We are proud to be the first co-operative gym in the UK. We believe that our not-for-profit multi-stakeholder co-operative model (meaning coaches and gym users work together to create a space that improves their health and wellbeing) has so much potential for working against the cynical business practices of big gyms, and for getting more people enjoying their strength and fitness, and feeling better.
Our coach Guy was invited to speak at the Bristol Radical Herbal Gathering on the theme of collective approaches to wellbeing, alongside excellent Bristol projects like Countering Colston, ACORN and Kiki.
It was a good chance to lay out the reasons for setting up the gym and why we feel there is a need for a co-operative model within the fitness industry. The full text is below.
Our member Steph shares her experience of going to a “normal gym” after attending our Strength Circuit sessions. Thank you, Steph!
Never would I have imagined that I would willingly, and with enjoyment, be going to a local gym before joining the co-operative gym! I think that is such an amazing thing. Everything you get from going to the co-op gym is so transferable – it’s a gateway to all sorts of things you could do with your body that you didn’t know yet.
I think the main barrier I had about going to the gym regularly by myself was a lack of knowledge and motivation. Going to regular gyms often means (though not necessarily) trying to ignore certain elements of macho bullshit which a gym space seems to fuel. Going to the co-op gym means that you learn technique in a really nice, supportive and unpatronising way. Also, the sharing and teaching of your fellow lifters means that you learn certain cues like ‘spread your toes’ even better. And knowledge equals power! I kind of imagine this a little bit like becoming my own coach – though it’s good to check with others on technique!
The kind of coaches you might come across regularly can seem intimidating… There is a whole load of language to learn. There are people who spew it at you like you’re an idiot for not knowing. There are people who actually use “come on you girl” as an insult. Trying to deadlift after hearing that is hard! Trying to ignore the screaming in your head is hard! I don’t want my gym session to instead turn into righting the wrongs of gross people. I want to lift!
What I am practicing at the moment is overcoming that and concentrating on what I would like to learn and get better at, and I am enjoying practicing this before starting work in the morning. This is where knowing the technique comes in. Knowing what to focus on simply means you focus on it. Learning the technique means you know what you alone are doing, and you can get on with it. Nevermind that you are the only woman in the room, nevermind that – omg why are they counting out loud, you are throwing me off pal! But then there are nice things, like noticing other little exercises people are doing, or noticing when someone is on the same ‘push’ and ‘deadlift’ day as you!
A little trick I have when walking into the weight room, maybe a little intimidated trying to find a spot in a busy room, is to put my shoulders back and pretend I am a man and deserve to take up space. But politely! Hey, if going to the gym teaches you anything it’s where to put your shoulders, so you might as well use it.
I guess what I am really trying to say is that knowing how to do stuff is empowering and so is feeling strong, so hurrah to the co-op gym for giving us that!
We are looking for another self-employed strength coach!
We are the inclusive, body-positive gym that’s run by its members.
We offer expertly-delivered strength training and HIIT sessions in a supportive, open environment where people can feel comfortable to train and progress free from judgements about who they are and what they can lift.
We are a co-operative, meaning decisions about the running of the gym are made collectively by our coaches and members. We seem to be the only gym that runs like this in the country, and we’re excited to demonstrate how this alternative gym model can work.
About the job
We are looking for someone to join our coaching team who will:
- Revel in our members’ successes and support them through their challenges.
- Lead by example to create an environment of excitement and respect in every class.
- Give new members a warm welcome and introduce them to the class when they arrive
- Make sure all members are signed-in before midnight
- Plan and deliver safe, effective, fun workouts, with appropriate modifications to accommodate injuries and abilities
- Be present for members’ questions before and after classes
- Actively listen and reflect on how future sessions can be made even better
- Have a nationally-accredited trainer certification, insurance and Emergency First Aid
- Become a member of our co-operative and help us shape our alternative gym future
You will be required to lead classes on some weekday lunchtimes and evenings. Currently, our timetable includes classes on:
- Monday 13:00-14:00, 17:30-19:00
- Wednesday 13:00-14:00, 17:30-19:00, 19:00-20:00
- Thursday 17:30-18:30, 18:30-20:00
Ideally, you would be able to cover all of these in the period between 17th and 23rd September, while our other coach is on holiday.
Usually, the classes would be split between both coaches. The times may change in future, and classes may be added or removed, but this would be decided co-operatively to suit you, the other coach, and our members.
In exchange, you would be paid £20-30 / hour and have access to All Hallows Hall and the gym’s equipment to run Personal Training sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 06:00-12:00 for £12.50 / hour (or less, if you’re training at the same time as another coach and can split the rent).
We want to demonstrate that an alternative gym model is possible. If you would like to be a part of this, please write to us at mail[at]bristolcooperativegym.org before 17th August, explaining why you’ll be a great fit.
We are particularly interested to hear from people who are under-represented in the fitness industry.
I started coming to the gym and I quite liked it. The more I came, the more I liked it. Then I noticed on the website there was a ‘become a member’ option. Hmm, a co-op member, that sounds kind of cool. I wonder what that means. I suppose if it means I get to be more ‘part’ of the gym, that would be nice. I’ll give it a go. So I pressed join. Read more…
When I joined the BCG, I started having conversations with people about nutrition and training, although it was probably less of a conversation and more me rambling at whoever was in earshot at the time.
One of the nicest things about the BCG is how it encourages beginners to get into training who maybe have never been in contact with a barbell before. I wrote this article originally for the BCG Facebook group to cover some of the basics of protein and how it relates to training, with the hope that it may be a nice and accessible intro for members who hadn’t had cause to think about nutrition before, and its relation their training, and also to cut through a lot of myths and misinformation that is present in so much training literature (protein powder companies being the worst for pushing this). Read more…
In the UK, adults of working age sit down for an average of 9.5 hours each day. As we get older, this increases (source). We’ve all heard how sitting down is terribly bad for us, but what can we really do about that? Most of us are employed in ways that involve being sedentary and wouldn’t be willing or able to quit our jobs just so we can sit less. Read more…
Working out alone vs. working out with others
When I became part of the BCG I had previously spent a few years working out by myself in commercial gyms. I’m not going to spend too much energy on dissecting just how horrible those kinds of spaces can be, but that was a secondary consideration at the time; I was training by myself purposefully, and with the intention of interacting with others as little as possible. I wanted to get in there, lift, and get out.
Training for me was, and still is, the primary way I combat my depression and anxiety. Getting under a heavy barbell, squatting it and trying to stand up again, takes pretty much 100% concentration, otherwise you end up squished. This level of concentration is incredibly calming. A lot of the constant mental ‘noise’ that I experience goes away, and stays away, at least for a short time. So the point of training for me was also to reach that point of intense focus. Suffice it to say this is not a very sociable state to be in. Read more…
I have always been the first one up a tree whenever I spotted a good one to climb, or the concerning adult crashing kids playgrounds in order to use the climbing wall – and yet it took me to the age of 24 to actually make it to a climbing center. The only reason I did that was through the Bristol Women Climbers group, organised by Lorna Cooper. Read more…