Charity-run Cheltenham gym focuses on mind as well as body

The Armoury Gym focuses on the mind as well as the body

The Armoury Fitness Club, based in Cheltenham, is hoping to banish the image-first culture which drives many gyms and make its member community as important as fitness.

With many people recognising the importance of maintaining mental health through the pandemic thanks to enforced reduced social exposure, businesses are actively looking at new and innovative ways to help.

And there’s a big market for them to go after. Of those health and fitness clubs in the United Kingdom, close to half are solely fitness facilities, generating a total annual turnover of approximately £2 billion, according to research company Statistica.

The Cheltenham gym, run by charity Fresh Hope, which opened in 2019, places an emphasis on mental health as well as physical health.

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Fresh Hope, which was set up in Cheltenham in 2015, supports project aimed at bringing people closer together.

The space is rented to The Armoury by local church, Trinity Cheltenham, who also extend the use of their main church space for larger classes, offering a unique and inspiring location for gym-goers to exercise and commune.

At a time when many are still living in isolation, working from home and limiting social exposure, opportunities to meet new people and create connections are limited, and The Armoury knows this.

But some people who want to join a gym are put off by their perception of the anti-social, image-first culture of many.

The Armoury Fitness Club manager, Jamie Chapman is determined to demolish the feeling of intimidation that some feel when stepping into a new gym, creating a space where friendships can be formed, and classes are more than just a way to improve body image.

Jamie said: “It’s important to us to create a community and a space where people feel welcome and included, and part of something. We create challenges and provide socials such a regular quiz and trips to the pub next door after closing time.”

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As well as offering traditional gym-based classes and space, the Armoury Fitness Club team will often invite their members to escape the confines of the gym and take part in classes in the park, where games and challenges replace the usual repetitive exercises.

Throughout lockdown, the gym offered social workouts online, via Zoom, and even loaned equipment to their members so they could continue to be a part of the gym from their own home.

The fitness club also offers a place for members to relax and chat together or with staff, even when they don’t feel like exercising, and the club also offers games

consoles to play on.