By Sam Calian
When most students go to the gym, most expect to see bulging biceps, shredded abs and tight-fit Nike clothing. This is not the case in the LC weight room.
Ryan Lockard ’07, along with his team at Specialty Athletic Training, is trying to break that stereotype and prove that exercise is important for everybody, including people with special needs. With an original vision of offering his services based solely out of the LC weight room, Lockard has expanded his organization beyond his original expectation. His organization has now worked with over 200 clients with a variety of disabilities. While Specialty Athletic Training focuses on people with autism, they also help people with Down’s syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Williams syndrome and others. Their clientele varies widely in age, training clients as young as 5 and as old as 63.
Lockard discovered his love for fitness training after he tore his ACL in 2006. As he went through rehab, he began spending more and more time in the weight room where he began to get to know Ben, a young man with special needs in his class.
After graduating from Lewis & Clark, he played American football in France for three years. In the offseason, he returned to the U.S. to continue to work with Ben. By 2012 Lockard had decided that fitness training was his passion and had founded Specialty Athletic Training.
“When it comes to fitness, people with special needs are often overlooked,” Lockard said. “The biggest things that make the difference is the communication with a client and how we can modify the workout to fit their specific needs,” Lockard said.
“Ben didn’t like to run because he didn’t like to sweat, but he didn’t understand that sweat was the way that the body cools itself down, this happens a lot where we have to bridge knowledge gaps, so they understand that it’s OK if they are sore, or that their heart is pounding during a workout.”
Speciality Athletic Training currently has three locations; LC, SE Portland and Vancouver, Washington. These locations are all managed by Lockard and his two full time employees Andrew Traver and Emily Hatch.
“Specialty Athletic Training has made me healthier, my favorite thing is to go on the treadmill, and the instructors are all my homies,” client Pat Sinnott said.
Lockard is a common sight to see in the weight room, working out with his clients with his dog, Tubs, by his side.
“We try to make fitness fun, and better fitness leads to better lives,” Lockard said.
Specialty Athletic Training also has an internship program for LC students where student athletes can have the opportunity to assist in private coaching lessons.