BRANDON, Fla. — A CrossFit workout can be intimidating for anyone. Lifting heavy weights, combined with some high-intensity training is hard.
But there's a local coach who believes anyone can work out, no matter what ability or disability they may have.
Mark Oliver knows what it takes to be a good athlete. He played football for USF and opened his own gym when he graduated.
But, it was training a young man with Down syndrome named Andrew who changed everything.
"He had issues with balance and coordination. I volunteered to train him. And within a month of training him, he was riding a bike and volunteering to join group fitness class workouts and lost over 20 pounds," Oliver said.
Oliver then began training athletes for the Special Olympics and knew he found his calling.
"From there, I founded Specially Fit where myself, eight staffers and over 20 volunteers provide fitness programs and mentorship to over 400 students with disabilities to nine schools across central Florida," Oliver said.
This class meets each Saturday in Brandon.
"Wheelchair, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism... it doesn't matter," Oliver explained.
Each athlete is trained for his or her ability, not his or her disability. Ben Greer loves coming to Specially Fit classes.
"I like deadlift, back squat and bench press. I like all three. Coach Marky Oliver is the most amazing coach I've ever had," Greer said.
Christian Wright, 13, has had a remarkable year. Since he started training, he's lost 60 pounds.
"I feel good, I feel great," Wright said.
His dad Joe is so proud.
"Usually parents with special needs children, we feel that our children are just disposed to being overweight, and we accept it and you don't have to," Joe explained.
Oliver says 60 percent of individuals with a disability have a higher chance of being overweight than you and me.
"No one's ever really given them a chance, and we've provided this opportunity for them and they have changed remarkably," Oliver said.
Carl Skipper was looking for an autism-related fitness group when he found Specially Fit.
"I've seen some amazing things happen man," Skipper said.
Now, he drives from Clearwater to Brandon to be a part of this family.
"Thank you for giving us a chance to just show the world, show people what we are absolutely capable of."