Legally blind, Joseph Raineri motivates MI boot campers

June 28, 2015 | by Julie Schuman

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Joseph Raineri

For Joseph Raineri, being legally blind isn’t a deterrent to staying physically fit and challenging others to push beyond their own fitness comfort zone.

The 51-year-old personal fitness trainer and licensed counselor leads the Fitness Boot Camp at the Mercer Island High School stadium. The camp, for adults and teens of all fitness levels, is from 6 to 7 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Participants work out with exercises designed to increase blood flow, overall health, well-being, and stamina. The cost is $6 per participant per class.

Despite its militant moniker, the Fitness Boot Camp isn’t reminiscent of movies such as “Private Benjamin” or “G.I. Jane.” In fact, at times, it’s more likely to take on the humor of Gomer Pyle or even Monty Python.

Raineri is always inspirational, but he hasn’t always felt upbeat. When he was diagnosed at 13 with retinitis pigmentosa – a progressive degenerative, hereditary disease which affects night and peripheral vision and makes things appear blurry – he felt a lot of anger. But with the help of the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes, Raineri was able to put his energy into positive physical and mental activities, and he was unable to keep doing a lot of the things he had enjoyed.

Joseph-1Raineri has completed the Ironman World Championship Triathlon, competed in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 cross-country skiing events in the para-Olympic games, has run 19 marathons, and has participated in numerous long-distance biking events, including the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride.

Being in good physical shape is one of the things a person can do to enhance overall well-being, Raineri says.

“It’s important to feel good, and part of feeling good is laughing and having fun,” he said. “At the very least, people who go through the program will increase their cardiovascular strength, lower their resting heart rate, and will be able to do a more intense workout with greater stamina.”