Harrogate gym owners Andy Gardner and Steve Henwood
Harrogate gym owners Steve Henwood and Andy Gardner

Lockdown Triggers Marathon Makeover For Garage Gym

While many of us were left twiddling our thumbs when lockdown was announced, or wondering about our future job security, Harrogate gym owners Andy Gardner and Steve Henwood decided to use part of the enforced closure to refurbish and change the lay-out of their business.

Tucked away behind a tattoo parlour on East Parade, you could be forgiven for missing The Fitness Garage before: but with its new, vibrant turquoise frontage and smart exterior it now stands out, not just as the quality gym it has always been, but one with more space and better facilities.

With new COVID restrictions likely to be tied to any gym reopening, the timing seemed perfect to play around with the internal layout to ensure safe practice, social distancing and an all-round better experience for its regulars.

Unlike the bigger gyms, The Fitness Garage, so named because it was a garage of sorts in another life, doesn’t currently offer memberships.

What it does offer is a varied timetable of classes courtesy of the many freelance instructors who use its large revamped upstairs studio space and a gym floor for personal trainers to
work with their 1-1 clients.

Andy said:

We knew from speaking to our clients and trainers previously the changes we wanted to do, but closing the gym for any length of time just didn’t make financial sense.

Once lockdown restrictions eased, we took some time to look at the space and knew with a re-jig it would lend itself well to any changes required.

Starting with the new toilets, the project just snowballed and we took the time to move the treatment room downstairs, into part of the smaller studio, to improve access, and used the rest of that space to make a more spacious gym floor layout.

Having just one larger studio upstairs, complete with new ventilation and flooring, enabled us to do this and the warm space is now perfect for socially-distanced class work.

The gym currently has 19 trainers, therapists and teachers on its books.

Andy said:

Our trainers specialise in lifting, kettlebells, calisthenics, dance and HIIT training, whilst our teachers offer
yoga, Pilates, (for women’s health, pregnant, post-natal and over 60s) and sports yoga with Harrogate Tri Club and local climbers.
With 1-1s and group classes, we average 250 visits each week.

Ask the guys what they think sets their gym apart from others and they are quick to point out that it is more than just a fitness space, but rather a gym with a real sense of

Steve said:

We had a 3rd birthday celebration at the Cold Bath Brewery back in February and it was great to bring everyone together and celebrate what we had achieved.

That spirit hasn’t disappeared through lockdown and since we reopened, we’ve sensed a rejuvenated buzz among our trainers to get going and to develop better relationships with one another and deliver the best quality fitness offerings we can.

The magic ingredient, according to Andy and Steve, has proved to be the gym’s link with PR company illumanize, who the duo credit for the gym’s raised social media profile, promoting the instructor’s online classes and for building its informative new website.

Both Andy, who lives in Harrogate and Steve, who hails from Knaresborough swapped established careers when they moved into personal training, Andy as a science teacher and Steve working in the building trade; neither has any regrets. Both have established themselves in their own niches, with Andy also having established a private tutor agency, alongside his PT work and Steve as the lead Physical Trainer within the Harrogate District NHS Trust, as well as working as an obesity and diabetes specialist.

Andy said:

We both left our old careers to do things our way.

We wanted to create a space where all trainers, teachers and therapists were welcome and free to also run their own classes
their way.

The restrictions have meant online training has taken off, but there is still very much a place for face to face session too and a need to access gym kit most people don’t own. It can be
lonely working by yourself, so even though we all do our own thing here, we foster a community where we can support each other and bounce ideas around. Couple that with the flexibility we can offer our users, who are often juggling family and work commitments too, it’s a combination that just works.

We took a gamble in March 2017, when we decided to take on the lease as the previous owner went overseas, especially as we didn’t know each other very well at that time. It turned
out we worked well as a team and discovered by combining our skills, namely one of us running a business and the other working as a tradesman, we could make a go of it!

It would have been easy to have pushed back when COVID hit, but we knew The Fitness Garage offers something different and we are really pleased that we’ve been able to bounce back bigger and better, despite the tough climate we are all facing. Keeping fit and well has never mattered more than it does now, in the shadow of this pandemic and we are really glad that we are able to do our bit to promote wellness and more positive mindsets here in Harrogate.


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