Transforming Lives: The Path to Creating Inclusive Fitness Spaces

Joshy demonstrating the leg day pretzel stretch, smiling at the camera

It has been an interesting inclusive fitness journey. Embarking on a career in the disability fitness industry wasn’t a decision I made lightly. Working from Upper Coomera on the Gold Coast, my own battles with obesity, depression, and aloneness paved the way for a deeper understanding and empathy towards individuals with disabilities facing similar challenges.

The Awakening

Before transformation headshot of myself looking visibly overweight and unhappy.
A glimpse into my past, before embarking on my fitness journey


My journey began in the throes of personal health struggles. Each year, I’d set goals to get fit, quit drinking, and stop smoking, but found myself spiralling back into old habits due to the isolation these changes brought. It was during this time of introspection and self-training that a realisation hit me: if I could navigate these waters, perhaps I could guide others too. The idea of becoming a personal trainer started to take root.

After transformation headshot showing a healthier and happier me, before the COVID-19 pandemic
Captured in a moment of health and happiness, this photo marks my progress before the pandemic

The second snap almost caught me at my prime, until Covid played the ultimate prank and I took a few (and then a few more lol) steps back on the scale. But fear not! By October this year, I’m hitting rewind with a sprinkle of new wisdom and a hefty dose of sustainability in my game plan. Let’s just say, it’s not about racing to the finish line this time, but enjoying the scenic route back to health.

Serendipity Strikes

Life has a funny way of propelling us towards our destiny. My moment came with an unexpected redundancy from a job I loved, which, surprisingly, opened doors to new beginnings. This redundancy was the universe nudging me forward, complete with a generous notice period and support to find my next gig.

I had this basic idea about becoming a personal trainer but brushed it off as a “maybe someday” dream. With time suddenly on my hands, I thought, “Why not now?” So, I called some training organisations, looking for somewhere to get certified. Call after call, nothing felt right (I’m not a fan of a pushy salesman). It was like fitting a square peg into a round hole—until I dialled a 1300 number, I got patched directly to the owner of the RTO. And he’s just as surprised as I am! His phone wasn’t even supposed to take direct calls. We chat, and it turns out, he’s kicking off a course the very next week, and there are exactly two spots left. The cherry on top? The training venue is literally 100 metres from where I worked. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.

From Employment to Empowerment: My Learning Curve as a Trainer

Transitioning from being an employee to diving into the world of self-employment was a seismic shift in my life, filled with both exhilarating opportunities and formidable challenges. In the early stages of my career as a personal trainer, every day was a new lesson (still is), not just in fitness, but in life (still is). The diversity of my clients was as enriching as it was educational. I found myself in the midst of an array of social circles, engaging with individuals I might never have met otherwise. This melting pot of experiences wasn’t just about training others; it was a two-way street of learning and inspiration.

The quest for knowledge became mutual; as my clients were keen to soak up everything I had to offer, their curiosity sparked my own. Each question I couldn’t answer fueled my desire to learn more, to dive deeper into the realms of fitness and wellness. This period wasn’t just about building a business; it was about building a community of shared growth and mutual respect. The journey from employee to entrepreneur taught me more than I could have imagined, transforming not just my career path but my entire approach to life and learning.

Josh’s Impact: A Catalyst for Change

Joshy demonstrating the leg day pretzel stretch, smiling at the camera
Joshy says this stretch really helps! Here he is mastering the pretzel stretch during leg day.
Joshy smiling with his reward balloon after safely using the leg press
A well-deserved balloon bribe for Joshy after demonstrating safe leg press techniques

Josh wasn’t just another client; he was the catalyst that propelled my business into a new, uncharted direction. When Josh came into my life, I had been slowly building my personal training business, focusing broadly on general fitness goals like weight loss, muscle gain, and technique improvement. However, working with Josh— a young fellow with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)— opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of fitness and personal development.


Understanding and Adaptation

Initially, our sessions were as much a learning experience for me as they were for him. Josh’s unique needs and the way he processed information forced me to rethink my approach. It wasn’t just about the physical exercises; it was about how to communicate effectively, how to ensure he felt safe and understood, and most importantly, how to make fitness a meaningful part of his life. This required patience, creativity, bribery with balloons and a deep dive into understanding ASD better.

Moments of Revelation

The journey with Josh was filled with moments of revelation. For instance, moving to a different gym presented us with a set of challenges but also opportunities for growth. It was there, amidst new rules (learning how important the word ‘rule’ is for Josh and others with ASD, game changer!) and a fresh environment, that I witnessed Josh’s incredible progress. The shift from a fixed mindset about exercises and weights to embracing improvement and strength gains was nothing short of remarkable. These moments weren’t just victories for Josh; they were shared triumphs that underscored the power of personalised, inclusive fitness.

Expanding the Vision

Josh’s journey and the challenges we overcame together were instrumental in shaping the ethos of my business. He made me realise that fitness isn’t one-size-fits-all. Each individual’s journey is unique, and for those with disabilities, the right support can transform lives. Inspired by our experiences, I expanded my services to create a more inclusive environment, not just for Josh but for anyone facing similar obstacles.

Building a Community

Perhaps one of the most touching outcomes of working with Josh was his influence on creating our FrieNDIS community. When I learned how he spent his school lunches alone playing Beyblades and ‘Some of the kids were nice to him, sometimes’ was heartbreaking. His openness to the idea of group sessions for individuals like him was the seed that blossomed into a thriving group where friendships formed and flourished. This wasn’t just about fitness; it was about creating a space where individuals could belong, share their challenges, and celebrate their achievements together. The participants inspired our social nights and other activities and some real friendships are growing and exist outside our group times you can find out more about them on our instagram.

Reflection and Gratitude

Looking back, I can see how integral Josh has been in my journey. He didn’t just inspire a business model shift; he reminded me of the why behind what I do. The lessons learned and the growth experienced through our sessions have been invaluable, not only to me as a professional but on a deeply personal level.

Continuing our Inclusive Fitness Journey

Today, my mission continues to evolve in this inclusive fitness journey. From facilitating outdoor fitness sessions and social activities to bridging the gap between physical training and allied health support, the journey has been both challenging and incredibly rewarding.

The upcoming launch of a podcast 

The inception of the podcast was a lightbulb moment sparked by my immersion in networking events within the disability fitness industry. I was struck by the intricate web of roles and resources that form the backbone of this sector. It dawned on me that by gaining even a sliver more understanding of these components, I could elevate my service to a more holistic level. This realisation wasn’t just about broadening my professional knowledge; it was about deepening my capacity to connect, identify, and collaborate with a spectrum of experts—from Allied Health Professionals to the heart of our community, the families, participants, and support workers.

This podcast aims to be a bridge, a platform where stories of struggle and success are shared, where knowledge is exchanged freely, and where the hidden gems of our industry can be showcased. Many within our circle, both providers and participants, navigate this space with limited visibility into the resources and support available. By conversing with a diverse lineup of guests, we’re not just spreading awareness; we’re knitting a tighter, more informed community. It’s about shedding light on the unexplored, underscoring the value of services that might otherwise go unnoticed, and, ultimately, forging a path to a more informed, inclusive fitness journey for everyone involved.

Ready to join our inclusive fitness journey or share your story on our podcast? We’re always on the lookout for inspiring individuals to connect and grow with our community. Reach out to us and let’s make a difference together!


You are intelligent, goodlooking and funny!
Thankyou so much for your application
I will get back to you asap