Fitness for all gets Island population moving

Sports:

Sports , Fitness , Weightlifting

Location:

North Wales

When a significant percentage of your island's population sign up for membership of your gym, then you must be doing something right.

Being based in a Communities First area with the spectre of deprivation, it gives more credibility to the month-by-month rise in people walking through the doors to exercise.

And that's even when you're badged as a weightlifting centre and challenged with the negative stereotype of muscle men pumping iron.

Passing the 800 member mark, with additional outreach opportunities in the community, the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre (HAWFC) is jam-packed on a daily basis with people using its facilities.

Since re-opening in April 2011 following a £300,000 refurbishment, HAWFC is home to elite athletes training side-by-side with members of the public who want to exercise, lose weight and get fit. 

HAWFC Graph

Most recently, they have provided outreach opportunities for communities outside of the Holyhead area to become healthier and fitter through Functional Fitness.  With their own van to transport kit, this form of fitness involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.

Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ray Williams, who heads up the centre, said:

"We dispel the myth that lots of women have about resistance training building big muscles, and educate them into the fact that it assists in body sculpture and weight loss.

"I vary most sessions and include all components of fitness into the sessions. The people who attend leave having completed an hour of sustained effort."

Initially targeted at Holyhead town and its local communities, they have now developed to offer opportunities further afield to more rural communities across Anglesey.

The philosophy is simple - affordable fitness for all.

Following major refurbishment of the existing facility, HAWFC was re-opened in April 2011 and was supported by a £25k development grant from Sport Wales.  Since then, the club has been supported with two Community Chest grants to purchase equipment required to cater for the increase in women and girls members, and to increase the variety of exercises being delivered. They have gained further financial support through additional funding in partnership with the Isle of Anglesey Council's Sport Development Unit to develop the Functional Fitness programme.

Partners have included Bangor University, Isle of Anglesey Council's Sport Development Unit, Menter Môn and Môn and Menai; as well as local schools and communities.

Not stopping there, the centre recruited local people through Jobs Growth Wales and has helped them move on to long-term employment and further education opportunities.  

On the performance front, HAWFC has recently produced two British Champions - Gwilym Sion Pari and Sam Henderson - who will both attend the British elite age group camp in Loughborough in early 2014. This is alongside Steph Owens and Olympian Gareth
Evans who have already made the Commonwealth Games qualifying standard.

The centre has also had visits from many of Wales' leading public figures, including the First Minister who praised the work of the enterprise.

HAWFC will also be included in a programme on ITV in May and a potential 5 million viewers.

Williams adds:

"We are currently looking for funding to extend the facility to provide a physio and rehab suite and additional floor space for our members.

"Our vision is to open another centre on Anglesey within three years as it is our firm belief that taking fitness into the community is an innovative model of delivery at no cost to the local authority. At the same time it carries out many of the social inclusion policies that ensure the population are provided with fitness.

"Our aim on the performance side of the business is, in the future, to provide a residence for our top performers - providing every opportunity to compete at the very top level.

"We share the Sport Wales Vision that everyone in Wales should be hooked on sport for life, and we believe at a micro level HAWFC is making a big impact. Our aim is not to stand still, it is to grow and spread the positive message."

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