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Facility expansion solves a weighty problem for Pembrokeshire gym

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They didn’t know it at the time, but upgrades made to a Pembrokeshire gym last winter have proven to be a godsend.

‘Strength Academy Wales’, a social enterprise run in in partnership with Pembrokeshire Leisure and based at the Thomas Picton Leisure Centre in Haverfordwest, was one of 150 projects across the country to receive a share of £5m ‘Place for Sport’ funding from Sport Wales in 2019 to improve facilities.

Strength Academy Wales used a £10,000 grant to replace their flooring with a new modern surface, bought a range of inclusive equipment suitable for users with disabilities and, crucially, extended their gym into a squash court which wasn’t being used.

Gym users social distancing in the new expanded gym facilities
Gym users social distancing in the newly expanded gym facilities


Before Covid-19 struck, that extra space was part of the gym’s plans for expansion so that they could offer members more opportunities. But in the last couple of months, the extra space has pretty much been the difference between the gym being able to reopen or not.

It has enabled Strength Academy Wales to follow all of the necessary of Covid safety protocols, while still operating as a viable gym where members can enjoy being back together again… at a distance.

Each member must complete a Covid checker and wear a face mask before entering the gym. Once there, members train separately in 3m by 3m squares that are clearly marked, no equipment is shared, there’s a one-way system in and out of the gym, and everything is given a thorough clean afterwards ready for the next member.

As well as a Place for Sport Grant, the gym’s redevelopment was also supported by funding from another Welsh Government scheme as well as additional money from local firm South Hook LNG, the Haverfordwest Pool Trust and funds raised by the members themselves.

Weightlifters using the new expanded gym facilities
Weightlifters using the newly expanded gym facilities


Simon Roach, from the Pembrokeshire Weightlifting Federation, said: “Since we were able to reopen indoors in early August, the extra space has been absolutely vital. Without it, we would have really struggled, so we’re extremely grateful for all of the funding we’ve received. 

“Everyone has been really happy to be back in the gym and benefit from both the physical and mental side of strength training. Some were quite emotional, describing how much the centre means to them and how much they’ve missed it. We have a lot of senior members, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s, so it has been wonderful to see their confidence grow as they’ve been reassured by the safety protocols we have in place.

“It’s obviously not the same as it was before, but the members have all really bought into the new regime and are doing everything they can to keep each other safe.”

That togetherness and camaraderie was fully evident during lockdown, as Simon explained: “We really pride ourselves on nurturing a welcoming, supportive atmosphere for all ages and abilities. As soon as we went into lockdown, we lent out plenty of equipment to nearly 50 families, aiding them to stay fit and healthy and were thrilled to raise over £1,000 for Mind Cymru thanks to various fitness challenges that our members took part in from home.

“Our volunteer coaches also ran online sessions for our competitive lifters during that period which everyone appreciated, despite some technical glitches! It is difficult to train on your own though, so we’re all really pleased to be back in the centre.

“Members are now back into full training and we have seen excellent attendance figures through our open gym timetable, over 40s, ladies only, and community wellness sessions. Our competitive weightlifting team are also preparing for the Virtual Welsh Open, which will be their first competition since February.”

As well as the Place for Sport grant, Strength Academy Wales were also successful with an application for emergency funding from Sport Wales to help with costs while memberships were frozen as a result of the pandemic, and then received a further financial boost in the shape of a ‘Be Active Wales’ grant which helped them to reopen safely.