“A punk, DIY ethos,” No Lift Podcast, Ep. 177–Bristol co-op gym with Guy Lochhead, Lotte Kammenga, and Conor Heffernan

What can we do to make gyms more inclusive spaces? I’ve posted ideas in the past, including making clear guidelines and behavior expectations. But what if the design of the gym was created by the membership? Would a community create a more inclusive space by having more voices involved in the design and participation in how it is run?

That seems to be the thinking behind creating co-op gyms, as described by Arthur Lynch’s(1) guests this week. Democratic decision-making, education and skill-sharing, and intentional community building all seem to be essential pieces of the model. And I have to say, it sounds pretty great! At one point, Lotte describes it as a “pub gym–go there, lift some stuff and hang out.” How ideal does that sound?! And I’m going to suggest it is no accident that a more inclusive space is a more relaxed, less competitive or intimidating space. The more we celebrate diversity, the less meaningful those implied comparisons become.

Is there a hidden community of folks who want to lift at a gym but are turned off by traditional gym culture? I think the answer is obviously yes. All the folks who show up once or twice and then walk away never to return until the next milestone birthday or New Year’s celebration each may have a legitimate reason for feeling that the gym they joined wasn’t for them. And it may be that the problem was the gym, not the gym member. Feeling like a member of a community, making workouts less work and more play, and having some agency in how a gym evolves over time each sound like powerful motivators to show up and stay involved.

If you could participate in the design of a gym, what would you want to include? How could we make it more accessible for your needs? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below, or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook and join the conversation over there.


(1) Do I need to acknowledge the synchronicity that I’m discussing an Irish podcast on St. Patrick’s Day? I swear, it’s just happenstance. I appreciated this conversation, how it explored ideas that I’ve heard nowhere else in the fitness podcast space, and aside from the horrible introduction (back, back, back, take it, take it, take it), I look forward to new episodes of No Lift every few weeks. And I’m happy to be sharing it with you!

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