Biceps and brews

For two veteran groups in New South Wales, hard-hitting physical training hasn’t ended with their military service.

Each Thursday, veterans from Sydney’s Northern Beaches meet to participate in a group fitness class under the watchful eye of a skilled instructor. It’s a welcome chance to sweat a little, share a laugh, and reconnect with mates who share an unspoken bond forged through service.

Sean Rout, a Vietnam veteran and group organiser, says ‘it’s a little bit of fun and a little bit of hard work.’

Sean joined the Army in 1971 as a National Serviceman, or ‘Nasho’, and served as a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

In 2019, he participated in the DVA Heart Health Program, which is a free, year-long program designed to help veterans get started with a daily routine of exercise and balanced nutrition.

Through this program, he built friendships with 15-20 other local veterans based around the Harbord Diggers club who shared his desire to stay physically and mentally healthy.

Following the program, Sean and a core group of 7-10 other participants were encouraged by the progress they had made together and looked to continue their weekly fitness gathering.

The group secured the support of G-Fitness, who generously donated their studio space in Freshwater, and enlisted the help of expert trainers from Rebound Health. They still meet to this day, over three years since they began.

Further up the coast, Wingham RSL is also embracing fitness classes to promote veteran wellbeing.

Each Monday morning, you’ll find an enthusiastic group of veterans at the Body Strength Health & Fitness gym.

Testifying to the positive impact of the program, veteran and participant Steve Pullan said that it brought him back to the gym, connecting him with a fun group of like-minded ex-military people.

‘We always save a little reserve for coffee and head out to local cafes together after training,’ Steve says.

While the veterans revel in challenging their bodies, Steve’s sentiment highlights that the benefits of the fitness classes extend beyond the physical.

Both programs play a vital role in connecting local veterans and building a supportive community.

The Harbord Diggers also return to their club for coffee and lunch, which has allowed Sean to get to know people from other sub-branches.

‘Forestville have got a member coming there, Balgowlah have got two… Dee Why have got two, and so on,’ Sean adds.

If you’re a veteran in Sydney interested in joining the Harbord Diggers fitness classes, get in touch with Sean at the Harbord RSL Sub-branch. Similarly, veterans in Wingham are encouraged to reach out to the Wingham RSL Sub-branch for more information on their local program.

Wingham RSL secured $2,000 in DVA Health and Wellbeing Funding to establish their program. Ex-service organisations and community groups can apply for up to $2,000 to create self-sustaining events, programs and opportunities for veterans and their families. To learn more, get in touch with a DVA Community Support Adviser.

image The Wingham RSL group exercising at the Body Strength Health & Fitness gym.

Public release

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