Sixty men of varying ages sit in one of the auditoriums in the Western Bulldogs Footscray training facility. They’re all wearing white t-shirts with Western Bulldogs Sons of the West branding, shorts and trainers. They’re all sitting erect, listening intently to the coach talk about ‘eating right and how eating affects your exercise regime’.
“Make small changes to your weekly meals, don’t try to implement everything you learn here, all at once,” says Sons of the West coach, Aidan March.
Aidan goes on to talk about typical foods the men may be eating and asks them how many calories they think are in each food. “My favourite treat-meal is BBQ chicken pizza. But guess how many kilojoules are in a standard BBQ chicken pizza? 7005 kJ!” Aidan introduces the idea of food credits and treat meals that could be used once a month. If you’ve eaten under your standard 8700kj a day throughout the month, bank those credits for a time that you can have a blowout and have a treat-meal like the BBQ chicken pizza.
Aidan asks, and the men shout out their favourite foods. Aidan shouts back the kilojoules. Big Mac – 5000kj, a 600ml bottle of coke – 1080kj, a VB stubbie – 650kj, premix cans of alcohol – 1050kj. It’s a simple yet effective approach. The men in the room are engaged and relaxed. They yell out funny comments and witty quips, and everyone laughs.
The talking part of the program is over, and it’s time to hit the oval. The crowd split into several groups of varying levels of fitness. Some of the men have done the program before and are really pushing themselves through sprint sessions. Others are learning to use the boxing gloves and pairing up with coaches and occupational therapists. Some of the new guys are doing walking laps around the oval, and others are doing push-ups off the fence.
Two people participating in the preliminary 10 week Sons of the West program are annecto David House attendees, Chris and Brenton. “We have a lot of men in the 40s and 50s attending weekly programs at annecto David House, and they could use some help in improving their physical health,” explains Helen Kowalyk, Community Inclusion Coordinator at annecto David House.
With the focus for older people and people living with disability usually being on essentials, many forget to look after their health. Sons of the West gives people permission to take some time to look after themselves, and improve their health, especially older men.
Fourth year Occupational Therapist student, Andrew Mizzi, is currently on clinical placement with the Western Bulldogs Men’s Health program, Sons of the West. “My role is to facilitate some of the men to engage more fully in the program,” explains Andrew.
Andrew has spent a lot of time with Chris focussing on his social interactions and enhancing his performance outcomes. “In the first session Chris seemed uncomfortable and spent a lot of time on his phone. The difference between that first session and Chris’ involvement now, six weeks in, is remarkable,” explains Andrew.
Sons of the West isn’t just a health and fitness program. As a team, the coaches, participants and volunteers support each other to adopt healthy nutritional, fitness and social habits.
To register to be a buddy and help someone to attend the 2016 Sons of the West program that kicks off in June, contact Helen Kowalyk at annecto David House on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Helen on 03 9314 0988.