A local exercise programme that has helped those experiencing homelessness and mental health problems get their lives ‘back on track’ is now open to the general public.
On the Road Again aims to assist people to better their lives by getting fit, with founder Paul Fallon explaining that those accessing mental health services locally may be reluctant to join other running or walking groups with hundreds of members.
“Even if you’re not struggling with depression, that can be very intimidating. So there’s a lot of people missing out, that’s why we decided to open it to the general public so that when life say gets hard or stressful, people will be strong enough to deal with it,” he said.
Explaining the idea behind personal development programme On the Road Again, he said: “The concept itself is simple – get fit, you’ll feel better. Everyone knows this, but at the same time there are increases in levels of obesity, heart disease, the suicide rates are on the increase all the time, mental health illnesses are on the increase…I think there’s still a large cross section of society that are just falling through the cracks and that’s where we feel we’re coming in, we’re trying to get the message across.”
Paul, who last year featured on RTE’s ‘The Secret Millionaire’, has previously spoken about his own experience with depression and stressed the importance of highlighting mental health.
“There is still a huge stigma attached to it and that’s why I went public with it,” he said, adding that people regularly approach him to talk about their own problems.
“I’ve got struggles, everybody does, and it doesn’t mean that it’s a sign of weakness. Especially amongst the male population, there’s a lot of people out there struggling with it,” he said.
On the Road Again’s next 24-week programme begins later this month, with 32 participants already signed up who will be divided into groups of six with others of similar fitness levels.
Groups will be lead by team leaders including successful previous participants from the programme Mike Flanagan and Ronnie McLoughlin, who both completed the Dublin City Marathon last year, and staff members from COPE Galway and Galway Simon.
Each participant requires clearance from their GP and will undergo a fitness assessment and a gait analysis conducted by Amphibian King, who will also provide participants with a new pair of runners.
To encourage participants to stick with the programme, which is tailored to each individual, a €3 charge per training session has been introduced, which covers everything from runners to transport, award ceremonies to race entries.
During the programme, participants will undergo psychological assessments and will also be treated to motivational talks by mentors like footballer Johnny Glynn and ultrarunner Richard Donovan, as well as being able to avail of the facilities at On the Road Again’s new drop-in centre at Cathedral Buildings, Middle Street.
An information evening for those interested in taking part in the programme will take place at the Galway Bay Hotel tonight, Wednesday.
On the Road Again volunteers will also raise funds bag packing this Friday, 16 and Saturday, 17 August at Dunnes Westside.