It’s never quiet in the OLT building in Creggan. There is always someone nipping in for a class, a chat, a cup of tea or to discuss the best way to get fit and healthy.
Each day, except Sunday’s, there are a series of classes on offer aimed at everyone from children as young as two to the golden oldies (or those looking to do a ‘Silver Circuit’ as they may prefer).
There is everything on offer from Kettlebells to Spin, Pump to Fight Club and Bums & Tums to Weigh n Go! - and the centre’s running club BOLT is one of the city’s fastest growing.
But at the heart of it all, according to Project Director Seamus Heaney, is a desire to improve all aspects of health within the Creggan community - at a level which suits each and every person, of each and every age and each and every ability.
“While people might focus on the physical aspect of the programmes we offer, we also like to look at the feel good factor. That can’t be underestimated,” Seamus said. “We see people transformed physically but also we see giant strides in terms of their mental health and self esteem.”
Paula is a mum who became involved with the OLT when she wanted to lose weight after the birth of her youngest child. When asked what inspired her, she replied honestly “The size of me!”.
Knowing she had to do something she signed up for a ten week exercise and weight loss programme with OLT under The Biggest Loser banner and in that time lost a staggering three and a half stone.
Since the programme ended she has lost a further one and a half stone and has dropped from a size 18-20 to a size 12.
She describes her experience with Biggest Loser as the “biggest change of my life” and says she feels like a new person. “I’m not saying it was easy - there were times it was tough.
“The first time we went running out the line I swore I was never, ever going back. It nearly killed me - but I stayed and with the support of the trainers and my team-mates I stuck it out and lost three and a half stone.
“My whole life has changed - and I’ve brought those changes into the house now too.”
One of the other programmes Paula has become involved in is the SWEET project which works with families of young children to try and tackle the issue of childhood obesity and to help families set fun and health targets.
Aimed at two different age groups (2-4 years and 8-11 years) the SWEET project can be accessed through schools, health care professionals or self referral.
“And part of the projects success is down to the fact that once a child and their family have completed the programme they will be offered additional support - such as membership of the biking club or access to other classes to help them keep up with their good habits.
The range of exercise classes operate on a drop in basis - priced competitively at just £3 a session or £25 for a monthly pass.
Daniel Quigley, a world champion kick boxer who takes ‘Fight Club’, works with the SWEET project and also as a trainer on the Biggest Loser said he believes what keeps people coming through the door each week to the Centre is the friendly atmosphere and competitive cost.
“It’s not intimidating to come in here,” he said. “We really do welcome people of all abilities.”
Indeed many of the programmes on offer at the OLT are tailored to those with health issues. Leeann Monk, Programme Planner at the Centre explained the range of facilities on offer.
On top of the walk in exercise classes, the Biggest Loser and the Sweet Project, the centre also offers the Step Up programme which works on a referral basis from GPs and health care professionals. This programme is aimed at people with longterm health conditions, including cardiac issues, respiratory ill health, diabetes and those with a BMI in excess of 30.The Step Up programme offers a tailored personal programme - and indeed every person who comes into a class with the OLT will take part in an assessment so that the trainers know at what level to pitch their classes.
The Older People programme is aimed at the over 60s - who want to do what the group call “Silver Circuits”. Leeann said they still do gym and spin classes, only the music is different.
“They spin to Philomena Begley and Daniel O’Donnell instead of modern music,” she said.
Creggan man Pat says he would have carried out “very little” exercise before joining the Men Health’s Programme. “I’d have gone to the City Baths but to be honest that more social than anything,” he laughed.
At 65 he is the oldest man currently on the Men’s Health Programme and says he has been able to speak to the facilitators who have helped him work at his own level - and he feels more comfortable now.
“WhenI went in I thought I was the big alpha male - so I gave it everything - but in fairness I probably gave it too much. So I spoke to the boys who were able to tailor it to my level so that it became more enjoyable than an ordeal, and if you enjoy it then you are likely to keep doing it.”
Seana is another service user - and she said she is “addicted” to the buzz that exercise gives her and says that every aspect of her life has been improved by attending the OLT four or five times a week for spinning classes.
“I’m not missed a single month since I joined in 2011 and I wouldn’t be without it now. I pay £25 a month for the pass and this allows me as much access as I want.
“I wasn’t overweight before I started but I found I lacked energy and wasn’t sleeping well. That has improved.”
Having the facility on her doorstep has made things much easier for Paula.
As a carer for her son who has severe epilepsy she says she simply wouldn’t be able to commit to travelling further across town to attend classes.
“We are so lucky to have this here on our doorstep - it really has been a life changer for me.”
For more information about the range of classes available at the OLT or to find out more about BOLT or The Biggest Loser call Leeann or the team on 71373870 or on Facebook at oltcreggan.