SOP) – a good neighboring organization and great friend of SOBD. I wanted to introduce, spread awareness and share my knowledge with athletes and coaches at SOP. I wanted to stress to them the importance and benefits of including physical fitness sessions as part of their weekly routines, other than their respective sports training – Hence, i started my planning and communicating with SOP’s committees to get the athletes together for me to conduct the session in Manila.

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photo credit: Martin Jalbuena

Q: Why did you decide to partner with CFMNL for this event?

A: I chose CFMNL to host because it is indeed the biggest CrossFit and functional fitness community in the Philippines.   As a CrossFit athlete and fitness instructor myself, i believe that this fitness community will be able to give back to another community in need of its expertise in the fitness area. And having the philosophy of functional fitness truly envelopes the concept of the “Adaptive Fitness Program”.

video credit: Errol Apacible

We welcomed 5 athletes in CrossFit MOA who were from Communicare Theraphy Centre MOA and are registered athletes under Special Olympics Philippines with respective sports programs such as swimming, basketball and soccer.  They are all diagnosed with different Intellectual Disabilities such as mild Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Down Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome. These conditions have caused inabilities, difficulties or delays to perform required motor movements, efficiency and coordination. However with early interventions and guided therapy sessions, the conditions can be improved, although not eliminated.

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photo credit: Martin Jalbuena

Q: How does this program benefit these athletes?

A: The “Adaptive Fitness Program” takes care of their general daily health because physical exertion can stimulate their brain activity. It improves their general fitness such as: cardiovascular, muscle strength, muscle endurance and flexibility. It improves bone and joint health, body posture and spinal structure, and most importantly functional movements which are relatable to real life scenarios such as sitting down, walking up the stairs or even playing time with siblings or parents. Being part of this program also improves social skills, general well-being, mood and confidence. And after a tiring and energy-filled session, they gain an appetite — which leads to a better diet.

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photo credit: Martin Jalbuena

Rachael says she hopes to reach other neighboring countries with this program to help more athletes with intellectual disabilities in their sport and motor functions in their everyday life. In CrossFit MNL, we believe in the importance of functional fitness. By her example, Rachael is able to show the true value of functional fitness– that it helps everyone and is for everyone.
To learn more about Special Olympics, you may visit: