When Joseph Raineri was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 13, a doctor told him that he was probably going to live a limited life devoid of the personal and professional joys that most people get to experience. He probably shouldn’t expect to have a fulfilling career, said the doctor, or expect to one day get married and have children. Raineri wasn’t going to buy into that, though, particularly when it came to his love of sports and fitness.
“I just refused,” he said.
Over the years Raineri has run 19 marathons, completed an Iron Man triathlon, been a member of the U.S. disabled cross country ski team, and has climbed Mt. Hood and other snow-capped mountains around the world.
Professionally, he has worked in the mental health field as a therapist for over 15 years, and personally he has walked down the aisle and been a father to three children. In short, he has led a fuller life than most can even dream of.
None of that came easy, though, and Raineri credits a positive attitude and his training as a therapist for helping him make of his life what he has. Instead of feeling like he was being cheated out of something Raineri focused on the things that would still be available to him and tried to make the best of it. He might not be able to one day drive, he said, but he could definitely still run. That attitude helped take him to great heights, literally.
These days Bellevue-resident Raineri can be found leading a morning fitness class at , something he started doing after the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department reached out to him several years ago.
“They were looking for a fitness class for people to do before going to work,” Raineri said.
Raineri jokingly says that he got roped into teaching the class because they couldn’t find anyone else dumb enough to teach a 6 am class, but it’s obvious that he does it because he loves the work.
Raineri describes the class as a bit of cardio, resistance training and core work, and says that those who show up seem to really enjoy his approach.
“They’re loving it and they keep coming back,” Raineri said.
Raineri hopes that those who come to the class can experience the same sort of benefits he has gotten from athletics and exercise.
“It’s a great connection between mind and body,” Raineri said. He also hopes they learn the same sort of life lessons that he has.
“You don’t have to be a marathon runner, you don’t have to be an Iron Man-distance triathlete, to enjoy life,” Raineri said.
Raineri no longer teaches the class through the Parks Department, having branched out on his own a couple of years ago. The class runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 am, and is $5 per session. When the weather is nice the workout is at Islander Stadium. When it gets cold they head into . Those interested in learning more can contact Raineri at 425-698-3452.