Damon Vincent, owner of Unique Health & Fitness (currently renamed 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.
26-year-old Damon grew up with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a condition that prevents the adrenal glands from producing enough cortisol. While his parents allowed him to have a normal life playing football, wrestling and riding a mountain bike, he was still on medication and had to carry a medical alert. He was “determined to surpass himself” and did not want his condition to hold him back. The experience shaped Damon’s mindset and he follows his personal and professional calling to empower others, especially people with special needs.
His work with people from all walks of life led him to partner with the DREAMS Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for people with special needs. In August 2020, Damon opened Unique Health and Fitness, Louisiana’s first and only fitness and health center dedicated to unique people. DREAMS founder Donielle Watkins helped Damon launch Unique Fitness; today, all meetings, arts programs, cheering practices, etc. of DREAMS take place in the establishment. “We couldn’t have started without the help of Donielle and DREAMS.”
“I was blessed to find my calling from a very young age. I wanted to provide a place to belong in a community that was really about the communal aspect of wellness together. It’s a group of people who come together with the same end goal in mind, to be fitter, healthier and more independent.I’m a fitness professional and that’s how I know how to do this….at the gym. community and self-improvement mission.Always strive, never give up.
Damon says of this special population (which may include people with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, amputations, autism and Down syndrome), “These are champions on their own. These individuals already have it mentally. They have fought all their lives. They had to work so hard all their lives and couldn’t find excuses. So when they step into the gym, it’s about equipping them with the tools and opportunities to make it shine. That’s why I love it so much! It’s different from working with the general population.
Damon provides a professional, comprehensive fitness solution designed for anyone who needs a unique approach to fitness for their cognitive or physical needs. He wants to see people move and be fit all their lives. Damon mentioned that while there are generally many therapies available for children, once a person reaches adolescence and enters adulthood, those opportunities can diminish. The gym is a place where “unique people can move and stay fit for a lifetime.”
You won’t see any weight machines at this gym, as the lack of neuromuscular engagement associated with the machines is not helpful for people with special needs. Free weights provide optimal resistance training and give athletes the ability to learn to control their movements. It also makes athletes stronger and gives them the independence to lift themselves up, go to festivals, hang out and enjoy life. Flexibility and cardiovascular fitness are also targeted.
Athletes recently enjoyed participating in the club’s “One Olympics” and there were serious competitions are held in categories such as martial arts, weightlifting moves, farmer’s races, and more. Damon says family members were shocked and impressed when they saw how much the athletes pushed themselves to compete.
Damon’s new facility at 133 Digby Avenue in Lafayette, in partnership with Gladiators Acadamy of Lafayette, opens August 15, 2022 and is a state-of-the-art training facility. Gladiators Academy’s Tim Credeur 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 provide a wonderful opportunity to offer both MMA for elite fighters and physical training for unique individuals under one roof.
Damon is also a professional mixed martial arts fighter and recently won his third title by defeating Cody Jenkins via first-round submission at 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 boundless sport that taxes individuals on 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 on Wednesday.
Discover Lafayette would like to thank Alice Landry for reaching out to showcase the work of Damon Vincent. She wrote: “My son, Hugo, has been in the gym for about 6 months, and in that short time Hugo has gotten physically stronger, but more importantly, he’s part of something. It’s hard to sum up in words what inclusion means to someone with special needs. It’s magic. Damon and his family make me proud to live in Acadiana.
Damon Vincent’s faith, drive and love for others is truly inspiring. Best wishes, Damon, for a bright and successful future!
For more information, visit https://fitnessforspecialneeds.com/.