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The Rig: New Stortford gym co-launched by carer-turned-fitness instructor aims to be inclusive


By Eleanor Scotchbrook


Amelia Lawes and Miguel Angel have just opened The Rig, which specialises in fitness classes for people with special needs alongside a range of other regular exercise classes, including martial art Muay Thai Pic: Vikki Lince
Amelia Lawes and Miguel Angel have just opened The Rig, which specialises in fitness classes for people with special needs alongside a range of other regular exercise classes, including martial art Muay Thai Pic: Vikki Lince

A couple who are passionate about helping people of all abilities to lead an active lifestyle have opened Bishop's Stortford's first inclusive gym.

Amelia Lawes and partner Miguel Angel sparring. Pic: Vikki Lince
Amelia Lawes and partner Miguel Angel sparring. Pic: Vikki Lince

The Rig is the brainchild of carer-turned-fitness instructor Amelia Lawes and her partner Miguel Angel.

It offers tailored fitness classes for children and adults with additional needs alongside a programme of regular training sessions, including Muay Thai martial arts.

Amelia said they were inspired to set up a gym to cater for all abilities through her experiences as a support worker for Hft (formerly the Home Farm Trust), one of the UK’s largest and longest-running charities supporting people with learning disabilities.

Having previously struggled to find a suitable place for the people she worked with to exercise, Amelia decided to qualify as a gym instructor, initially launching her own ‘Fit and Better’ (FAB) classes in 2014.

When I was a support worker there was a guy with Down's syndrome who really wanted to go to the gym. So we went along but it was very fast-paced and because he was left feeling rushed he didn't get much exercise from it, which appeared to upset him
Amelia Lawes, co-founder of The Rig fitness studio

She held these either in people’s own homes or at local day centres, but now, with the launch of The Rig, at Millside Industrial Estate, off Southmill Road, she has a dedicated space to offer her specially adapted sessions alongside a full programme of other activities for all ages and abilities.

The couple, of Hazelend, said the emphasis at The Rig is firmly on empowering individuals regardless of ability or experience in a fun, social and supportive environment. The gym is very much open to all.

In addition to Amelia’s FAB classes, the fitness duo offer circuits session The Riggers, Peachy legs and bums, boxercise-style Hit and Strike and Thai Abs.

Meanwhile, Spanish native Miguel, 36, who also works as a postman, oversees the martial arts training through his CH Muay Thai classes, with Amelia running a women-only class.

Amelia working with a client at The Rig. Pic: Vikki Lince
Amelia working with a client at The Rig. Pic: Vikki Lince

Amelia, 29, said: “When I was a support worker there was a guy with Down’s syndrome who really wanted to go to the gym. So we went along but it was very fast-paced and because he was left feeling rushed he didn’t get much exercise from it, which appeared to upset him.

“He really wanted to participate, but it was difficult for the instructor to adapt the class to his needs without disrupting everyone else.

“I remember thinking this really isn’t the right environment for him, but it wasn’t fair that he should miss out. It got me thinking that there should be a gym that can cater for everyone and where people with special needs can go to train and join in with exercises at their own pace.”

Whether you are new to training or a fitness fanatic, the couple said they hope The Rig will eventually become known as a friendly studio offering like-minded people of all abilities a place where they feel safe and comfortable to train.

The Rig is on the Millside industrial estate off Southmill Road Pic:
The Rig is on the Millside industrial estate off Southmill Road Pic:

“We’ve put our heart and soul into this and invested a lot, and not just our savings,” Amelia said. “But we both have the mindset of never give up and that’s become a bit of a mantra. If you don’t ever try you’ll never know if it could work and I believe we can do it and make it a success.

“Miguel came up with the slogan ‘train like a pro, feel like a fighter’ and I think that sums up everything we are passionate about.”

For a full schedule of classes at The Rig, visit www.theriggym.co.uk or search for them on Facebook.



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