We are the unique member-owned gym pioneering an inclusive, collaborative approach to fitness.
Since 2016, powered by volunteers, we have trained with over 1,000 people in parts of the city with limited access to health and fitness facilities.
We aim to provide an inclusive, welcoming space for exercise free from assumptions around identity, appearance and ability.
Your support will help us build a gym that reflects our values and make our current space accessible for more people.
Commercial gyms are designed to maximise profit - not fitness or well-being. Conventional fitness culture attempts to shame us into gym membership and creates exclusionary environments that prevent us from attending.
Our gym is the solution - a not-for-profit co-operative space that supports an approach to fitness unique to each member.
Our model works. We survived the pandemic, when many other gyms around us closed, without requiring any external support or dipping into our reserves.
We aim to:
- Build a culture of non-judgement through celebration of each other’s progress
- Build a supportive and inclusive culture that is free from assumptions
- Empower people to create healthy training habits
- Engage people who are excluded from training facilities
- Provide high-quality coaching and facilities
- Remain affordable by using fair pricing models
- Be financially sustainable in our day-to-day operations, free from reliance on external funding
As a not-for-profit that doesn’t depend on members not using their memberships like most gyms, we need to look outside of our usual income sources to make these sorts of large changes. Your support will enable us to take this next step.
We have always dreamed of designing our own gym to create an inclusive space to exercise. Now we have the opportunity to do this, but we need your help.
In October 2021 we took on sole occupancy of a space in St Anne’s House run by Bricks - a social enterprise supporting local and creative communities in Bristol.
Since then, we have welcomed 200 new people from the local area, offered free weightlifting classes to NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) young people and free memberships to refugees and asylum seekers.
We can do so much more, but we’re limited by our current set-up.
Our new home is a former council building and still feels like an office. The floor is uncomfortable and dirty, sound insulation is poor, and we have no storage space. Some of our equipment is no longer fit for purpose after being stored in a damp cupboard in our previous venue over the lockdowns.
As result, we know that we are not reaching some of the people we set up to train with. With your help, we will:
- Improve the layout of our studio so it's more suitable for beginners and members with mobility issues or neurodiversity
- Adapt the space so that we have increased control over light and noise levels to better manage sensory stimulation, as well as offering the option of a more private training area for members who prefer that
- Store our equipment in a way that is clearly labelled and easy to access for all our members
- Replace some of our equipment with items that are more adaptable to all abilities and body shapes
"As someone that's previously had panic attacks in gym classes, am partially deaf and have fibromyalgia, attending a gym class has always been a bit of a challenge, but Bristol Co-operative Gym is really accessible and I enjoy it a lot!"
"My experience of exercising as a fat person generally included being self-conscious and feeling judged - once even laughed at. I have never felt like that in Bristol Co-operative Gym. It just felt immediately inclusive and welcoming. There are no expectations about why I'm there, what I should wear or look like, or what I should be able to do or know. I really enjoy coming to the classes, it's a very friendly and fun place to train."
"I'm in my early 60s. For many years, I've been living with bouts of depression and anxiety. As a result, my self-esteem can be pretty shaky. I'm overweight, but try not to obsess about 'slimming'. I also have arthritis in my hands and knees. I'm on state benefits, so I don't have much spare money.
I have tried many exercise classes and personal trainers at commercial gyms before I heard about BCG. As I stepped into my first session, everyone smiled and greeted me. I immediately felt I was in a supportive atmosphere. All through that session, I felt motivated and encouraged to try doing new things with my body. I felt safely held and valued. Rather than feeling intimidated, I began to feel brave. That's why I'm now a member of the co-op, contributing to developing its future, and still loving my training sessions there."
"Getting the opportunity to teach classes in BCG was like a dream coming true. Since the first day, I felt welcomed and accepted for who I am. BCG has been a life-changing experience and a positive ground for me to grow as a coach and as a person. Being able to participate in the designing and decision-making has made me feel respected and heard while also helping me learn more about the business aspect of my work."
"I am totally in love with BCG. It feels truly a held, knowledgeable, inclusive, safe, fun, social space. I've always had a virulent hatred of gyms to the point of almost being embarrassed at being 'caught' exercising but have happily come to realise how much exercising supports my mental health and feeling good.
BCG is a magic tonic for the physical and mental. I feel very lucky to get to attend and for the lovely people it draws together. We all arrive in various states with all the bumps of life but leave again smiling and just that bit stronger and more hopeful."
"Access Sport are really excited to be working with Bristol Co-operative Gym to help ensure their services are disability inclusive. They’re really passionate about supporting all members of the local community and have embedded accessible design from the start, rather than as an afterthought. They have not shied away from the additional costs this involves and are seeking support to make this possible. This development will be a huge asset to the local community and bring all-important physical, mental and social benefits to all the diverse individuals who engage with their services, safe in the knowledge that they will be welcomed with open arms." Lizzie Edgecombe, Disability Inclusion Development Manager, Access Sport.
