'I feel 200 per cent better' - Piers won't let his disability get in the way of a sports centre workout

Date published: 07 May 2021

Lockdown has affected us all in different ways.

When it comes to physical activity, some of us have stepped things up - going running for the first time or taking long walks.

Others will have experienced illness, had to care for others or simply found it all too much.

As lockdown eases and our leisure centres and gyms reopen, the Chronicle will explore what getting fit means to some people from our Oldham community.

This week we talk to local man, Piers Gebbia (33), who lives in New Moston.

Piers, who lost his eye sight as a teenager, has returned to his local gym at Failsworth Sports Centre most mornings since reopening - despite his disability.

Piers, who is originally from Italy, moved to Greater Manchester in 2006 to study at Salford University.

He has qualifications in modern languages, psychology and criminology, and works in counselling, psychotherapy and life coaching.

Piers said: “The latest lockdown was tough on lots of people, and the typical Oldham weather didn’t help!

"I kept myself busy and motivated in my research work into mental health and through my love of music.

"I also have lots of friends both here and in Italy and we kept connected virtually.

"However, it’s not quite the same as seeing people in person.”

Piers originally joined the gym and got himself an Oldham Community Leisure (OCL) membership back in 2019.

He added: “I’m acutely aware of the benefits of physical activity for my overall wellbeing and started using the pool at Failsworth Sports Centre four times a week.

"I’m a confident swimmer and really enjoyed lane swimming.

"I later moved onto gym session too.”

When the first lockdown hit, Piers was concerned about keeping up physical activity and bought himself a stationary bike.

He said: “After my strong Italian morning coffee I’d jump on my bike and do half an hour of cycling every day.

"It really set me up for the day, and gave my day in lockdown more of a routine and structure.

"However, as soon as the leisure centres were back open, I knew I preferred the atmosphere of exercising in a community setting and returned to Failsworth Sports Centre on the first day of reopening.”

Piers gets a taxi to the gym every weekday morning, where he uses a combination of cardio equipment, including the running machine and the functional weight machines too.

Piers said: “I feel great! 200 per cent better!

"I love Failsworth Sports Centre, there is such a family vibe there. It’s a great environment.

"The staff are fantastic and the other customers are too.

"It’s a really friendly and chatty community and I wouldn’t train anywhere else.

“I find it difficult to book sessions online due to my visual impairment, so I book my sessions over the phone or at the reception desk itself.

"The staff are really helpful with regards to my disability; meeting and greeting me on arrival and helping me and guiding where appropriate.

"They really couldn’t be more supportive.

"The staff have always prioritised the health and safety of their customers.

“I’ve never let my disability stop me from doing anything.

"Coming to the gym makes me feel fantastic.

"It's good for both my physical and mental health.

"I hope that I can inspire others to give the gym a go – as there really is something for everyone, all are welcome here.”

Do you have a story for us? Want to tell us about something going on in and around Oldham? Let us know by emailing news@oldham-chronicle.co.uk , calling our Oldham-based newsroom on 0161 633 2121 , tweeting us @oldhamchronicle or messaging us through our Facebook page. All contact will be treated in confidence.

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