Working The C.O.R.E Of Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity and Fitness: Working the C.O.R.E of Different Brains

By Steven Dinnen

For this blog I traveled to Orlando, Florida to visit a facility called C.O.R.E.

C.O.R.E. stands for Center of Recovery and Exercise. It’s a rehabilitation studio located in Longwood, Florida. They specialize in Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Parkinson’s disease, and many other neurodiverse conditions. One thing that is particularly cool about them is that the founder of C.O.R.E. Matthew Davies has a Spinal Cord Injury and can be found working out and recovering at the Orlando location at least 2-3 times a week. The owners, Matthew and his wife, made sure the environment didn’t feel like a hospital setting. They did a great job in that aspect by making the walls have subtle but exciting colors, and having a boxing ring in their studio.

Another great part of this organization is their C.O.R.E. Foundation. This foundation helps find scholarships for their clients so they can afford their sessions. At C.O.R.E., they don’t take insurance which sounds like a bad thing but it’s not. The reason it’s a good thing is if C.O.R.E. accepted insurance they would be restricted to only doing what the insurance wanted to cover. This would cause the client to receive basic rehab protocols for the injury, but not the chance to go beyond the injury or paralysis.

The gentlemen that I talked to was Matthew Icenogie AKA “Coach Ice”. He went to school at Franklin College in Indiana and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. In 2015, he was looking for an internship and C.O.R.E. was one of the options. He decided to give it a try and flew down to Orlando, Florida for a semester. After the internship, he was told that once he earned his degree he would have a job waiting for him at C.O.R.E. He is now a full-time trainer, the floor manager/ lead neuro-exercise specialist, internship coordinator, and Rock Steady Boxing Coach. The rest of this blog reflects the wonderful conversation we had.

At C.O.R.E., the trainers are called Neuro-Exercise Specialist, and are truly unique when it comes to their certifications and backgrounds. What the 6 trainers have in common is they either have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an Exercise Science related field. During every session, they follow 6 Key Components that create the foundation for the recovery process: Functional movement, Weight bearing, Functional Electronic Stimulus (FES), Core exercises, Mass practice, and Locomotive training. Plus, they have a collection of their notes from every single patient and session. These notes help all the trainers know exactly what the client did, how they felt, and the trainer’s opinion on the client’s last session.

At C.O.R.E their equipment, and exercise programs are as unique as the people who walk through their doors. The programs that they offer include Rock Steady Boxing, ReWalk, and now an Aqua program for pool rehabilitation.

They became affiliated with Rock Steady Boxing when their Executive Director at the time Dr. Nicole Ingrando, co-founder of North Orlando Spine Center, decided to add the program as part of their services. By March 2016, three employees including Matthew were sent to be certified in Rock Steady Boxing and launched their first class in May 2016. One of the three original people that went to get certified is their current Executive Director Malerie Murphy.

Other programs, like their ReWalk program, use exoskeletons to help the client sit up and down, and get the feeling of walking again. The exoskeleton acts as the person’s legs. The big requirement to be a part of the program is having the upper body strength to stand up straight and stay standing when the machine starts to move. There is a trainer holding on to the back of the exoskeleton to make sure you don’t fall, but if the person doesn’t have the core strength then the exoskeleton will not work properly. The end goal is for the client to become comfortable enough to get their own exoskeleton for use in every day life, and reclaim independence they may have previously thought wan unattainable.

Overall, the C.O.R.E. facility is designed with the coolest gadgets and best expertise to help their clients “move beyond paralysis”. The team is so dedicated to this that they have a monthly success story wall in the middle of the facility, where trainers share the triumphs of clients to inspire everyone that sets foot in the facility.

Do you, or someone close to you, have similar challenges? Have you found training to be helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

For more about C.O.R.E. in Orlando, Florida, website:

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Steven Dinnen is a University of South Florida graduate, with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. While earning his degrees he spent continuous hours studying the human body through both course work and practical applications such as exercise labs, personal experience, and an internship. He currently is working as a personal trainer/ exercise scientist at Best Day Fitness Studio in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The combination of his degree plus his experience as a trainer has allowed him to flourish both on a personal and professional level, and learn through experience what amazing things the human body can do. This has been the driving force behind his passion to blog, and share these experiences. He also loves to write about the future of the fitness industry, and anything he thinks the general population should know to improve their overall health and wellness.