Training Considerations: Sensory Issues

I recently communicated with a really cool company called Notorious Bastards. Its run by an awesome girl called Mindy and they make some real original looking apparel.

My question to her was: is the screen printing on your t-shirts thick? This may seem like an odd question, but let me tell you that despite owning like 100 t-shirts, there are only really 3 in my rotation. Not for much longer either, because they are so overworn they are falling apart. The cut, the 'feel' of the material, the sensation of the printed designs against my skin. Its horrible and I spend all day pulling and hauling at any t-shirt I'm wearing, trying to get comfortable. I was a BIG FAN of Lululemon's 5 year basic tee, but somewhere in 2018 they seem to have changed the design entirely and now it just doesnt work for me.

Anyway, Mindy was very cool about it and actually offered to send me a hand tie-dyed t-shirt with NO print on it on her. So I'm excited for that. But it got me thinking about people who might have even bigger sensory issues due to spectrum 'disorders'. The cacophony of noise in a gym and the busy-ness of the place must make it real tough for anyone with sensory issues to access training. Which ends up being an unusual situation, because gyms are an amazing place for people to make friends and feel a part of something in a non judgmental and supportive space. With ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) often manifesting with 'social interaction' difficulties, a gym is an amazing place to be able to hang out with people and 'normalise'. But not with a barrier to entry that looks like: lots of people shouting, giving high fives and throwing down hard, loud typically aggressive music, barbells clangin' an bangin' and graffiti murals of flaming skulls. Such an environment might be really overwhelming and trigger a meltdown or a shutdown in someone who has sensory issues.

And what of clients who may be affected by ptsd such as people coming from abusive life situations or military service? They too, may find a loud and relentless environment difficult to cope with and yet could be the type of supportive environment, again, that they need.

I think its a tough one because what do gym owners do? run classes with no music and no barbell dropping to cater to clients with sensory overload or trauma? Probably not, but its not impossible. In the UK, one movie theater chain has run autism friendly showings since 2011, with lower sound volumes and no previews or advertisements. Some nightclubs actually run silent autism nights, where clubbers use their own headphones and control the volume themselves.

I do think that gym owners and coaches can just make a HUGE difference by being aware of any clients who might need extra support or reassurance if things get really busy or noisy. I think that, in line with my other thoughts on individualising training as much as possible, that this will be something you will learn about during a consult. So its another reason why you might want to do one with onboarding new members.

Everyone should be able to take advantage of the benefits of physical training and the community that gyms have. We should be looking at what barriers to entry their might be and help people to come in and train. Y'all can take a leaf from Mindy's book and dont just say well sorry all our apparel comes with as much sensory overload as I can fit on there, but instead find a cool work around.