When you first meet Justin Knight the word “athlete” isn’t the first word that comes to mind. This 25 year old man has Cerebral Palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair to move around. But, once you see the determination in his eyes and the constant smile on his face you will begin to understand that he is truly an athlete to be admired. Most college and professional athletes we watch on TV are blessed with God-given talents the they have honed to perfection. Justin didn’t start with those advantages but he has turned his disability into an ability in part with the help of professional trainer Amy Alexander at Alcovy Fitness & Wellness in Covington.
“Prior to working with Amy, he wasn’t very motivated to exercise and didn’t really understand the full scope of what his body could do being in a wheelchair. Through working with her two times per week, he has really gained upper body strength and has developed a “can do” attitude. The additional strength in his legs and arms has allowed him to transfer to and from his wheelchair more easily. His endurance level has increased, his blood pressure is staying in a more normal range, and he just feels much better overall. It has most definitely been life-changing for him. He looks forward to going to the gym each week and he works on the skills that he learns from Amy all the time. He gets excited at home when he is able to stand from his wheelchair with less assistance and his face just lights up when he realizes that a task is easier for him because of the strength that he has gained” said his mother Teresa Knight.
“Amy is mean” joked Justin with a huge smile on his face. Through the experience of becoming more health conscious Justin has realized that his potential is limitless. He now focuses on his ABILITIES instead of his DISABILITIES. As a matter of fact, he has set his sights on competing in an Iron Man Competition.
In 2012, Justin began participating in endurance sports/racing thru The Kyle Pease Foundation. This organization was founded by two brothers, Kyle Pease and Brent Pease of Atlanta, and helps raise awareness and funds to promote success for persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through endurance sports. Justin did his first 5K in November 2012 (The Holcomb Bridge Hustle 5K). Since then, he has competed in several other races including Publix Half Marathon – March 2013, March 2014, Virginia Highlands Summerfest 5K – June 2013, Richard B. Russell Triathlon – August 2013 & upcoming August 9, 2014, Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC – October 2013, Gulf Coast Series Half Marathon in Gulf Shores, Alabama – February 2014, Gulf Coast Series Half Marathon in Pensacola, FL – April 2014, Peachtree Road Race – July 2014.
Coming up in October 2014, Justin will be competing in the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC. He will be competing under the umbrella of The Kyle Pease Foundation and Push America. This will be his second time competing in the MCM and he hopes to make it an annual event. In order to compete, he must fundraise and reach a goal of $3000. He has a fundraising page at FirstGiving: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/teresaknight/MarineCorpMarathon . All donations not only will fund Justin’s participation in the MCM, but will also go towards funding others with disabilities and will allow them to participate in sports as well. It is unimaginable what a difference that this makes in the life of these young people with disabilities.
In order to help fund Justin’s travel and other expenses involved in competing in endurance sports, he and his mom make and sell wine glass charms and earrings. “Being a single mom, it is a challenge to provide the means to support the household and then go beyond that to enable him to step out into a world of sports that he never imagined before” Teresa said. “It has truly been life changing for him. Just to see that smile on his face and the excitement in his heart makes all the struggles so worthwhile!”
Justin’s contract for personal training expires at the end of September 2014. (Prepare for a gentle tug on your heart strings.) He is seeking sponsorship to be able to continue in his quest to maintain his fitness goals and what he has gained from his experience of working with a personal trainer such as Amy. Unfortunately, the fees are such that he will not be able to continue without sponsorship. He is also working towards another goal, which is part-time employment in customer service.
The Trainer: Amy Alexander
Amy is so proud of everything that Justin has accomplished in the ten months since he started working-out with her. “He has developed a lot of upper body strength from working with the weights out on the gym floor,” said Amy. “We get in the pool once a week which has helped with his flexibility and core strength Justin had developed his core strength so he can stand by himself. He does everything I ask him to with a constant smile on his face.”
Amy was born in Chicago and her family moved to Georgia when she was twelve years old. She didn’t play sports growing up and it wasn’t until after she had four children that she first became interested in working-out. “ I needed something to do after my fourth child started school and since exercise was the only thing I was consistent with I decided to become a personal trainer, Amy said. “At the time I was an avid runner but had never really lifted weights. It was the weight lifting that made all the changes in my body. My favorite type of exercise is running,” she said. “I have completed one Marathon and I’m doing the Savannah Half Marathon in November.” Her least favorite form of exercise is swimming. “I took it up to add in some training that is gentle on my body,” said Amy.
As a single mother of four, a full-time student (Physical Therapy Assistant) and personal trainer you wouldn’t think that she has any time left over. “I am at the gym Saturday afternoon when I need a break from homework and 6 am Sunday morning is my gym time with my daughter. Having an accountability partner gets me out of bed because there are days I don’t want to work-out, but I do it regardless. It is like brushing your teeth… you just do it.”
Amy plans all of her meals and rarely goes out to eat. “I do my food prep on Sunday because I don’t have time to cook during the week between school and work,” she said. All of her hard work has paid-off. She recently participated in her first Figure Competition and earned 2nd Place.
Amy has a disability that most people aren’t aware of. “I have Retinitis Pigmentosa and I’m going blind. I’ve had to change some of my exercise routine because of that,” she said. Her father also has this condition and is legally blind. Amy has been a Personal Trainer at Alcovy Fitness & Wellness for one year and can be reached at: [email protected].