Zuk Fitness is an online fitness service created by and for wheelchair users. It offers live and prerecorded workouts led by both paras and quads. Strength, cardio, warmup and stretching routines can all be completed from your wheelchair, often with minimal equipment.
The service was founded by wheelchair user and lifelong athlete Dillon Connolly. An admitted endorphin junkie, Connolly used to rise before 5 a.m. each day to get in 26 hours per week of intense swimming prior to becoming a quad. He earned a swimming scholarship to the University of Southern California, where he became an NCAA All-American talent.
Connolly studied engineering and later worked as a design engineer at an aerospace company. Still wanting to push himself as an athlete, he planned to quit his job at 25 to focus on training for the 2016 Olympics. On the same weekend that Connolly decided to pursue his Olympic swimming dream, he dove into a wave at Newport Beach, California, hit a sandbar and injured his spinal cord at C5-6.
He took five years after his rehabilitation at Shepherd Center to plot a new career course, using a scholarship from the Swim With Mike Foundation to enroll in USC’s master’s program for entrepreneurship and innovation. During a class project, he met the co-founders of his next big endeavor: Zuk Fitness. They won money in a schoolwide pitch competition and were on their way.
Try It Now With a Discount
For a limited time, United Spinal Association has partnered with Zuk to offer members 40% off, plus one month of free access to the Zuk site and its hundreds of online workouts led by expert professionals. The link for the offer is at opens in a new windowunitedspinal.org/try-zuk-fitness-free.
No Limitations, Lots of Options
Zuk is an acronym for Zero limitations and Unity through Kinesthetics. Connolly defines kinesthetics as anything that encompasses body movement. “We chose that word to celebrate moving anything that you can, even though it may be limited,” Connolly says.
Connolly, who uses a power wheelchair, applied his design-engineering background to think about people with limited mobility and the ways uniquely designed exercise could benefit them. “Depression and obesity are big problems in the SCI/D community,” he says, adding that he has battled depression and chronic pain for years. “Typical gyms are not practical for quads, and they are definitely not tailored for people with mobility impairments. My goal is to bring highly specialized workouts to a broad audience of people with SCI, CP or MS, or anyone who can benefit from a seated workout, like seniors.
“At least 5% of people have a significant mobility impairment. That’s a large market, a viable market,” he says, noting that many studies have found that up to one in four people will experience some type of disability in their lifetime. “We did customer discovery, speaking to over 100 wheelchair users — not all with spinal cord injuries. We found out that many were dealing with some sort of pain, but on average, those going to the gym were happier and had less pain.”
Zuk’s website offers filters that allow subscribers to customize their workouts. Many programs are tailored toward those who are paraplegic or quadriplegic, with options for any ability level throughout. The site also allows visitors to filter by equipment used, such as wrist weights, dumbbells, weight bars and resistance bands. Workouts range from intense sessions led by champion bodybuilders to beginning exercises and meditation.
“Along with customizing to your physical ability, we also have filters that help you focus on what you want to concentrate on — cardio, range of motion, circuit training, etc.,” Connolly says. “Even if you are not a wheelchair user, the programs are great for elderly people, so they can improve their strength through a safe, seated position. My grandma does the quadriplegic workouts while on her recumbent bike because she likes Shawn’s instructions. They work great for her because she’s not able to stand for long periods.”
Many — but not all — of Zuk’s expert instructors are wheelchair users:
Connolly plans to develop an app, which would allow Zuk users to access inclusive workouts from smart devices in addition to the Zuk Fitness website. Connolly says physical activity has always been his “happy place,” but a person doesn’t have to be a former NCAA All-American to benefit from exercise. “I challenge anyone, especially when you are feeling horrible or not having a good day, to get in a good workout,” he says. “You’ll feel a little bit better. It releases chemicals in your brain and improves your mood.”
Zuk offers monthly, semiannual and annual pricing plans, starting from as little as $8.40 per month (when prepaid yearly). Find out more at opens in a new windowzukfitness.com.
This content was originally published here.