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A winning team.

For eight weeks during the summer, personal trainers Christine Ritschel and Joseph Zita volunteer at the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) of Monmouth in Monmouth, New Jersey, teaching fitness to developmentally disabled adults. On Monday evenings, they lead a group of about 16, stretching and sweating with exercise bands and relays, or lifting "weighs" (actually laundry detergent bottles filled with water).

"Students are very consistent and come every week," says Ritschel. "They can't wait to get on the bus to come to class. They're more excited about the class than students who aren't mentally retarded or disabled." In fact, the class has doubled since Ritschel and Zita began teaching it.

Ritschel and Zita have seen vast improvements in their students. "One man, after months of working out, is now talking and better coordinated," says Ritschel. "One person with Down's Syndrome used to be a complete couch potato, and we've seen a big difference in his mobility."

The majority of the adults they teach are overweight. "Their caretakers feed them junk and lots of desserts, "says Ritschel. "They have soda at all their functions. When we chaperoned their prom, we kept pouring them water instead."

They also try to teach good food choices and nutritional planning in lectures after class. They are seeing many of their students eat more fruit and say no to soda.

"For me, the greatest rewards are seeing people socialize and feel more confident about themselves," adds Zita, who is AFAA certified and also leads a walking club at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey, that raises money for charity. "I believe the better you feel, the better you produce. That's the type of atmosphere we like to create and what we're seeing happen."

In their time at the Arc of Monmouth, Ritschel and Zita have gotten close to their students. In fact, many of them will be attending their upcoming wedding.

For more information about the ARC of Monmouth and its volunteering opportunities, call (732) 493-1919, ext. 400.

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Title Annotation:Christine Ritschel and Joseph Zita teaching fitness to developmentally disabled adults
Publication:American Fitness
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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