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The word “champion” has more than one definition. One meaning usually includes medals, rings and trophies. The other meaning is far less common, but often much more meaningful. When someone is a champion for a cause or a group of people, they are advocating to impact lives far beyond their own.
Kirra Collins understands both definitions. As an athlete, the self-proclaimed small town girl from Colorado competes in the NPC in the Bikini division, and she has won three shows so far. Her last win came at the 2022 NPC Salt Lake City Championships. After spending eight years as a stay-at-home mom she found a new career as a coach after being asked repeatedly about how she got in such great shape.
“Everyone kept asking me if I was a trainer. So, I got certified and gave it a try to see what happens,” she said. “I got certified and started working in a local gym, and it just exploded.”
Collins became very successful as a model as well. She’s been named “Model of the Year’ by both “Hi Life” magazine and “Lookbook.” While she’s proud of her success in that field, there is one title she still wants to earn—IFBB Pro.
Collins holds a special place for inspiring women as well. “I was just empowering other women and helping them become more comfortable in the gym by teaching them the best foods to eat, how to exercise, and change their bodies at the same time,” said the NPC Bikini competitor. “The gym can be a scary place for women, and even some overweight men in some cases. So, I created an app so when they go into a gym, they know exactly what to do.”
Outside of her role as a mother, her greatest achievement as a champion isn’t onstage. She began working with Adaptive athletes. If you’re not yet familiar with the term adaptive, it’s used to describe men and women who are faced with various physical challenges, including the inability to use arms or legs. For both the athlete and the trainer, it creates the need to adapt.
Collins was already seeing success with her clients, but business really took off after she started helping Adaptive people who want to become fitness enthusiasts. This started when she was helping one of her clients who asked about her husband.
“He was in a wheelchair, and she said there’s no one that’s certified to train someone in a wheelchair. (Trainers) are too nervous to work with him.”
After doing research, Collins found one organization that offered a certification that was adaptive and inclusive. She opted to go through and get certified.
“It was CrossFit based, and I’m not CrossFit. But there was no other accrediting agency that went into detail on adaptive training for fitness. They had ways to help people missing limbs.”
Collins completed the certification and took the prospective client on. While they were working together, she was still researching to find more ways to help him improve. That was when she discovered the Wheelchair division within the IFBB Pro League, a division that culminates on the sport’s most prestigious stage with the Wheelchair Olympia.
“I had thought these guys had definitely written some PDF’s or workout programs or anything that can give me a good idea on how to use strength training,” she stated. “Everything written about adaptive fitness is cardio, cardio, cardio. We need to learn how to help these men and women use strength training.”
Even though she found some information, she needed more. Adaptive trainees need to learn how they can use equipment that quite frankly, wasn’t made for them.
Collins did find that there are patents for things such as jumpless jump rope, and some other items. Thanks to her research and efforts, Collins managed to create the first ever online adaptive program that has a strict focus on strength and conditioning. This program teaches clients how to use equipment, and it goes beyond that.
“Of course, there is cardio involved as well as nutrition timing so we can control bowel movements and how their bodies work. That is a very big thing so they don’t have an accident or what to do if some things don’t work like they should.”
Collins’ connections with her clients don’t simply begin when they walk in the door. She strives to make life easier for them as often as she can – whether it’s through her 24/7 availability to answer questions or by even helping them when they arrive to train.
“I have to help some of them transfer out of their vehicles into their chairs, then into the gym,” she said. This also helps her offer information to her friends that can’t seem to find the motivation to train.
“They tell me they can’t come to the gym, and I tell them ‘He even made it. So, you can too.’ Those little things can empower others to push themselves.”
Collins is working with her father on her own patents to offer even more ways to help adaptive people take their training to a new level. She has also started another business called “Wheelie Strong,” and she is connecting with clothing companies and other businesses to find ways to serve this community. While she has been involved with this undertaking, she’s learned that most of the world at large can’t adequately serve people in wheelchairs or adaptive folks. She wants to play a role in changing that for the better through education.
“If we can just increase awareness for things that don’t exist, it could make a difference.”
Dan Solomon, president of the Mr. Olympia, adds: “Adaptive athletes are among the most inspiring in the world. Their passion and dedication is without equal. I’d like to congratulate Kirra on the important work she’s doing to help these incredible men and women achieve things they never thought were possible.”
Collins exemplifies what it means to be a champion, by every definition of the word. She’s been doing all of this while raising her children as a single mom for the last five years. Whether it’s through her own efforts as an athlete or by helping as many people as she can through her work as a coach, she is striving to help make the fitness community a better place.
“I want to let women and men know that it’s okay to take this leap. You won’t know if you don’t push yourself, fail, and come back. It’s about creating a community where everyone feels safe and included.”
For more information on Wheelie Strong, go to www.wheeliestrong.com