Visit www.dpiadaptivefitness.com and watch the video on the homepage. In just about one minute, you’ll see more than a community of individuals boxing, moving, and taking on new physical challenges. You will immediately see something incredibly special happening in a fitness studio in Fairfax, Virginia. Founded and led by our October 2019 Trainer of the Month winner, Devon Palermo, DPI Adaptive Fitness is the go-to resource for adaptive fitness for individuals of all abilities. Their community includes individuals transitioning from traditional therapy after spinal cord injury, stroke survivors, individuals with MS, amputees, and those with a neurological diagnosis. Devon has successfully bridged the gap between physical therapy and fitness and perhaps more valuable, has created a community that not only gives challenging fitness to those who haven’t been able to find it elsewhere but gives hope to those needing it most.
Here is a glimpse into how Devon is raising the bar…
● VA State Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
● NESTA Certified Personal Trainer
● NESTA Biomechanics Specialist Certification
● ISSA Specialist Adaptive Fitness
● FMS-Level 1 Certified
● BFI Certified Boxing Fitness Trainer
● AHA CPR & First Aid
Business Name: DPI Adaptive Fitness
Year started in business: Started working with adaptive clients in 2005; DPI Adaptive Fitness officially formed in 2014.
● Recognition and Awards:
● Washington Post-2015
● In collaboration with Medstar National Rehabilition Hospital designed and implemented No Limits Adaptive Fitness program which since its inception has provided fitness opportunities to over 800 individuals living with a physical disability in the DC, MD and VA area
● Author-disAbility Fitness (Fitness Handbook for those living with Stroke, Spinal Cord Injury, Amputation, or as Seniors)
● National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA) listed disAbility Fitness as required reading for their Yoga Certification course
● wheel life magazine article highlighting a dpi adaptive fitness client
● Adaptive Fitness Fuels my journey-CARF Article
● Guest contributor to the PTDC-Top Ten Adaptive Fitness Equipment Recommendations
● Guest contributor for Myolyn-Myocycle Fes bike
● On stage presenter for adaptive fitness 2018 & 2019 at the NBC 4 Health and Fitness expo (1st appearance for adaptive fitness in their 25 year history)
● Featured Advocate for Commit to Inclusion Campaign
● Infinitetech.org Adapted Home exercise resource
● Prfessional Advisory Council member to the Stroke Comeback Center
● Medstar NRH-Press release
What inspired you to start your business?
In 2005, while working with a spinal cord injury patient, I learned that her insurance benefits had just lapsed. She was suddenly discharged with so much potential for great outcomes left on the table. She and I discussed options and we agreed to meet up for exercise sessions in her home until insurance kicked back in. By the time she came back in for a therapy evaluation she had become so much stronger that not only was continued therapy warranted, there were now more things that could be worked on to address new goals. This came from 2-3 times a week of guided exercise. Word quickly spread and I was moonlighting as an adaptive trainer. Fast forward to 2013, still training the adaptive way and having just written the disability fitness handbook, I decided I wanted to put all of my energy into providing the best adaptive fitness opportunities I could. I reached out to colleagues who shared my passion and was confident that I could build a team of adaptive trainers who cared and trained just as I would. DPI Adaptive Fitness was officially formed in 2014, but I always say that it really started with that first client in 2005; that was the spark that ignited a passion deep within.
What is one hard lesson you’ve learned in business you believe has been most valuable?
I feel what has been my most valuable lesson has been the unexpected challenges that come with running a business and the decisions I have had to make because of these challenges. They have forced me outside of my comfort zone, taken me off course from my goals at times, and have pushed me to learn, adapt, and grow in ways that I did not anticipate. These challenges (and they vary from staffing, to training, to backend business issues) have evolved me as a person, an adaptive fitness trainer, father, husband and business owner. Running a business is hard, but I believe the hard is what has made this journey so worthwhile, especially when working with a population that I enjoy so much!
If I asked one of your clients why they choose you over other trainers, what would they likely say?
I would hope that the passion I have for the work that I do and the community that I serve would be why, but I wanted to get a direct quote from one of my clients so I asked the same question and here is her response:
“DPI Adaptive Gym over any other gym! Before my injury my happy place would be at the gym. I would use the equipment and go to classes. No big deal, I was just another member.
When I went back in my wheelchair it was different. Equipment was hard to use, and I didn’t have anyone to ask for help. All of a sudden people were looking at me and my happy place was not my happy place anymore. DPI is the opposite of that… equipment is the same, but it’s spaced out enough that my wheelchair isn’t in the way. Trainers are able to design safe workouts for anyone with any “disability.” Classes are fun and designed for specific skills to help all different users with different diagnoses. I attend the boxing class which at first wasn’t something I wanted to do. Now, I encourage everyone to try it out. I’ve gotten stronger physically and mentally from it. The mental part makes DPI even more special. DPI has given me the courage to not be afraid of who I am. It’s okay to be different and to do things a different way. When I am here, I am part of the DPI family. We encourage each other to be the best version of ourselves.
DPI is a gym with a different purpose...ANY one at ANY level"-Joanna Bonilla (DPI Adaptive Fitness member)
What is one way you are dedicated to raising the bar in the industry?
With adaptive fitness opportunities on the rise, my focus for myself and the DPI Adaptive Fitness trainer team is to continue to maintain high standards for ourselves as adaptive trainers and our adaptive clients by always providing a safe adaptive training environment and utilizing proven effective training protocols to maximize outcomes. In addition to serving our community and beyond, we continue great partnerships like the one we have with Medstar NRH and their No Limits adaptive fitness program which currently offers no-cost, large group adaptive programming to individuals with a physical disability. It is my personal vision and desire to establish a non-profit arm of DPI Adaptive Fitness so that we will be able to offer not just large group adaptive programming but also our aggressive yet effective 1:1 adaptive training by way of scholarship to those whom it will benefit most. Educating and bringing awareness to adaptive fitness and its benefits with continual community interaction and resources and spreading our mantra to never give up!