Let’s do a few laps here. We’re going to warm up.”

“Good job! Awesome! Are you all feeling your muscles working?”

Christina Paul and Robbi Kolnick are bringing the energy – to generate some energy.

Their blend of instruction and encouragement is focused on six men and women in a HealthMatters exercise class offered through the Ollie Webb Center.

“Countdown, Mariah! Let’s go. I can’t hear you.”

On location in a fitness studio at Omaha’s A.V. Sorensen Community Center, Paul and Kolnick are moving the group through a full-body workout on a Thursday afternoon, soliciting requests along the way.

“Bryan, what muscles do you want to work out? Your biceps?”

Over the course of the three-hour class, the group will work their triceps, shoulders, abs and legs. Crab walking, bear crawling — even a fitness-boxing lesson — are part of the drill. Paul brings experience leading group fitness classes to her role as a HealthMatters instructor.

“I think fitness is important for everybody, and you have to make it fun. We laugh every day,” says Paul. She also teaches a customer service and public speaking class, and does some job coaching.
“There are no bad days at Ollie Webb,” she says.

The center offers HealthMatters sessions three times a year to promote healthy lifestyles among those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Classes meet twice-weekly for 12 to 17 weeks, combining exercise with health education, touching on everything from nutrition and meal planning to stress management, sleep and work habits, and goal setting for healthy living.

As part of the experience, the group visits a variety of inclusive community settings — from the Salvation Army Kroc Center to Do Space — that align with the HealthMatters curriculum.
“We’re always looking for partners in the community,” says co-instructor Kolnick.

The center has found a steady one in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, whose funding allowed the Ollie Webb Center to establish HealthMatters in 2017.

“Through this program, our agency is helping individuals maximize their potential and have a higher quality of life as active contributors in their communities,” says Robin McArthur, operations director for the center.

Since its formation in 2005, the Ollie Webb Center has supported more than 20,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families through employment and vocational training, social recreation and fitness, mentoring and more.

The ultimate goal is meaningful employment and independent living. A few of those in this HealthMatters class have jobs – Joannie works at Panera; Kyle at Dave & Buster’s. Angela worked many years at the YWCA.

As they power through their workouts, posters on the studio wall provide extra motivation: “You are amazing.” “You are inspiring.” “You are beautiful.” “You are strong.”

At the end of this HealthMatters session, everyone is going to be that much stronger.

“Should we do 10 more?”

“Everyone loves the positive impact this program has had,’’ McArthur says. “The feedback from participants, families and instructors is that the program has enhanced each participant’s knowledge of how to build a healthier and happier lifestyle.”

“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, celebrating people living their best lives and inspiring others to do the same.