There’s a common refrain when talking to members of Woolgoolga’s Ever Better Bunch. It starts with ‘I didn’t think the gym was for me…’ and is followed closely by ‘…but this has changed my life’.
The Ever Better Bunch is a group of eight blokes aged from their mid 40s through to 60s who are put through their paces twice a week at Woolgoolga’s Nexus Gym. They came together under the umbrella of the Woolgoolga Healthy Towns project, funded by Healthy North Coast.
Local Damon Greenwood was the prime mover behind the group’s formation in January 2019.
Damon started the Ever Better Bunch as part of his recovery process from earlier traumatic events in his life. He noticed other males in their 40s and older who were also isolated and struggling and encouraged them to join.
“I thought this could be the first step to getting them back into the community and back into a group of like-minded people, to support each other as a group and every day get a little bit better,” he said.
By any measure the idea has been a huge success. As well as catching up at the gym they also socialise together, support one another and have collectively lent a hand to others in the community.
As an example of the fitness benefits, Damon said seven months into the program the group as a whole had an average one per cent weight loss, but up to 15 per cent reduction in body fat.
Several of the group attribute remarkable recoveries from major operations and life-threatening illness to their improved health and fitness.
Damon sees great potential in expanding the exercise program beyond Woolgoolga.
“There isn’t a town in Australia that won’t have a bunch of guys who need something like this,” he said.
The Ever Better Bunch put a lot of their success down to Nexus Gym instructor Marty Symmons, who has overseen their program from the beginning.
Marty mixes up the sessions between strength and cardio work. He also tailors the sessions with mobility training that incorporates yoga moves. Several of the group have gone from being yoga sceptics to regular practitioners and now sing its praises.
“We’re meant to move and interact as humans,” Marty said. “Unfortunately, there’s less of that happening. We’re designed to move, not sit down and be on our phones all day.”
He says interaction and the non-competitive nature of the group is great for mental health.
“One of the things I like to do is send them on recovery walks around the block between sets,” Marty said. “This allows them to catch their breath and connect with the experience together.”
This story was written before COVID-19 distancing guidelines came into effect. We’ll follow up with the group to find out what they’re up to now.