12 community champions helping Gloucestershire to get more active

Inspiring people across Gloucestershire to be more active, SoGlos champions 12 fitness experts and changemakers who are helping people to bring more movement into their lives in easy and enjoyable ways.

By Emma Luther  |  Published
Fitness professionals and changemakers across the county are working with Active Gloucestershire to help communities build more movement into their lives.

On a mission to halve inactivity in Gloucestershire by 2030, Active Gloucestershire is inspiring people to get moving by making small, everyday changes to boost their activity levels.

There are plenty of people doing great work to help keep Gloucestershire moving, too, from fitness instructors running community classes to champion athletes making their sports more accessible for all – with SoGlos celebrating 12 of them in this hot list.

Dr Cathy Stannard of NHS Gloucestershire

Dr Cathy Stannard is a powerhouse in the health world – most notably heading up the Living Well with Pain programme in Gloucestershire, which supports chronically ill people to live well with their symptoms.

A highly influential and enthusiastic advocate for physical activity, Dr Stannard not only speaks passionately about exercise to her colleagues within the integrated care system, but is a voice for Gloucestershire approaches on a national level too.

Lesley Lyons, independent community exercise professional

Supporting Active Gloucestershire's We Can Move campaign through a programme for people living with pain, Lesley Lyons is dedicated to providing inclusive activity in the community to individuals with a wide range of long-term conditions.

She has a history of providing community activity for adults in Gloucestershire and continues to do online and face-to-face work for local councils, despite being semi-retired.

Antonia Vassilouthis, independent community exercise professional

With a passion for Tai chi and postural stability, Toni Vassilouthis is an inspirational exercise professional working in local communities to make a difference through a wide range of activities.

Her inclusive, calm and welcoming approach to working with local people has won her plenty of fans. Vassilouthis has also supported Active Gloucestershire by joining and contributing to We Can Move networks; connecting and sharing learning with local healthcare professionals; and has featured in a film for a We Can Move initiative for people living with persistent pain.

Lela Thomas, fitness instructor and founder of SOH Fit

Founder of Quedgeley-based gym SOH Fit, Lela Thomas is passionate about health, fitness and wellbeing. She has recently become a trustee for Active Gloucestershire to help shape and influence the diversity of future projects, programmes and policy for Gloucestershire.

At SOH, Thomas leads fun and energetic community fitness activities as well as using her knowledge and experience to deliver tailored activity for older people and those with mobility issues. She provides an inclusive, social and active environment to improve their physical and mental health and even uses the cultural connection of music to inspire a range of audiences.  

Karina Burt, art psychotherapist at The Nelson Trust, Gloucester

Karina Burt is an art psychotherapist by trade, with a passion for the physical and mental health benefits of being outside and moving more. She's working on a project for The Nelson Trust, supporting local women to visit places in their community and create their own artwork.

From climbing hills to walking through forests, participants have reported feeling better for getting outside to discover more of what's on their doorstep and have continued to visit local places with their friends and family beyond the project.

Carena Sharpley of Gloucester Community Building Collective

As well as helping local people to build connections through community classes, gardening groups and outdoor gyms, Carena Sharpley was integral to developing a physical activity element to the B&T Memory Café following the Covid-19 lockdown.

She experienced the benefits of keeping active on her own physical and mental health, so took action to support the memory group's noticeable declining health due to isolation and inactivity. She's also partnered with GL1 Leisure Centre to offer low intensity exercise classes, with the leisure centre staff having since taken on additional dementia training to offer accessible and inclusive activity to those with memory problems, as well as carers.

Andrea Peck of Phoenix Weightlifting

A bronze winner in the European Weightlifting Championships, as well as holding three British champion titles, Andrea Peck is an advocate for women's weightlifting in Gloucestershire.

She's on a mission to make Olympic weightlifting more accessible to people in the county, focusing on getting women and young people into the sport, and works with many children with disabilities and learning needs, too. Her Gloucester-based gym, Phoenix Weightlifting, hosts small group training sessions to help people who have anxiety feel more at ease.

Nikki Sinclair of Red Eagle Martial Arts

Nikki Sinclair has been training in Wadō-ryū for more than 25 years, benefiting from increased confidence, resilience, problem solving, social interaction, fitness, mental wellbeing and friendship through her practice.

She runs classes in Cheltenham and Tewkesbury through her club, Red Eagle Martial Arts, which supports young people and adults to discover those benefits for themselves through the practice of bonsai chi and Wadō-ryū. Sinclair delivers activity on referral sessions, too.

Jeanette Tate of Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation

Jeanette Tate strives to provide an inclusive environment for young people to play cricket – from her work at the Super 1s hubs across the county and teaching people about table cricket, to supporting players to compete at county level.

Tate's values strongly align with those of We Can Move and she cares deeply about providing more people with opportunities to live healthier, happier lives.

Solace Gym in Cheltenham

Owners of Solace Gym, Louise Williams and Lawrence Martin, have created a gym that really is for everyone. The Cheltenham fitness hub is a frontrunner in creating inclusive spaces and raising awareness of the impact of neurodivergence when accessing physical activity.

Along with their colleagues, team Solace has worked hard to create a place of physical and psychological safety for many, while supporting many We Can Move campaigns and projects.

Jennie Goodrum of Active Impact and You’re Welcome

Jennie Goodrum is responsible for developing and delivering Active Impact’s inclusion training, upskilling the local workforce with a better understanding to support disabled children and young people – ensuring they're happy and active in groups across Gloucestershire.

Goodrum also works on the online activity finder, You’re Welcome Gloucestershire, to share information about inclusive and accessible activities across the county. She helps to keep information up-to-date and accurate, so families can find the right activities for their children.

Max Pemberton of Allsorts and YuGo

Max Pemberton is head of sports at Allsorts, which offers activities for young people with additional needs. From competitive and recreational football to personal training, yoga and dance, Pemberton and his team advocate inclusive and meaningful opportunities for everyone.

Active Gloucestershire is currently working with Pemberton to offer leadership opportunities for young disabled people in a programme called See My Voice, where learners get to complete a Sports Leaders Level 2 qualification as well as voluntary hours to develop leadership and confidence.

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