Reaching the community through fitness at The Lab

May 21, 2018

When a long-time Napier fitness facility was having a closing down sale, Patrick and Theresa O’Brien popped in to look at a piece of equipment. A week or so later, they were gym owners, and The Lab Training Centre was born.

Patrick has been involved with sport and fitness most of his life, both coaching and training others, and competing himself. He has played basketball for Hawke’s Bay, he’s a world champion in kickboxing, and he recently won the World Kickboxing Association 95kg K1 Kickboxing Title Belt last month.

Now, as the co-owner and manager of the gym, Patrick puts his coaching skills into action every day, helping people of all ages, sizes and backgrounds to get the benefits of fitness.

The Lab is not your average gym, Patrick says.

“What makes The Lab unique is not 'what we do' but 'why we do it'. Our focus is people, and we have created an environment that is inclusive for our members.”

The Lab is proud of its whānau atmosphere, he adds. “We welcome and embrace all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities.  We foster a no judgement, no mirrors, no excuses philosophy which draws in people from all walks of life. In addition to fitness support, The Lab takes a wider approach to supporting its members by offering health and wellbeing services such as stop smoking services, goal setting seminars, nutrition planning and pastoral care for its young academy members.”

For Patrick, the best part of the job is getting to work with all kinds of people in a single day, and seeing them grow and develop through the positive impact that the gym makes on their lives.

The Lab has five staff members currently completing on-job qualifications through Skills Active, while Patrick and Theresa are both getting trained up to be registered assessors – which means they will be able to support their trainees every step of the way.

There have been a few occasions when long-time gym members showed an interest in becoming trainers, Patrick says. When these members become staff, industry training is a good match to get them qualified.

“The greater purpose of The Lab is to provide opportunities for our members and community. So we saw this as an excellent way to grow our own people, rather than bring in outside trainers who don’t understand our values, or the culture we’ve built,” he says.

“The Lab is pleased to partner with Skills Active to support staff who wish to pursue careers in sport and fitness, by providing affordable and accessible industry-based training,” he adds.

“We run a Youth Combat Academy where we are looking to harness our young people’s passion to keep them focused and engaged. Hawke’s Bay has many health and social issues and through The Lab we endeavour to provide opportunities for change. Education and employment is an important part of achieving this.”