Speaker 1 00:00:05 Hello and welcome to today's episode of Accessibility and Me. I'm Man Stein from World Holloway University of London, and I co-host this podcast with one Brunai from Ivy Business School in Canada, and Luke Kauflin, also from Gu Holloway.
Speaker 2 00:00:21 Our guest today is Ben Clark, founder of Adapt to Perform the world's largest resource of adapted fitness.
Speaker 3 00:00:29 Ben, thanks very much for joining us today. Could you first speak a little bit about adapt to the form and what inspired you to set up?
Speaker 4 00:00:35 Yeah, uh, thank you, uh, Luke for having me here. Um, so yeah, we've adapted the form. It's a bit of a long story to get there, so I'll, uh, uh, give you some of the highlights along the way as such. So essentially with my life, uh, I am a wheelchair user, disabled myself, uh, quadriplegic, um, from a spinal cord injury. So I've not always been disabled. Uh, I acquired my, uh, injury, um, back in 2010. At the time I was a professional athlete, trainer for the Olympics and, uh, in London 2012. Came home from where I was living in Australia at the time while I was training 20 hours a week in the pool, 10 hours a week in the gym. And yeah, I'd run down the beach down here in sand banks, in pool, down the beach, dove into a wave. Um, and the water was shallower than I thought it was, which compressed my spine and gave me spinal cord injury.
Speaker 4 00:01:24 So my life completely changed in that moment, going from, as I said, all that training, traveling around the world, competing and all that kind of stuff, to, uh, suddenly being lying in bed for, uh, up to 10 weeks doing not be able to do anything. And then slowly starting to relearn how to use my new body again as such. Um, like a toddler trying to walk for the first time. I was 20 years old at the time, so it was a bit different. So yeah, very big, uh, shift in my life at that point. And the first thing I wanted to do was get back into swimming, uh, carry on competing, which I did. Went into the swimming again and started really well in the uk. Uh, became national champion in three different events. Yeah, that was going really well in terms of like performance, but my mental stay at the time wasn't fantastic and it was mainly due to how when I was suing, I was suing as well as I knew I could previously and that had a massive detrimental effect on my mental health.
Speaker 4 00:02:20 So it was quite hard too, but I, uh, eventually gave up the swimming, um, which is the hardest thing I'd probably done. Um, and the following sort of year was quite hard cuz I'd always been been the swimmer and that was tied to my identity and who I was. And now that was gone. Uh, it's like, so I didn't know who I was, it wasn't just giving up a spoil, it was giving up my identity as well. Um, so I tried lots of different things, um, to like tried new different things and I realized that that attaching myself to these other things was just gonna lean me down the same path if, you know, I knew that anything could happen now. Um, so I wanted to attach myself to things I had control over, which was, um, my values and aspects of stuff that I enjoyed from swimming rather than the actual event itself.
Speaker 4 00:03:09 So with that, um, yeah, again, try lots of different things, lots of different sports. And um, one thing I did is went to my local swimming club and just asked if they needed any help with any coaching. One of the, my favorite aspects of the swimming was all the strength for conditioning work outside of the pool. And so I went there, help set up their strength for conditioning program and started to mentoring some of the younger swimmers who wanted the same sort of path I did. And I went really well, started off with just a couple of national swimmers and then suddenly we had 10 to 12 of them and then some of them even went to international competitions and uh, although I'm not coaching them now, um, one of them went off to Tokyo last year to compete for Great Britain. So that was a really awesome part to be be part of like just a little part of their journey, uh, along the way.
Speaker 4 00:03:54 Um, around the sort sort of time I was doing the coaching, um, I absolutely fell in love a bit and love giving back. I love helping people and I realized I wanted to do more in this space, especially within the, this new community. I was part of the disabled community, um, and helping other people that had been through similar stuff to me or had been disabled their whole life or whatever it was. Uh, so, um, I was looking for online fitness basically for disabled people and I couldn't find anything out there. Um, I did what everybody does these days to look on YouTube, you know, look on Google, whatever that is, and couldn't find, uh, anything substantial. There was little trickles of information here and there, but there was nothing substantial. So I was like, well, I've got my knowledge and my love of coaching now and you know, I've got my, um, knowledge of my own disability.