"Bricks is delighted to host Bristol Co-operative Gym as a tenant at St Annes House. Their inclusive and people-focused approach really resonated with us and our community partners. As we move forward we are really excited about how our programmes can interweave as there are so many crossovers and synergies between the two organisations based on shared approach and values. Their designs for the renovation look fantastic and we can't wait to see it come to life." Jack Gibbon, Director, Bricks
"At OTR we have a strong emphasis on inclusion and anti-oppressive practice as part of our work, so working with an inclusive, body-positive gym that pro-actively avoids the problematic aspects of more typical gym culture is absolutely bang on for what we're trying to achieve when working with young people. We want all young people to be able to access physical activity where they can, and a broader range of equipment and inclusive space at BCG would be a massive step forward in making that happen. We are really keen to keep working with BCG and reach even more young people from communities that are often over-looked." Tom Antebi, Sports Works Coordinator, Off the Record
Members and coaches worked with with local architects 2A1M to design our ideal training environment.
We have taken advice throughout the process from experts in accessible, inclusive and community-engaged approaches to fitness (these conversations will be released during the campaign as a podcast series called The Good Gym Guide).
The result is radically different to how conventional gyms look and feel.
This space is accessible, welcoming and flexible - with plenty of space for both training and chatting.
Our gym will include people who are often excluded from fitness spaces by partnering proactively with specialist organisations in the communities we hope to reach.
Every aspect of the design is removable and adaptable to any space.
Our gym design includes:
To ensure we built in accessibility from the beginning rather than just making adaptations later on, we have consulted with experts in disability-aware gym design throughout this process.
Examples of access considerations in the space include:
- Control of light and sound levels
- Equipment storage and gym decoration that doesn't feel too visually busy
- Removal of obstacles and trip hazards
- Part of the space that can be partitioned off as a more private training environment
- Clear signage and use of colour to demarcate functions of spaces and storage
- Consideration of the floor and wall textures
- Equipment that is easy to move
- Equipment that is flexible and adaptable rather than serving a single fixed purpose
- All coat hooks, shelving, Swedish ladders etc. adaptable to any height
- Space between equipment and large enough doors for wheelchairs
- Dog bowl for service dogs!
A multi-functional unit will store equipment in a way that is clearly labelled and easy to access, while also providing comfortable seating for socialising. The bottom tier is made of plyometric boxes that can be used for exercise, yet also be joined together to form seating for film screenings and presentations.
All heavy equipment will be accessible and low down, with higher shelving for plants and decoration to make the space inviting.
Thick rubber flooring through the space will give us flexibility to exercise anywhere in the room. It will be more comfortable on everyone’s knees, easier to clean, and better for acoustic insulation.
We were fortunate to inherit second-hand equipment from generous gyms in the past. After years of use, much of it is in need of replacement.
To improve accessibility, we will have squat racks that are easier to move and adjust, one extra-sturdy power rack for heavier lifts, benches that suit all body sizes, and lighter barbells for beginner lifters.
The atmosphere will be relaxed and friendly, making people feel comfortable arriving for the first time.
They will be greeted by a bright, open space with art on the wall. Intimidating-looking equipment will be out of sight.
Coir matting on the floor will encourage members to remove their outdoor shoes. Notice boards provide updates on the gym and community events. There will be plenty of space for personal belongings.
Currently the space is set up like an office, with a suspended ceiling, harsh lighting and lots of plug sockets.
Removing the ceiling tiles would give us more vertical space, exposing the concrete above. We would make the lighting softer.
The pricing suggested for each reward is a guide only - if you are able to give any more than what is asked for, that will come to us as a pure donation! Thank you!
For more details about all of the rewards we're offering, see our Instagram.
We will be hosting a unique fundraising event on Saturday 9th April - the Bristol Co-operative Games. To attend, register your interest and then donate here before the event.
Enjoy our unique approach from anywhere in the world or in-person with these follow-along classes and workshops:
- A special series of follow-along classes from each of our coaches
- Private Punk Aerobics party in-person with Charlie
- Write your own Training Plan online workshop with Guy
- Interactive History of "Good" Posture online workshop with Guy
- Exercise and Lower Back Pain online workshop with Isidora
- Core Stability for Weightlifting online workshop with Isidora
We are delighted to offer a range of generous discounts from friends of the gym:
Be remembered and appreciated foreverrr by:
- Adding your name to our funder wall
- Naming a kettlebell
- Sponsoring a barbell
The fantastic illustrator and co-op member Jayde Perkin has created two limited-edition t-shirt designs to support our campaign:
We have a whole range of other merch too:
- Button badges
- Embroidered patches
- Now That's What I Call BCG Training Montage Music compilation
- A-Z of Strength Training zine
And you can get all the above (apart from the black t-shirt) for £80.
A movement against mainstream fitness culture is gaining momentum. The toxic nature of fitness and diet culture stops us experiencing the pleasure and benefits of exercise.
There are more and more coaches offering an alternative but no gyms that have been built from scratch specifically with this in mind.
The importance of community spaces has been highlighted by the isolation many experienced over the last two years.
We believe our unique model can establish gyms as powerful spaces to connect with people. The effects reach far beyond the gym and benefit our communities.
We dream of a fitness future where community-run spaces provide accessible and social exercise.
With your help, we are proud to demonstrate how well this can work.