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When we set up the RWF Gym last year, we were conscious that we were taking a very successful personal training business into a whole new arena. I’d personally spent nearly 8 years setting up a company that encouraged all walks of life to accept that personal training, and getting stronger, was for everyone – not just those guys in stringer vests and girls who endlessly selfie their arses in the big commercial gyms.

Our unique selling point was two private PT rooms, fully loaded with strength training kit suitable for all levels (I trained in my old PT studio myself and made it to National level in raw powerlifting) whilst not being intimidating. So, when we decided to up sticks, take the plunge and open a public-access gym, I had to think long and hard about how to do it.

I wanted to take 100% of my existing clients with me. I didn’t want to lose ANYONE. We were only moving half a mile, but more important was the fact that we’d now be a GYM. Not just some rooms. So, my partners and I decided we would steal some of the gym floor to recreate two PT-only rooms. It cost more, it reduced gym floor space and goes against everything in gym design…but we did it anyway. And guess what? Every single client came with us. It meant they could still PT in private.

But what else happened? Well, we wanted to make sure all of these PT clients felt so comfortable training in the main gym area that they’d join up. In the first month, 20 of them did just that, and their trust in what we wanted to create meant we had paying members from day one. Also, with very few exceptions, all of them were happy training on the gym floor. We’d made sure they felt this was THEIR gym – not a gym belonging to the usual gym crowd.

We promised all our clients and founder members that we would keep a nice, respectful atmosphere. That we wouldn’t allow idiots, drug-users and gangs of kids join. Many of our clients initially doubted this – what new business in it’s right mind would turn away paying gym members? Well, we did. And our members and clients SAW that we did. In our first few weeks we had many awkward conversations with people wanting to join who simply did not fit what we wanted here. People who were rude when marching into the gym and barking “how much?” at us. People who thought it was acceptable to swear and tell us we were a rip off for charging £50 a month to join. We didn’t want these people, and we made sure we signed up none of them.

Social media didn’t like this stance. They told us we were naive, trying to create a Utopia, or that no-one would join. Oddly, though, the more we publicised our stance, the more NORMAL people joined us. The more people that don’t typically like gyms joined us. The more genuinely strong people that are sick of drugs in the industry, and sick of people who are in the gym to pose or posture rather than train, joined us too. We have typical – typical! – lifts in the gym of 230+kg deads, 200+kg squats and 140+kg benches. We have genuinely strong people lifting on platforms right next to new lifters. We have people training less than a year who are hitting National powerlifting qualification totals.

Many don’t like what we’ve achieved, because we have decided we didn’t want to be a typical gym. We won’t have roided up idiots train here. We won’t have ignorant, selfish trainers that won’t tidy up after themselves, or who try to belittle “weaker” lifters.

But here’s the thing. Amy is one of my more nervous clients, who dreaded the idea of us moving from the PT rooms to the gym. Enough of ME telling you how it is. How about her views instead?

“When I started training with RWF, it was personal training based in 2 private rooms. I was really nervous about starting PT, but the private rooms were a big appeal for me because I’ve always been self-conscious and didn’t want to train in a gym with the ‘muscle men’ and ‘gym bunnies’. I’ve tried that before but it never lasted. I never really knew what I should be doing and felt everyone was commenting on the big girl at the gym!

Because I loved training in the safe space of a private room, I was really worried when RWF was talking about the plans to move the personal training into a new gym they were setting up. I thought it would be huge scary muscley men and really slender, toned, fit girls and that I would stand out like a sore thumb! I’d actively avoided any personal trainers that were based in gyms, but after A LOT of persuasion I agreed to try it. It was also reassuring when I was shown the ethos that RWF was setting out for its gym members – very much focused on a safe, friendly training environment. My first PT session at the new gym was taken straight out on the gym floor, not in one of the side rooms. Whilst I was really scared at the time, it was the best thing I could have been made to do to get me used to training out in the gym, amongst other members.

That was back in August, since then, I’ve not only continued my PT but also joined the gym to do sessions on my own. It is really quite different training with a PT by my side, acting as my perceived buffer to the scary folks in the gym, to actually going in and training by myself. Again, it took a lot of persuasion that I would, in fact, actually survive and wouldn’t get laughed at, pointed at and generally made to feel stupid. To my surprise, none of that happened, at all. Everyone, without exception, was friendly and encouraging. I even had a particularly embarrassing incident when I got stuck under the bar when doing a bench press from which I had to be rescued! I was mortified, but the only reaction was to be told it is normal and happens to most people eventually!

As a female trying to lose (a lot!) of weight, I was always previously told to avoid weights and just do cardio – lots of star jumps, running and generally ending up wanting to throw up but not actually achieving any results. So, doing dead lifts, squats and bench presses is really quite a different experience, but I love it.  I only started training just over 8 months ago, but I’ve gone from never lifting a proper weight in my life, to achieving, what I’m told are alright weights!

Even after I’ve been going for this long now, it still surprises me, but the gym is full of people that genuinely want to train, want to improve and want to encourage others. You can tell when someone is trying to get a PB in the gym because everyone around starts cheering them on!

All pre-conceived ideas I had about scary, militant PTs and even scarier gym-goers that were to be feared for people like me have been completely destroyed by the RWF gym. I think I’m lucky to have found this place and to get the encouragement, motivation and support every time I go.”

Amy has lost over 20kg since working with us, and achieved a 145kg deadlift, 100kg squat and 50kg bench press. All this in less than a year since a complete cold-start into the world of training. A massive part of that is down to her doggedness and determination; but the atmosphere we’ve created here has meant that MANY people who “hate gyms” absolutely love this one.

If you want to train in an environment that has zero-tolerance to the kind of things you normally hate in a gym, and you want to train with genuinely strong people that don’t wear their egos like a badge of honour – come and have a chat. You might like what you find!

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