Andrew Galligan (left), Thomas Eastabrook, Marlow Felding: three Special Olympics athletes training together. Nikki Fredrikson photo

Every Friday afternoon at the Valley Fitness Centre a group of dedicated volunteers and athletes get together to workout as part of the Special Olympics Club Fit program. The program typically has anywhere from three to six athletes coming to workout together to build healthy habits and friendships between the athletes.

Club Fit was designed as one of the programs for Special Olympics to help the athletes not only stay in shape, but help them perform better and improve their performance in any of their activities that theyre doing, said Carolyn Kurtz, member of the executive for the Special Olympics Invermere chapter.

Athletes in the Invermere chapter of the Special Olympics train in alpine skiing, swimming, cross country skiing and bowling. Club Fit helps the athletes develop a better understanding of muscle groups and how to train their bodies.

The fitness plan that theyre doing is I teach them to do a whole body fitness. We go through the muscle groups. We talk about what muscle group were using, I want them to learn their muscle groups. Its not just about coming to the gym, but also learning about their muscle groups. I want them to learn how to program themselves, how to make sure they balance their muscle groups and just encourage them to get stronger, said Jeanette St. Jean, personal trainer with Special Olympics.

Ms. St. Jean said she wants the athletes to come and have fun while embracing working out, because they have to for the rest of their lives. The trainers with the Club Fit program not only help the athletes in the gym but take them out in the community to try other activities such as cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and kayaking.

I think its a social thing for them too. They all connect with one another once a week, so its a social thing. This summer we want to get them out there. We want to try different sports. We want to try mountain biking a little bit, so were going to take it out of the gym, said Ms. St. Jean.

For Thomas Eastabrook the gym sessions and cross country skiing are his favourite programs offered by Special Olympics after being involved with the organization for the past six years.

I like the fitness program because this is the closest thing I can get to physiotherapy. Thats always nice, said Mr. Eastabrook.

While the Club Fit program often sees the same athletes coming to workout, Special Olympics hopes to see more athletes get involved.

Anybody out there in the community is invited to come, any child, young adult with any kind of attachment to Special O or who want to get attached to Special O, come on in. Were here for them, said Ms. St. Jean.