Written by Tony Flower
What stops us going to the gym? It could be through lack of money, lack of time, lack of effort, or lack of motivation perhaps. Of course, if the gym is closed due to a global pandemic then we have another excuse, but what about those who never get the chance? According to a survey by the Activity Alliance in 2019/20, only 40% of disabled people feel they are given the opportunity to be as active as they would like, despite 70% being motivated.
The Talkback Sports Academy aims to redress the balance and break down barriers, by offering inclusive sports and activity, adapted for everyone. The focus is to enable physical and mental wellbeing as part of a healthy lifestyle, to create social opportunities and to help people feel good about themselves.
Move on Up
The Talkback Moving-On Group, comprising five members with learning disabilities and autism, piloted a six week ‘independent gym use’ project. In partnership with Reflexions Gym in Aylesbury, the group enjoyed a circuit class and used a variety of cardio equipment. The gym was very flexible and supportive, responding well to individual needs. Two staff ran the class and worked with the members to use the equipment safely and to get the maximum out of each session. Everyone had individual goals and, apart from the obvious fitness benefits of increased activity, the group grew in confidence and self-esteem.
In the final week, everyone was delighted to be given a certificate to recognise their successful completion of six weeks’ gym use. The whole project was a great success, with all participating fully and striving to improve each week. But this venture was not just about exercise. Yes, the aim was to get everyone active, but also to enable them to gain the necessary skills to attend a gym independently.
- Travel training – they walked 25 minutes to the gym and got the bus back.
- Social skills – they greeted staff, were polite, respectful, and listened to instructions.
- Personal hygiene – they understood the importance of taking a shower after exercise.
- Awareness of etiquette – correct use of the public changing rooms.
- Responsibility – remembering their gym kit, padlock, and wash stuff each week; and swiping their gym card on entry.
- Development – one member asked to lead the warm-up and was supported to do this.
- Mutual support – they all encouraged each other.
- Setting targets – each person established individual goals as part of a group exercise.
- Positivity – everyone felt good about themselves at the end of the sessions.
- Independence – one member said that he now feels able to join a gym independently.
We Will Be Back
All agreed that the sessions were fun, that they enjoyed being active and had learned new skills. Hopefully, they will get the chance to return, set new goals and build on their confidence and fitness.
What stops us going to the gym? It should never be through lack of opportunity – no matter what your ability. Talkback will be building on this and bringing in more gym sessions, to complement the other 12 sports facilitated.
To find out more about the Talkback Sports Academy, contact Helen Krauze or Kellie Killeen at firstname.lastname@example.org