Speaker 4 00:04:38 So I bought a camera, uh, set up in my spare bedroom and just started, uh, filming, follow along workouts, putting them out on YouTube and just seeing what happened. And it really just took off really nicely and it's been steadily growing over the last five years, um, and reaching sort of tens of thousands of people all around the world, not just in the uk. They reaching across to America and Canada and even to places like Africa and the Middle East and Indonesia in that where, um, people might not have access to the same like healthcare systems or accessibilities for fitness things so they can still get access to stuff that's gonna improve their health and wellbeing. Yeah, just with an internet connection as all they need with, uh, quite a lot of the workouts, it requires not much equipment. So yeah, that, that was going, um, absolutely fantastic on YouTube and uh, really making a difference, but I knew there was more that could be done. So around the sort of time that like lockdown happening that I started to like change, uh, like our approach a bit and we could talk about that in a little bit with, uh, how that changed. But yeah, that, that was kind of the inspiration about like why I wanted to set up a Dutch form, how I wanted to change the lives of the table people. And it's, it's been amazing the journey so far and what we're doing now as well is, uh, exciting in the different areas we're trying to improve the whole fitness industry.
Speaker 3 00:06:02 Why is, um, adapted fitness so overlooked in the current fitness market?
Speaker 4 00:06:06 That's a very good question. I think it's just, um, a lack of knowledge and a lack, like a misunderstanding of what the stereotypes of disabled people is probably the, um, best way to put it. Cuz often um, people with disability are put into one or two categories. They're either super inspirational Paralympian or something along those levels or they are like a charity case as such, but there's literally millions of people that fit somewhere in between those two. Um, and I think that's like where it's, you know, that misunderstanding and you know, just cause somebody's disabled, it's like they're still a person I would say like when you think about trying to market or trying to cater for disabled people just take the disabled bit out of it and it's just like it's people at the end of the day, these are normal people trying and live their lives the way that they want to live. And I think that's one of the reasons, uh, it's overlooked is just that misunderstanding and, um, yeah, it's, that's uh, why it has been up to this point. I think.
Speaker 3 00:07:05 Thinking back to March, 2020, where were you the start of the pandemic and how did life change?
Speaker 4 00:07:11 So yeah, um, I was, um, in my home here in Paul, it was obviously, um, a bit of a change, but for myself and for other lost people, um, it was kind of like the rest of the world was experienced, kind of what we were, uh, on a like a regular basis. You know, not having access to certain things, not having transportation thing, all that kind of stuff. It kind of was shown like what quite a lot of people in that scenario was already experiencing their dayday life. So for me, um, with, you know, having uh, a business that was online already, already reaching out to people because I reached to people that didn't have access to gyms, didn't have access to uh, healthcare services in their countries or whatever it might be. And I was able to provide already provided service that was suited to the pandemic. Um, so when it came around along it was like business as usual, um, as such. So that was great. Uh, and it gave me more time to sort of focus on doing it more cause I was indoors more and not, um, going out as much. So that was really, um, actually quite handy for me for the business side of it. Um, but yeah, um, yeah, so that was, that was essentially, it didn't really change much for myself if I'm honest.
Speaker 3 00:08:26 <laugh> you touched upon this a little bit, but what opportunities and challenges did the pandemic bring both professionally and personally?
Speaker 4 00:08:34 Yeah, so, um, as I say, like personally the um, challenges and that weren't to um, well I didn't see, feel like there was anything in particular. I think it brought like family and that closer together, you know, realizing that how important they are and that, so that was, it was almost, um, a positive, um, in that um, aspect personally in my, the business side of things as well. It was um, a huge opportunity and a huge gain. And one of the things we did do is, and I like to think that Joe WIC stole my idea cause I started before him, um, <laugh>, but I started doing life fitness, um, and I started doing it and I did it every single day in a row for 147 days to start with during the lockdown, completely for free, live on YouTube, mix in between uh, exercise, like hit workout, strength workouts, yoga, stretching, breathing exercises, all that kind of stuff.
