A Carlisle gym is pioneering a radical way to encourage more women to take up fitness training.
Women like Jo Lloyd who never went near a gym because she lacked the confidence say that iCan, Carlisle’s women-only gym has transformed their lives
Jo, 49, admits she was scared to go to other gyms, but now loves going to iCan up to four times a week.
“I had never stepped in a gym in my life because I felt I was too large.
“Then I came to a class at iCan with a friend and they made us really welcome.
“I am probably the fittest I have ever been and going to the gym has helped with my mental health so I feel so positive about myself.
“When I first came I was terrified but within two weeks I was loving it.
“And then during the lockdown, I was in a really bad place and iCan did so much to reach out and help me,” she said.
“At the moment I am waiting for an operation on my knee, but I can’t stop going for the social side, it’s like a little family and so good for your health and mentality,” she added.
Trainer Jenny MacKenna has helped many women like Jo during her time with iCan and says one of key factors in its success is the support the members give each other.
“It is a really good community and so nice to be part of something that is bringing people back together.
Everyone has their own personal target, but all the members motivate each other,” she said.
Freelance model Natasha Bloxham, 34, is another big fan of the iCan approach after being put off larger gyms in Carlisle.
“I joined because I felt intimidated by the usual gym set up where you feel people are looking at you and judging you.
“In a women only gym there is no form of intimidation.
“It’s a community and everybody supports each other.
“I go 2-3 times a week and feel so much better, my balance has improved, I have toned my body right up and I feel really good.”
The iCan gym has been steadily increasing its membership since lockdown measures increased and hopes to be back to its pre-pandemic peak of 240 sometime this year.
Director Lisa Bridgewater says everything about the gym is designed to make it easy for women of all ages and abilities to enjoy fitness with 30 minute trainer-led sessions, individual consultations and three-day free passes for anyone considering joining.
Lisa is delighted to be welcoming people back to the gym after all the disruption of the last 18 months and says iCan offers a vital route to fitness for the many women who find larger, commercial gyms off putting.
“The franchise gyms don’t really care about people, just the money the people are bringing in.
“So you pay your money, you get your card, you get these lovely facilities that look beautiful but you don’t know how to use them.
“That’s where we try to be different, offering somebody a chance to improve their health and wellbeing from the beginning by learning a new skill.
“Just because you have never used a kettlebell, why should you not learn to, you just need the help and support to get there,” she said.
“We cater for women who are looking for friendship and community, but also looking to improve their health.
“We are not talking necessarily about gym bunnies or people who want a six pack, but women who want to improve their health, lose a few stone, tone up and start their health and wellbeing journey.
“Most of our members here are ladies who have never exercised or not exercised for a very long time, “ she added.
Membership costs £29 per month for a 6-month contract, or £5 per session for most classes for non-members.
Some discounts can be made for people who are referred into our services from another third sector or support service.
For more information you can look at their website www.icanfitnesscumbria.co.uk or give them a call on 01228 819101.