Jess Silver Is Flexing for Access

Could you define for us what is inclusive fitness?

I define inclusive or adapted fitness as allowing an individual that has any kind of limitation to be able to participate and to learn the fundamentals of exercise regardless and notwithstanding their physical limitation.  By just scaling down or adapting exercise to an individual’s needs, the individual can carry out the exercise and also learn about the importance of being strong and physically active.

Why is inclusive fitness important? 

I think it is so important because sport and fitness are fundamental to teaching life skills and soft skills. These skills include cooperation and defining what adversity is. Self-identity and self-confidence are also gained because, when you are working through a fitness regimen that is based on exercise, you are learning about your body.

Sports allow for interacting with others. Sport can be a microcosm of society where a smaller group can learn to cope with adversity. Sport can be a place where we can build to become a better society cumulatively, which is to me what sports really represents.

Would you say then that through inclusive fitness and sports, we can build a better society?

Yes, an individual that has a limitation versus somebody who does not have an obvious limitation and how do we design infrastructure in order to allow everybody to enjoy and participate actively in society. It is a social justice issue when we examine how those structures are strengthened to include everybody in something like sport and fitness.

What is your role as an inclusive fitness trainer?

I feel that it is my role to educate individuals with limitations and to help them become strong, to teach them an exercise prescription, and to teach them that they are valued members of society. I want them to know they are capable of being an athlete if they invest the time, effort and hard work into their performance. 

Being an adaptive trainer is not so different from being a mainstream trainer, but here’s why it is so important because of that social understanding. I can acknowledge that there are challenges, but I can say here’s a way that we can design and redesign curriculum to make it so that any individual can excel. 

Fitness and sport are vehicles to allow individuals that have physical limitations and injuries to manage and ameliorate their physical and emotional states of being. In fact, you can manage the disability and any atrophy by engaging in fitness and sports. So, in the end, it can actually redefine what an individual is fully capable of through fitness and sport.

So, what is your training regimen? 

It will probably make some people’s jaws drop, but I train or at least I try to train in some way, shape, or form every single day. Every day, I engage in some kind of training or movement-based activity. In terms of high-performance training, I strive to do it about three-four days a week. Because I have cerebral palsy, I know as an adult that the more I engage in movement, the more I challenge my brain through the different functional patterns, and even if there is damage associated with some part of the brain, the more improvements can happen.

Tell us about Flex for Access.

This has been an endeavor of mine that I’ve been working at developing and growing. It’s a registered nonprofit organization here in Toronto, Canada with the goal of recognizing how Cerebral Palsy affects every individual differently. It is a condition that affects 70 million people and is the most common neurological disability that children can be born with or acquire later on in their life as well, through a brain injury. Even though it’s the most common, I found that not a lot of people know that the condition affects every individual differently. Because I felt like that understanding was missing, I wanted to redefine the context from which it is understood. For me, sport was that avenue through which I could do that so Flex for Access was created.

In addition to training, founding Flex for Access, and working in Marketing and Communications, you have also written a book titled, Run: An Uncharted Direction. Can you tell us about it?

My book was something that I knew my whole life that I wanted to write. I’ve been a writer since I was six years old. I started by writing poetry and short stories. You could always find me with a pencil in my hand. For me, I wanted to write my book and put my story out there. 

We’re all on an uncharted journey. Your path and your experiences are not known to you. From the day we’re born, we become enriched by our experiences. We learn through our experiences. Some experiences are positive and some are negative. The negative ones, you learn from through adversity. But I would argue, that through adversity comes beauty. 

What I want people to learn from reading my book is that we are all on an uncharted journey. The more experiences that you expose yourself to, the more compelling and beautiful your journey will be. I want to encourage people to really embrace the challenge, embrace the unknowns, embrace the times where you feel like you’re broken, and you don’t know where you’re going. Through my story, I show how adversity breeds strength.

To close, how do you define ability? I think that ability is anything that you invest your heart and your mind into doing. 

For more on Jess Silver, watch this interview or visit her website: Flex for Access.

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