Special Olympics Athletes from Across the United States Team Up to Roll-Out Fun Online Workouts

Fun, determined, knowledgeable. Those are the words you want to hear when searching for the right person to keep you motivated during your fitness journey. Those traits combined with fitness skills only come naturally to a select few, such as Special Olympics athletes Belem Chavez and Ramón Jimenez—two charismatic and passionate leaders who exemplify the qualities often desired in health coaches and workout buddies. Belem, an enthusiastic community leader from Chicago, Illinois, and Ramón, a dedicated athlete from Las Vegas, Nevada, are two of the five Special Olympics athletes that help lead the fitness campaign, Escuela de Fuerza, which translates as School of Strength. Escuela de Fuerza is a free online fitness resource that encourages Hispanic Special Olympics athletes in their late teens and 20s to work out on a regular basis. View the resources online.

Athletes stretching on a baseball field

Belem and Ramón have made it their mission to help fellow athletes be the healthiest versions of themselves. For Ramón, that meant stepping up as an athlete leader, which he did with ease and confidence. When asked about his experience starring in the campaign Ramón said, “I’m glad that I’ll be able to give fitness advice and motivate other athletes, like me.”

Major League Baseball players and native Spanish speakers Gleyber Torres (New York) and Willson Contreras (Chicago) star as commentators and hosts of the fitness series. The campaign consists of videos accompanied by a downloadable interactive toolkit for coaches, fun games, and a healthy cookbook made up of traditional Hispanic recipes.

“I’m excited to have worked on this series of workouts alongside baseball catcher Willson Contreras, representing my own city of Chicago. I already let my other teammates know to get ready, because this workout is going to burn,” says Belem.

Special Olympics fitness programs focus on physical activity, hydration, and nutrition and offer year-round fitness clubs, fitness challenges for friends and families, and wellness classes. The Escuela de Fuerza campaign is the latest addition in a long selection of fitness resources created for and by Special Olympics athletes. All Special Olympics fitness resources encourage athletes to change their fitness habits and pursue a healthier lifestyle.

“People with intellectual disabilities die on average 16 to 20 years earlier than those without intellectual disability, often due to preventable causes. Becoming and staying fit can reduce those gaps. Campaigns like Escuela de Fuerza encourage athletes to not only stretch their fitness goals, but stay committed to their health journeys,” states Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer at Special Olympics.

CDC and Special Olympics have joined forces to increase the number of people with intellectual disabilities who participate in year-round wellness programming that includes flexible fitness intervention models and resources to promote weight loss and decrease blood pressure.

Special Olympics fitness programming has demonstrated increases in positive health behaviors and health outcomes for athletes. Data collected by Special Olympics reveal that more than 60% of its athletes are overweight or obese. After participating in fitness programming, one in five athletes lowers their blood pressure from high to normal. To date, more than 150,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities have taken part in Special Olympics fitness programming in the United States.