Maria Rabaino: Rollettes June Fitness Challenge

Written by
Whitney Bailey
Content via Rollettes Dance
Rollettes Dance
Written by
Whitney Bailey

Maria Rabaino, a member of the Rollettes Dance team, has an L1 incomplete spinal cord injury. Maria began the Rollettes June Fitness Challenge last year with the support of her teammates and community. The goal of the challenge was to make health and fitness more accessible.

Maria's fitness progress

“The first few years of my injury I was gaining weight but I didn’t notice it was happening. At the Start of 2017, I was unhappy and decided to make a few changes to try and become happier those changes involved working out and eating healthier,” says Maria. However, she admits it was difficult to find workouts for her to do that were challenging, yet still possible. 

Maria talks about a discussion she had with one of her friends. “One day my friend asked me “why don’t you just try squats while holding onto a walker?” the solution was so simple I was shocked I didn’t think to try it. When I first started I could barely do a squat and my husband had to stay near me to make sure I didn’t fall, but now I have so much more control and can do a full squat as long as I am holding onto something,” she says. 

“...If I struggled with finding adaptive workouts then I was sure other people were struggling as well.”

Maria Shoulder Muscles

Maria started posting her workouts on Instagram to be a resource for others. She started seeing many benefits from living a more active lifestyle. “As I continued to workout I discovered so many other benefits in my life besides losing weight. I realized I was happier, my chronic nerve pain wasn’t as bad as it used to be, I was dealing with fewer urine leaks, and my shoulder pain disappeared,” she states. 

In 2018, Maria started the June Rollettes Fitness challenge. At the beginning of each week in June Maria would announce a new fitness theme on her social media such as cardio, core, upper body, etc. Her followers would be challenged to share a photo or video of them participating to show their version of the theme that week.

“So many people, regardless of ability, kept sharing videos of how they work out that more and more people were getting ideas on what was actually possible for them.”

Maria in shirt that says building a ramp to success

There was one fitness theme for this year that was different than last year. The last week was focused on people exercising their legs. “Too many adaptive fitness programs ignore our legs just because some wheelchair users can’t move them but we should still give them love,” says Maria. She admits she was nervous about the reaction the leg work out theme was going to get but states everyone continued to try their hardest and the outcome was amazing. 

Maria gives the following advice to others who are exercising with a spinal cord injury: “You don’t have to be perfect you just need to try to make changes towards living a healthier life. If you focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do you will discover so many new workouts that are possible for you to do!”

Check out all of the adaptive workouts from this year using the hashtag #rlafit19 on Instagram!

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