INDIANAPOLIS — A local physical therapist is working to making group fitness more accessible for amputees in Central Indiana.

“I’ve always had this idea of starting my own gym, specifically for amputees,” said Curtis Wainman, who specializes in working with people with lower extremity amputations.

Wainman, who is the manager of education and community resources at Kenney Orthopedics, said when he met the owners of Grateful Gains Gym on Indianapolis’ southeast side, he quickly found out they wanted to support him in his mission, offering him their space to start the group fitness class.

“I’m very thankful to them and this opportunity to host it here,” said Wainman.

The class, held bi-weekly, is free and focuses on strength, flexibility and balance with exercises that can be modified for everyone to ensure safe participation. Wainman said it’s open to people of all functional levels and ages. Caregivers are also welcome to join.

“As a physical therapist, I know firsthand how frustrating it is when you’re stuck in a plateau trying to get a patient through and insurance says, ‘no, we’re not going to authorize any more visits,’ so you send somebody home with the best program you can, and you just hope and pray that they follow it,” said Wainman.

Wainman said he envisioned an opportunity to create a space for amputees that went beyond the home program, but didn’t force anyone into an environment they might not be comfortable in just yet.

“Working with prosthetics, you see people who are kind of in the in-between or they’ve graduated from PT and they want to do a little more, but they don’t feel comfortable enough to go get a membership,” said Wainman. “I think it’s really empowering for the patients that they take that first steps into a program like this.”

It was through working with his first amputee patient in 2015 where Wainman said his idea for this program began to form. He said his patient would go to walking school, which provided a group setting, and he started to notice the benefits of having that support group.

“He would just light up and he would see other people working out and it was a great environment,” said Wainman.

Seeing his vision come to fruition has been a dream, said Wainman, who shared he started a support group back in 2019, but when the pandemic began, it made it harder to host. He’s hoping this brings back the group setting and allows people to enjoy themselves and get stronger in the process.

“Getting people together, enjoying sitting and talking together and having the same fun working out together has been so beneficial,” he said. “Seeing people laugh and encourage each other in a sense of also being physically active has just been so rewarding.”

Several sessions have been held as the program began to get underway and there’s now a schedule in place, with classes planned for every other Tuesday. Some classes have had up to eight participants in each. While Wainman hopes to keep growing, he is thrilled with the progress so far.

Bob Allman said he’s been to all of the classes so far and looks forward to seeing it expand.

“I enjoy getting out and doing stuff like this. I don’t really go to a gym on a regular basis or anything like that,” said Allman. “It’s free therapy. I mean, the same kind of thing you’d be doing going to a physical therapist; you’d be paying them $100 an hour or whatever cost.”

While Wainman said he hopes to share what he’s learned in his studies and experience as a physical therapist, he wants people to know it will be more than just that.

“I want to implement anything I learn for being the best physical therapist for these patients here. I’m not doing physical therapy here; I’m just trying to implement what I’ve learned for these guys,” said Wainman.

Allman said that going through his own journey taught him the importance of having people to lean on for any questions or concerns that might arise.

“It’s kind of interesting to meet people who are in the same kind of situation you’re in,” said Allman.

“Almost exactly three years ago is when I lost my leg, and I haven’t had a whole lot of problems or anything like that, but I enjoy talking to people who are going through the process right now or soon to be to help allay some of the fears because it’s a big unknown. Odds are you don’t know anybody who’s an amputee when you become an amputee,” said Allman.

He said, there are many questions people may not know to ask before, or even after. Groups like this, he said, help provide an outlet to freely ask those questions or even answer them for someone else beginning their journey.

“I enjoy the education part of it, too,” said Allman, who shared he is a firm believer in the group support concept.

Allman said he also knows that working with a physical therapist dozens of times in the first few months after his amputation was crucial to making big strides. He’s thankful for the opportunity to continue making progress and meeting new friends, all while breaking a sweat.

“You don’t have to be a workout warrior,” said Allman. “I would say, move it or lose it. If you don’t get up and walk around or work at it, it’s going to get harder every week.”

“It’s kind of that camaraderie of, we can do this together. Everyone is working in the same situation. Everyone has different componentry; legs are built differently but we’re all using the same muscles,” said Wainman. “We all start at the same point, like it’s kind of misery loves company, but we’re all working together for the same goal.”

Because of his training and specialty in prosthetics, Wainman said he works to create a safe environment where nobody is at risk for getting injured.

“It’s really just getting the right muscles activated and making sure everyone’s getting more out of the session that they can’t get at home,” said Wainman. “I’d love to take and progress this to where we can give handouts for things people can do at home, just to stack it so in between they’re able to keep progressing and keep getting the most out of their daily lives and keep empowering people to do more.”

The class is held at Grateful Gains Gym, located at 5305 Commerce Square Apt. A in Indianapolis. The next class session is scheduled for November 8 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Anyone interested in attending or who may have questions is asked to reach out to Wainman at (309) 657-6032. You can also connect with him by joining the group AmpNation Indiana.