Caldwell’s Yomi Karade has a passion for working out and training. So, it bothered her when she realized that her son Kofi, who has autism and other special needs, didn’t have access to a personal trainer readily available to him like she did.
“Why can’t [the special needs community] have personal trainers too?” she asked herself. Soon after, she decided to be the answer to her own question. In 2018, Karade kickstarted Individualized Fitness Programs, now rebranded as Inclusive Fitness Programs (IFP), to train adults and children with disabilities and special needs across the spectrum – from autism and traumatic brain injuries to clients with high blood pressure or who are visually impaired. In 2019, the program received a grant from Autism Speaks.
“I treat everybody equally across the board,” she said. “I will make sure that [the workout is] intense to wherever you’re at and I will always push everybody to their maximum and beyond.”
After about four years of seeing incredible successes and growth from her clients through her Inclusive Fitness Programs, Karade is launching Special Needs Fitness Magazine using her background in media.
“There’s nothing out there about fitness for people with special needs,” she said. “I’ve seen clients walk in here who couldn’t even lift themselves off the floor, and now they’re planking for two minutes. Why aren’t we out there talking about what we’re doing?”
Now, Special Needs Fitness Magazine will provide the forum to do so. The biannual print and digital publication is set to drop on October 18 and is written by individuals with special needs and/or disabilities, parents, doctors, therapists, and rehabilitation and inclusive personal trainers.
“Everything’s just kind of merged together. Fitness is something that I have a passion about myself. With my son, I love the community and I worked in the media,” she said. Now with the launch of the magazine, all of Karade’s passions have melded together for a greater good.
Noting that the CDC recommends 2.5 hours of physical activity a week for people with special needs or disabilities, Karade hopes the magazine will help inform the special needs community about the importance of physical activity and of the inclusive opportunities available to them.
Karade is a certified ace personal trainer and New Jersey Division of Developmental Diabilities vendor. She runs IFP at Embracing Fitness in Little Falls, N.J., and through in-home visits, which continued online via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. This month she is also celebrating the launch of her IFP online gym program. Prices start at $8 per class and monthly membership is available. Pre-register here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of her clients, Max Byrnes, a 19-year-old Montclair resident diagnosed with autism who’s been training in IFP since 2019. Together, Karade and Brynes do strength training, cardio, muscle toning and kick boxing – all geared toward helping Byrnes strengthen his core muscles and improve his posture, agility and flexibility.
“Yomi’s holistic approach enhances Max’s strengths and improves the untapped areas of his well-being,” said Byrnes’ mother Sarah Gerardo. “She provides an inclusive, welcoming environment, where Max feels comfortable to be himself, have fun, and at the same time, improve his physical well-being. Yomi is a gem to the special needs community.”
Special Needs Fitness Magazine will be available online at www.specialneedsfitnessmagazine.com and will be widely distributed to schools, doctor offices, day programs, gyms across the country, parts of the United Kingdom, Canada, Dubai and Ghana.
“My magazine is meant to be a community magazine,” she said. “We’ll see how far we can stretch this.”