The Gateway to South Louisiana
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Damon Vincent, owner of Unique Health & Fitness (currently being rebranded as TrainUnique) in Lafayette joins Discover Lafayette to share his passion for helping others. Damon has dedicated his professional career to helping athletes with special needs.
A young man of 26, Damon grew up with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, a condition that prevents adrenal glands from producing sufficient cortisol. While his parents allowed him to have a normal life by playing football, wrestling, and riding dirt bikes, he was always on medication and had to wear a medic alert. He was “hell-bent on pushing himself” and didn’t want his condition to hold him back. The experience shaped Damon’s mindset and he is following his personal and professional calling to empower others, especially individuals who have special needs.
His work with people of all backgrounds led him to partner with the DREAMS Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to providing opportunities for individuals with special needs. In August 2020, Damon opened Unique Health and Fitness, Louisiana’s first and only dedicated fitness and health center for Unique Individuals. DREAMS’ founder, Donielle Watkins, helped Damon get Unique Fitness off the ground; today, All of DREAMS’ meetings, art programs, cheer practices, etc. are held at the facility. “We couldn’t have gotten started without the help of Donielle and DREAMS.”
“I was blessed to find my calling at an early age. I wanted to provide a place of belonging in a community that was really focused on the communal aspect of getting better together. It’s a group of people coming together with the same end goal in mind, to be fitter, healthier, and more independent. I’m a fitness professional and this is how I know how to do that….at the gym. It’s a mission of community and self-improvement. Always striving, never giving up.”
Damon says of this special population (which can include people with cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, autism, and Downs syndrome), “They are champions on their own. These individuals already have it mentally. They’ve been fighting their whole lives They’ve had to work so hard all their lives and have not been able to make excuses. So when they come into the gym, it’s about equipping them with the tools and opportunities to let that shine out. That’s why I love it so much! It’s different than working with the general population.
Damon provides a professional and comprehensive fitness solution designed for all individuals who need a Unique approach to fitness for their Cognitive or Physical needs. He wants to see people moving and being fit their entire lives. Damon mentioned that while there are typically a lot of therapies available for children, once a person reaches their teens and moves into adult life, those opportunities can dwindle. The gym is a place for “unique people to move and be fit their entire lives.”
You won’t see weight machines at this gym as the lack of neuromuscular engagement involved with machines is not helpful to individuals with special needs. Free weights offer optimal resistance training and give the athletes the ability to learn to control their movements. It also makes the athletes stronger and gives them the independence to be able to lift themselves, go to festivals, get out and enjoy life. Flexibility and cardiovascular fitness are also targeted.
The athletes recently enjoyed competing in the club’s “Unique Olympics” and there was serious competition going on in categories such as martial arts, power-lifting moves, farmer’s carries, and more. Damon says family members were shocked and impressed when they witnessed how hard the athletes pushed themselves to compete.
Damon’s new facility at 133 Digby Avenue in Lafayette, in partnership with Gladiators Acadamy of Lafayette, opens on August 15, 2022, and is a state-of-the-art training center. Tim Credeur of Gladiators Academy approached Damon to be a partner; the men knew each other through MMA as Tim trains Damon. “Tim is legendary and has the best martial arts academy in the state,” says Damon. It will offer a wonderful opportunity to offer both MMA to elite fighters and fitness training for unique individuals all under the same roof.
Damon is also a Professional Mixed Martial Arts Fighter and recently won his third title, defeating Cody Jenkins via Submission in Round 1 in an event held at the Heymann Center. For those unfamiliar with MMA, anything goes as competitors combine techniques from boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, karate, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), and other disciplines. Wild and woolly….MMA is a no holds barred sport that taxes individuals to the brink.
Damon and his wife, Catherine, have a beautiful family. Sons Bruce and Amos watch over the newest member of the Vincent family, little Charlotte, who just turned three weeks old this Wednesday.
Discover Lafayette would like to thank Alice Landry for reaching out to introduce the work of Damon Vincent. She wrote, “My son, Hugo, has attended the gym for about 6 months, and in that short time, Hugo has become physically stronger, but more importantly, he is part of something. It’s hard to reduce to words what being included means to a person with special needs. It is magic. Damon and his family make me proud to live in Acadiana.”
Damon Vincent’s faith, drive, and love of others are truly inspirational. Best wishes, Damon, on a bright and successful future!
For more information, visit https://fitnessforspecialneeds.com/.
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The Gateway to South Louisiana