A young gym owner is improving health and wellbeing in the Yorkshire Dales thanks to the skills she gained at a North East college.
Former Darlington College student Elise Westen now runs the Your Fitness Needs gym in Leyburn which is improving the physical and mental health of clients, aged 12 to 75, including injured jockeys and an eight-organ transplant patient.
A former swimmer and swimming coach, she developed an interest in the gym after injuring her knee which required surgery at 16.
After leaving Wensleydale School, she spent three years at Darlington College gaining her Level 3 and 4 qualifications in gym instructing. And during the pandemic she asked her tutors for advice on how to set up a business.
“I loved Darlington College it was really good and the tutors helped me massively including working with me to set up the business,” she said.
After working at Catterick Leisure Centre she took over Your Fitness Needs in Leyburn when the owner became ill.
“I’m often the youngest here and being the boss was strange at first,” said Elise, who is now just 22.
“My diamond group, of 60-75-year-olds, are always making fun but I give them as good as I get and they are lovely. I do live and breathe the place, which can be stressful but I love it.”
The gym comes fully equipped with weights, cardio and resistance machines and a host of classes, from group sessions to individual coaching, even in people’s homes. It operates full membership, day and weekly passes and offers free inductions.
It was recently shortlisted in the National Fitness Awards and Elise is entering the British Fitness Awards.
She also has the help of her finance Cadno Buck who she encouraged to study a Level 2 in gym instructing.
Customers come via word of mouth and are also referred by physiotherapists as fitness and exercise has been proved to double recovery time and prevent a host of ailments in the elderly.
“It’s all very personal and friendly here – we start with a chat about their needs, their short, medium and long term goals and any medical issues – and the clients help each other with technique, which is lovely,” said Elise.
“With the jockeys it’s about building their strength, balance and co-ordination. With the transplant patient it’s about core strength, legs and nutrition as he prepares for a host of charity events he’s planning. Some clients are recovering from strokes, others have Parkinson’s disease.”
Elise is also organising a team of 20 people, aged 14 to 40, to take part in a Total Warrior competition, which comprises a gruelling 6km obstacle course.
Other gym programmes include themed disco workout sessions, high intensity exercise set to music ranging from ABBA to Disney.
Elise hope to expand the personal training side of the business to other towns and people’s homes and one day run her own leisure centre.