It started with a pizza. Main Street resident Sam Smith had ordered a delivery from Domino’s, and when he went downstairs to meet the driver he ran into some staff members in the lobby. They’d heard he was a fitness instructor, and after a year of virtual programming at Main Street they were starting to offer in-person activities.

“There were five people sitting in the room saying, ‘What are your boot camps? What boot camps do you offer?’ ” he recalls. “And I explained to them: Spirited Sam’s Workout Jam.”

For Sam, who is autistic, the conversation led to a part-time job teaching group exercise classes. He was already a trainer at Spirit Club in Kensington—he couldn’t wait to bring those skills to Main Street, his home. “It was a surprise interview,” Sam says with a smile. “And I was just picking up a pizza.”

Nearly two years later, Sam’s class—Music City Workout—is one of Main Street’s most popular programs. “Spirited Sam,” as he’s known, is also a musician, and before each session he spends a few hours creating playlists to match the themes he chooses: the ‘80s, Rocky, the Beatles. When he’s teaching, he doesn’t stop moving. Front kicks. Side leg raises. Jogging. High knees. Step jacks. Relays around the room. “I try to make it so that people can feel like they’re included,” he says. “If they can’t lift their legs this high, it’s OK, because they’ll just lift them this high. They can go free-flowing in this class.”


Even when he’s out of breath, he’s pumping everyone up: “You guys are awesome!” he’ll say. “Three, two, one…Main Street, everybody—way to go!” When Main Street Founder Jillian Copeland went to one of his classes, she was planning to do more cardio afterward to get in a longer workout. “I couldn’t run on the treadmill—I was done. My heart was beating out of my chest,” she says. “Sam has so much energy and he makes the class so fun!”

Growing up, Sam knew he wanted to become a fitness instructor, and he hoped to be the kind that “people came up to.” “It’s like being the front man of a rock band. You’re the one in charge—you’re the coach,” he says. “Everybody goes to the concert and they’re like, I really want to have a good time. I try to make it that way.” His other love was hockey, a sport he got into at age 11 after watching The Mighty Ducks. He spent 23 years playing for the Washington Ice Dogs, a program for people with developmental disabilities, and still plays in an adult hockey league. Sam says hockey and fitness appeal to two different sides of him: “When I was [getting] into the hockey part of my life, that was the competitive part.”

After graduating from Walter Johnson High School in 2003, Sam spent four years at CIP Berkshire in Lee, Massachusetts, a transition program for young adults with autism and learning differences. “I got my fitness certificate at Berkshire Community College,” he says proudly. He lived on campus and started watching YouTube videos of Freddie Mercury, which inspired a passion for music. “I was listening to Queen and Dropkick Murphys, and what I saw was that those bands always had a lead singer who was getting all the attention, jumping around on stage,” Sam says. “I figured, I want to be that guy.”

Sam later joined a rock band called NeuroDiversity, which is supported by Upcounty Community Resources. Then he took some voice lessons. He wanted to be “loud, proud and enthusiastic,” like he is when he’s leading fitness classes, but “I had to stay on pitch,” he says.

These days, Sam’s schedule is packed. He works three days a week as a principal administrative aide for the Montgomery County Government (a short walk from his apartment); hands out skates at the Rockville Town Square ice rink, plays soccer and softball for Special Olympics; and writes music on the side. One of his songs is a six-minute single titled “Main Street.”

The chorus:

Here at Main Street,

You can live your very best,

Live your very best,

Live your very best life.