Blind Ambition: One Woman’s Journey to Fitness Despite Disability

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Bettina Dolinsek is guided by her vision. Without the sense of sight, her abilities surprise a lot of people.

"When I first wanted to become certified as a blind Crossfit trainer, people were like, 'You're crazy. That is not attainable. Why don't you try something more realistic,'" said Dolinsek, who is totally blind. "Because it had never been done before."

But Dolinsek had her eyes on the prize. She began her pursuit for a healthier lifestyle four years ago. When she started, she wasn't exactly an athlete.

"I was the head of a wellness committee at a job I worked here in Des Moines, and I was overweight by a lot. Probably 50 to 60 pounds," she said. "And then my whole mission from that point forever was, I want to get really fit. I want to get certified so I can teach Crossfit. I want to show blind people that if they want to be fit, they can. That there's no reason they can't."

Now she loves working out with others so much, she can't just call one gym home. She regularly attends classes at Crossfit Merle Hay and Max Oxygen Crossfit Downtown in the metro. She teaches foundations courses for beginners and offers her assistance whenever someone needs pointers. While she needs a helping hand from time to time to get through a brutal workout, she'll tell you her disability doesn't get in the way.

"It doesn't at all, and that's what I love about it. I would have to say if you were to ask me what the difference is between me and anyone else in this gym, I'd say nothing. We're all athletes, we're all working toward the same goal. Everybody's accepted, we're a community, and that's why I love it so much," she said.

Her husband, Cody, is also totally blind. He's an adjunct professor at Drake University and says he prefers to exercise his mind. But Bettina and Cody provide much-needed motivation to pursue their individual goals.

"Of course we have different passions, and so it's neat to get to talk to each other because we always encourage each other to continue," she said. "The dream is to make it someday where I can be just solely a coach."

It's a dream she chases every day with blind ambition. Combined with a positive attitude, and the thirst to help others in her shoes, Bettina Dolinsek is doing what she set out to to: Set an example for others.

"I want to just tell people that whatever dream you have, don't make excuses," she said. "You know, I'm too old. I can't go back to college. I can't work out the way you do because it's too hard, I'll get hurt. Everybody comes up with a laundry list of excuses. And if you come up with those, I'll tell you, yes you can't. Because you're not allowing yourself to be open to it."