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myCareer profile
Ruth Lynch

Communities and Group Exercise Manager

Stockport

Life Leisure

Ruth Lynch has worked in the fitness and leisure industry for 20 years.

How did you get into the fitness industry?

Twenty years ago when I left school, like a lot of teenagers I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I went on a work placement at a leisure centre and I was hooked! I enjoyed it so much that the centre manager helped me get an apprenticeship to be a fitness instructor. From there I became a manager at the centre, and I’ve been in the industry ever since. I have two children aged eleven and nine, but even when they were young I worked as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor. I love it.

How has your career progressed since then? In 2001, I worked with Malcolm McPhail (CEO of Life Leisure) at Next Generation in Chorley (now David Lloyd). When he moved to Life Leisure, he offered me a position as a master trainer, mentoring other trainers and delivering group fitness classes. I have always known the power of group exercise and how it creates a community, which is why I jumped at the chance of becoming Community Manager. Sometimes, if you take people outside the four walls of a gym, they do amazing things together that they didn’t realise they were capable of. In my current role, I can be doing anything from helping motivate people completely new to exercise, helping organise a Tough Tribe outdoor obstacle course to researching the best way to get depressed people involved in exercise. This month I organised a fitness festival at a local park, which offered taster fun exercise sessions for all ages and abilities. It also raised money for the Manchester bomb victims.

What motivates you? When I was 20, I lost a very close friend. Some mornings I would be driving into work in tears, and then I would have to put my game face on. That made me stronger. It made me realise that not only is exercise good for your body, it is so powerful for the brain. Exercise doesn’t take away your troubles, but it helps you to cope. I use this personal experience to inspire others. As a fitness instructor, I can never have a bad day. People come to me for my energy and enthusiasm, and I am always looking for ways to connect with more people in a session. You have such a wide range of people in a group exercise session and I believe the best instructors connect to every type. I have learnt over the years to still be me but to adapt my personality to engage with as many of these people as possible. That has helped me also grow as an instructor and a person.

What do you think the industry needs to focus on? If we are really going to get the nation fitter and healthier, we must think outside the box and look at how people of at all ages and at all stages can build exercise into their lives. If people don’t feel able to come to the gym, we should think about ways of reaching them that they find appealing. There is something for everyone and I do believe we need to do more to help people with mental health issues. It’s about changing lives, not selling gym memberships. That said there is an excellent sentinel scheme at our leisure centres. We have some fantastic role models – people who get a free membership in return for mentoring and helping to inspire others. There is nothing better than working alongside somebody ‘ordinary’ like yourself who has reached optimum fitness, and finding out how you can do it too.

How important are digital tools in getting people fit?

Digital tools are hugely important, but they must be part of a tried and tested fitness campaign. Again, group activity is so important. At Life Leisure our actilife programme is designed specifically for ordinary people who do not normally exercise. It combines fitness trackers with an online interactive programme and remote coaching. We currently have around 500 people from the local council and NHS organisations taking part, as well as other local businesses who are proactively taking steps to get their workforces more active and healthier. An initial 3-month pilot project with 400 people – 61% of whom were categorised as completely inactive – saw 85% report an increase in their activity levels, with over two thirds changing their habits to take 30 minutes of ‘moderate physical activity’ at least three times a week.

If we are going to get the nation fitter and healthier, we must look at how people of all ages can build exercise into their lives.
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