Case study: Off the Record

In partnership with Off the Record (OTR), Bristol Cooperative gym ran an 8 week weightlifting course for people aged 16 to 25 who were not in employment or education.


OTR is a mental health social movement for young people aged 11 to 25 living in Bristol.


For the collaboration, we ran a beginner-friendly weightlifting course, with a focus on improving mental health through social activity.


The aim was to provide a safe space for teenagers whilst building confidence through learning a new skill.

"Working with the Bristol Coop Gym has been amazing; the vibe of the gym and the coaching style is perfect for working with vulnerable young people around mental health issues."
Sports work coordinator, OTR

How it happened

We worked closely with OTR to shape the partnership into something that would work for the intended audience.


We worked backwards from the amount of funding they had to set the workshops for 8 weeks.


OTR supported with getting people to sign up. A member from OTR joined the sessions, creating a safe space with someone familiar around.


Guy Lochhead, an experienced coach and personal trainer, ran the sessions.

"The instructor was really nice and chill, like you felt very much as if you were with someone familiar. I felt very at ease"

Who came

OTR wanted to create sessions for NEET (not in employment or education) young people aged 16-25.


Focusing on this age group allowed us to give them a safe space to learn a new skill.


In total 6 people came to the sessions, often working in pairs. 

Format of the sessions

As everyone was new to weightlifting, we built up the movements slowly, focusing on squat, deadlift, pushups and rows. 


We introduced one exercise per week, then put it all together at the end.


Running the workshops for 8 weeks meant everyone could learn the basic movements and feel a progression.


The sessions were fun and social with paired partner activities. The format of our usual gym sessions allows for plenty of chatting and social time in between.

"It was really good breaking down movements and learning how to do them with proper form"
A hand-drawn illustration of a person stretching by sitting with one leg out straight, with the other bent and the foot placed on the other side of the lower leg's knee. The person is twisting to stretch.

After the course

The people who came to the course left great feedback on how the session’s made them feel.


100% of participants said that they:


  • felt like it had helped a bit with confidence
  • strongly agreed that it gave them new skills for supporting their physical or mental health
  • felt more socially connected or part of a community
  • felt like it had helped with their mental health or wellbeing


To help them keep some skills they had learnt, we offered the participants reduced or free membership to the gym.


Guy also provided them with a short programme that they could follow themselves.


This was a successful course and we’re keen to try and do similar sessions in the future. Having sessions for a particular group of people made the sessions inclusive and more relaxed.

"I signed up, and not only have I been able to leave the house and meet people, but I've felt stronger and less resentful of my body.”
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