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CrossFit fosters unlikely friendship

Chris Phillips trains Matthew Siegelin

Grace Hooley | Echo

Zealous.

This is how senior exercise science major and CrossFit trainer Chris Phillips describes 16-year-old Matthew Siegelin.

“Everyone should have a chance to meet and learn from him,” Phillips said. “He has taught me how to approach intimidating things with courage, and I am thankful for the ways in which he has worked to overcome some of the limitations he has.”

Matthew Siegelin and Chris Phillips enjoy working out together each week.

Matthew Siegelin and Chris Phillips enjoy working out together each week.

A year and a half ago Matthew Siegelin began training with Phillips. Phillips worked in the admissions office over the summer of 2017 with mother of Matthew Siegelin, Christa Siegelin. They had been talking about children with special needs, and Phillips met Matthew Siegelin soon after.

Matthew Siegelin has Down syndrome.

“One important thing to note is that in addition to Matthew’s Down Syndrome, he is also Type 1 Diabetic,” Christa Siegelin said. “Maintaining a healthy body weight is often a challenge from individuals with Down Syndrome, but his diabetes makes it even more important. We want to do all we can to help him be a good steward of his body.”

At the time of meeting Matthew Siegelin, Phillips was a pre-med major, but she was planning to change to exercise science. Christa asked her if she wanted to try working with Matthew, and Phillips agreed.

Exercising with conditions like Matthew Siegelin’s can be hard, but Phillips said that he shows dedication, devotion and passion in everything he does with positivity and enthusiasm.

“I work with Matthew because he is willing,” Phillips said. “He pushes and challenges himself and is very eager to try new things. This has created a very fruitful fitness journey for him. He has made some serious improvements in not only his physical PR’s (personal records) and gains, but he has also overcome some personal and mental fears.”

About four to five months after Matthew Siegelin started working with Phillips, Christa Siegelin and their family began to see a difference in Matthew Siegelin’s strength. He was stronger and more energetic on walks.

So, Christa Siegelin and her husband Mark Siegelin joined the class as well.

“We have come to really enjoy Crossfit, and the type of exercising it provides,” Christa Siegelin said. “Matthew enjoys being successful in lifting weights. He loves being around people. The culture of this group has been so welcoming to all of us. Everyone is so encouraging, willing to celebrate milestones, appreciating when participants put in the effort.”

Matthew Siegelin is the youngest of four brothers, and working with Phillips in CrossFit has given him the energy to keep up with them. He also enjoys obstacle course shows like “American Ninja Warrior” and “WipeOut.” He trains during the commercials, such as doing pushups, in order to be ready for when his chance will come to try out for one of these shows.

Matthew Siegelin wanted Taylor readers to know that he likes to do goblet squats, air squats, burpees, pushups and box jumps. He also likes working out with the Taylor college students and being able to do things like his brothers.

“Working with Matthew is my greatest joy,” Phillips said. “I look forward to the two hours a week we spend together. Matthew’s positivity is contagious. I am incredibly proud of the milestones he has made in our times together. Matthew also brings an energy of lightheartedness. There is not a moment where dancing is not suitable with Matthew, and it is likely that you would see us break into dance at any given moment.”

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