Speaker 4 00:09:27 And I've continued those live videos today and that not only provided a sense of his or hour to you know, get lost in some exercise, but also to have build like a community. You know, we have the YouTube chat section and it started off with just, you know, like, hey to me and or like, oh that was a good workout. Then suddenly people started noticing names of each people that were turning up more and more and started talking to each other and then they started like forming communities around what I was doing. And yeah, we still go to this day with the life fitness stuff and it's really reached out and made like friends across the world and brought like this community that was quite lonely and isolated anyway, pre pandemic, uh, let alone during and brought like them closer to people that had similar goals and ambitions and drives in life.
Speaker 4 00:10:15 And um, yeah, um, people like having people with similar interests outside of the fitness as well. And yeah, it's been absolutely fantastic that side of things. And on the back of that we realized that we wanted to do more in that sort of, uh, sense. So I brought a business partner on as well during lockdown, um, to help with building up our premium membership platform. So taking everything we do good about YouTube and then just turning up to 11 essentially. Uh, and using um, the power of like a website over a, a platform like YouTube to do it in a much better way on YouTube, obviously, um, you know, it's great I can up load videos and it gets out to people for free, but for a website there's a lot more I can do in terms of showing people how to adapt exercises on the go, changing for difficulty levels and that's kind of what we um, we do now.
Speaker 4 00:11:04 And then again, based on, based on the back of that we realize that there's a lot we can do with the fitness market as a whole. So going into um, business that might have a disabled population and offering them a solution that is a fitness based solution for their disabled population or a brand that might have a fitness solution but wants to approach a disabled population and making those links and essentially adapt like our business call adapt to perform for them in their ways as well. So helping everybody to provide a better service, uh, a much more rounded surface for their disabled clientele.
Speaker 3 00:11:40 Lockdown saw a boom for home fitness. Do you see that this enthusiasm for working out virtually continuing following the end of restrictions?
Speaker 4 00:11:49 Yeah, I think that it is not gonna be like it was during lockdown. Uh, I think that was a unique situation. I think it's, people are starting to appreciate the hybrid approach, um, where you can get the benefits of going to a fitness facility, but you can also do that kind of stuff at home. You know, if you are still working from home or you are much like it has in the, um, business world where people are doing maybe one day a week at home or two days a week at home and then the office the other couple of days similar to their fitness routine, they might be like, Okay, that's great, I can go to the gym and that, but now I want to introduce some running. Cause I really enjoyed it during lockdown was going for a run and it might have been something they not done before. And I think it's that combination, um, is what we are seeing more of going forwards in the future, having that hybrid approach and um, I think the businesses and that, that sort of lock onto that are gonna be the ones that are gonna be more successful. And you see that within gym facilities like building up their digital platform during lockdown and still having a good retention rate post that as well. So yeah, that's kind of how I see it going forwards.
Speaker 3 00:12:52 Excellent, thank you. And uh, just a final question. Uh, you mentioned a little bit about the website service you're offering now. What's the future for Adapt to perform?
Speaker 4 00:13:01 Well, the main thing is to reach as many uh, people as possible. Our number one mission is to get more disabled people into health and fitness. Um, whether that's through our own platform, uh, or through our partnerships, um, bringing more people onto the platform through the partnerships or to create new, uh, solutions with, um, our partners and the programs going forwards. Uh, on the website we've got lots of updates coming. We've got Life Fitness coming to the website as well. So to bring that, um, what was awesome during the lockdown stuff, the community side of things, and then just more of the same, uh, more content, more um, good stuff and just, uh, helping people in as many different ways as possible. So yeah, more of the same essentially.
Speaker 3 00:13:44 Ben, it interesting to speak to. Thanks for joining us today.
Speaker 1 00:13:53 Thank you very much for listening to today's episode of Accessibility in Me. We hope you enjoyed it and will tune into our next episode. We would like to thank the British Academy for funding today's episode.