Kanna Fitness “All Abilities” Classes Promote CrossFit for Everyone

In April 2023, Kanna Fitness in Ambler, PA, hosted a one-day, one-off event for kids with disabilities to come by and throw down with a CrossFit workout. This was in collaboration with their nonprofit, Kanna for All.

After the event, parents immediately reached out, expressing that they were desperately seeking something exactly like this on a regular basis for their children. 

According to one coach, enthusiastic parents reacted with a similar sentiment: “We’ve never taken our kids anywhere where they’ve gotten an actual workout.”

While many of the kids worked with occupational and physical therapists, attended school P.E. classes, and were physically active throughout the day, nobody helped them sweat, exercise, and develop their fitness. 

Credit: Stephanie Vincent

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To CrossFit Level 2 coach and Kanna’s Youth Director Steph Vincent, this was an opportunity worth pursuing. It could benefit children and families within Ambler (and beyond, it turns out) and her current Kanna Fitness community.

Some background: Vincent has been a CrossFit athlete since 2009 and began coaching in 2012. She’s been in the game a long time and has worked with people from all walks of life with a range of goals. Her experience as an athlete gives her coaching depth and inspires her athletes to strive to meet the goals she sets for them.

“I’m not a typical CrossFit athlete. I scale all my workouts,” Vincent says. “This helps me to coach, and when I tell an athlete they can do something, and they know that I believe in them, they do it. They’re inspired to do it. When they know that I think they’re capable of something, it means something to them.”

Years ago, she ran a day program for adults with disabilities and had always dreamed of developing something similar in a gym setting. 

With the help of community leaders, their nonprofit, Kanna for All, was formed. It gives scholarships to youth in the community to join the gym and enter a world of goal-setting, personal wins, and fitness. 

While Kanna for All was a huge success, there were still more people that they wanted to reach. This led them to the single-day event for kids with disabilities that introduced so many families to Kanna Fitness and the joy that could be found in CrossFit. 

A turning point: This one-day experience led to what is now the All Abilities class, attended by pre-teens through adults with disabilities, with some traveling from 30 minutes away. To the parents, this trek is completely worth the drive, as Kanna Fitness provides something to their children that can’t be found anywhere else. 

“We are so incredibly grateful for Stephanie and all the volunteers at Kanna Fitness for the Saturday All Abilities Class! Evie has loved coming to class and is challenged with new routines each week. She gets a fantastic workout in, and has lots of fun with old friends and new ones as well! We can’t wait for the next session!” a parent told Morning Chalk up.

[Related: Festivus Games to Host First Adaptive-Only Competition in April]

The class coincides with a volunteer program, as members of the gym volunteer to help coach the All Abilities athletes so that each athlete can potentially have their own helper or at least a two-to-one ratio.  Many of the volunteers are teens from the Kanna Fitness teens class.

“Julia looks forward to her class every week. She has a blast! The volunteers are amazing with the kids,” a parent shared.  

Vincent explained that while the All Abilities athletes are thriving, so are the volunteers. 

When Greg first joined the gym, his mom told Vincent that doesn’t like physical activity. 

But from the first class, Greg has become the ultimate firebreather: motivated, hard-working, and crushing every workout.  

Part of this is due to teen volunteer Matt, as the two are always paired together, bonding over box jumps and burpees. Matt counts rounds and gives Greg high fives in between reps.

Several kids with autism are integrated into the youth classes, and Vincent shared how CrossFit’s methodology and class structure help these kids thrive. While it’s challenging for many of them to participate in team sports, they enjoy the comradery of other athletes and training alongside them. 

Laura, a member of the teens’ class, has high-functioning autism. At a recent charity event that revolved around a deadlift lift-off, Laura and her mother registered to participate, although Laura’s mother and coach weren’t sure how Laura would like the competition environment. 

At the time, Laura’s max deadlift was 100 pounds. She stepped up to the 55-pound bar, the first of the ladder, and in all the excitement, she cleaned the bar rather than deadlifting it, earning applause from the crowd. She then continued up the ladder, ending at 150, setting a new PR by 50 pounds. 

Credit: Stephanie Vincent

[Related: The 2024 CrossFit Service Open Highlights — Cale Layman Impresses]

The bottom line: Vincent expressed that Kanna Fitness is unique in that its official motto is ‘fit for life.’ Its mission is to help its gym members thrive at any age and of any ability. While competition is at the core of almost every CrossFit gym, Kanna’s focus is to nurture the community and train fitness for longevity. It creates space for all to share during a workout, building confidence and connection through CrossFit.

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Check out these stories from the Morning Chalk Up:

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Festivus Games to Host First Adaptive-Only Competition in April

Our “7 Questions Leading Up to the 2024 CrossFit Open,” Answered

Featured image: Stephanie Vincent

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