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“He inspires people:” Man with Down syndrome launches fitness class for those with special needs

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OGDEN, Utah — If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get in better shape, we have a story of a man who may be great motivation. Ogden’s James Fitzgerald is a special fitness instructor, helping those with special needs get fit at Gold’s Gym. But his Saturday morning workout is no ordinary class, because he is no ordinary teacher.

“One thing I like about this class is it makes my heart work faster,” James said. “I like to do weights and cardio and mix up the workout.”

The 37-year-old has Down syndrome. He helps his younger brother, Evan Fitzgerald, with the class designed specifically for those with special needs to get in better shape.

Evan said he knew his brother needed exercise when he got up to 200 pounds.

“His health was compromised,” Evan said. “He’s a short dude, so a little bit of weight gain is a big deal.”

So far, James has lost 20 pounds and has been such an inspiration — especially to his sweetheart, Lisa Wilson, and friend Andre Trease. Both also have Down syndrome.

Kyle Scoville of Gold’s Gym says those who come to the class “love it.”

“They’re all so happy, and they just love being able to come here and be able to improve,” Scoville said.

James is also a very popular employee at the gym, working on the maintenance team for the past eight years. But he’s also popular for another big reason: He recently received Gold’s Gym’s Legacy Award, given to the most inspirational employee from 700 Gold’s Gyms worldwide.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was getting it.”

“A Gold’s Gym could have anywhere from 50 to 200 employees, so multiply that by 700, I mean, that’s huge. He inspires people,” Scoville said.

Evan has noticed more people coming up to his brother and telling him how awesome he is.

“I think he loves that,” he said. “I think the Down syndrome thing, people expect less when really he can be as much as he wants to be.”

James loves to encourage his friends by showing an example by doing it himself. He also invites others with special needs nationwide “to come and workout and stay healthy.”