The word "champion" has more than one definition. A meaning usually includes medals, rings and trophies. The other meaning is far rarer, but often much more meaningful. When someone is committed to a cause or a group of people, they are committed to impacting lives far beyond their own.
Kirra Collins understands both definitions. As an athlete, the self-proclaimed small-town girl from Colorado competes in NPC's bikini division and has won three shows so far. Her last win came at the 2022 NPC Salt Lake City Championships. After spending eight years as a housewife, she found a new career as a coach after being repeatedly asked how she got into such great shape.
"Everyone asked me if I was a coach. So I got certified and tried it to see what happens," she said. "I got certified and started working out at a local gym and it just exploded."
Collins also became very successful as a model. She was named Model of the Year by both Hi Life Magazine and Lookbook. While proud of her success in this field, there is one title she still hopes to earn - IFBB Pro.
Collins also holds a special place for inspirational women. "I've just empowered other women and helped them feel more comfortable in the gym by teaching them the best foods, how to work out, and transforming their bodies at the same time," said the NPC bikini competitor. “The gym can be a scary place for women, and in some cases even some overweight men. So I made an app so when they go to the gym, they know exactly what to do.”
Aside from being a mother, her greatest achievement as a champion is not on stage. She began working with adaptive athletes. In case you're unfamiliar, the term adaptive refers to men and women who face various physical challenges, including the inability to use arms or legs. The need to adapt arises for both the athlete and the coach.
Collins was already having success with her clients, but business really took off after she started helping adaptive people who wanted to become fitness enthusiasts. This started when she helped one of her clients who was asking about her husband.
“He was in a wheelchair and she said there is no one certified to train someone in a wheelchair. (Coaches) are too nervous to work with him.”
After researching, Collins found an organization that offered an adaptable and inclusive certification. She decided to go through with it and get certified.
"It was based on CrossFit and I'm not CrossFit. But there was no other accrediting agency that dealt extensively with adaptive fitness training. They had opportunities to help people who were missing limbs.”
Collins completed the certification and took over the prospect. While they worked together, she was still researching to find more ways to help him improve. That's when she discovered the Wheelchair division within the IFBB Pro League, a division culminating in the Wheelchair Olympia on the sport's most prestigious stage.
"I thought these guys definitely wrote some PDFs or workout programs or anything that can give me a good idea of how to use strength training," she said. “Everything written about adaptive fitness is cardio, cardio, cardio. We need to learn how to help these men and women with strength training.”
Although she found some information, she needed more. Adaptive trainees need to learn how to use devices that, frankly, weren't made for them.
Collins found that there are patents for things like jumpless skipping ropes and a few other items. Thanks to her research and efforts, Collins was able to create the first-ever adaptive online program that has a strict focus on strength and conditioning. This program teaches customers how to use equipment and goes beyond.
“Obviously, cardio is involved in addition to diet timing so we can control bowel movements and how her body is functioning. That's a very big deal so they don't have an accident or what to do when some things aren't working as they should."
Collins' connections with her clients don't just begin when they walk in the door. She strives to make their lives easier as often as possible - whether that's by being available 24/7 to answer questions or by helping them when they come to practice.
"I have to help some of them get out of their vehicles, into their chairs, and then into the gym," she said. This also helps her to offer information to her friends who don't seem to find motivation to exercise.
"They tell me they can't come to the gym, and I tell them, 'He even made it. So you can do it too.” Those little things can empower others to push themselves.”
Collins works with her father on her own patents to provide even more ways to help adaptable people take their training to new levels. She has also started another business called Wheelie Strong and works with clothing companies and other businesses to find ways to serve this community. While involved with this venture, she learned that most people around the world cannot adequately serve people in wheelchairs or people who are adaptable. She wants to help change this for the better through education.
"If we can just raise awareness of things that don't exist, it could make a difference."
Dan Solomon, President of the Mr. Olympia, adds, “Adaptive athletes are some of the most inspiring in the world. Her passion and commitment are unparalleled. I want to congratulate Kirra on the important work she is doing to help these incredible men and women achieve things they never thought possible.”
Collins exemplifies what it means to be a champion, in every definition of the word. She has done all of this while raising her children as a single mom for the past five years. Whether through her own efforts as an athlete or by helping as many people as possible through her work as a coach, she strives to make the fitness community a better place.
"I want women and men to know that it's okay to take that leap. You won't know unless you try, fail and come back. It's about creating a community where everyone feels safe and included.”
For more information on Wheelie Strong, visit www.wheeliestrong.com
Follow Kirra on Instagram @kirracollins and @aspexfitness. You can also visit their website.