By providing online exercise opportunities the organisation is bringing people together to maintain their health during the pandemic.
Scotland All Strong, a Community Interest Company based in Perth, provide personal training, health and fitness classes to clients with a focus on promoting the interconnectivity of fitness, mental health and wellbeing.
Andy Douglas, Director and Instructor, founded Scotland All Strong with his wife Jess and credits fitness with playing a key role in his own recovery: “I came to the realisation about how important fitness had been in my own mental health struggles myself… But at the same time I always felt gym environments weren’t brilliant and that they were too competitive, whether with other people or just with yourself. I can always imagine every time I go to a new gym that if I had never been before this would be terrifying.”
Relationships have been crucial to Scotland All Strong’s success thus far. In partnership with the Perth and Kinross Association of Voluntary Service (PKAVS) and with funding from Perth and Kinross Council, they are able to offer free exercise classes for unpaid carers in Perth. And in partnership with Perth Autism Support, they have also been able to co-create a Young Adult Fitness Project which offers free classes to young autistic adults in Perth. These involve a mixture of group work and one-to-one sessions, with both groups benefitting greatly from having the exercise studio to themselves.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has presented major challenges to the way Scotland All Strong is run. As an organisation which relies entirely upon face to face interaction, they have had to quickly adapt the services they provide for their clients, including a shift towards online based support.
Scotland All Strong now provides live exercise classes on Zoom which are free to attend. These incorporate question and answer sessions and allow time for people to catch up with familiar faces who would have previously attended Scotland All Strong’s exercise studio. Andy has found that these connections have been one of the more popular aspects of their online classes, with people ‘more willing to talk about exercise and mental health (as a result of) the safety of the screen.’ Andy also encourages his clients to book in time with Scotland All Strong’s instructors for a phone call, message or email if they are looking for any advice.
Scotland All Strong have also recently signed up to My PT Hub, an online platform which allows them to create bespoke workouts for their clients taking into account the equipment they have at home. They are also making use of their new YouTube channel, uploading new online classes and video blogs from clients speaking about their experience of life under lockdown.
Scotland All Strong are also making an effort to promote the good work that other organisations are doing, with Andy singling out NHS Scotland’s fitness classes as an example deserving of praise.
Andy recommends that organisations look into funding opportunities and grants to mitigate the financial uncertainty they are facing as a result of COVID-19. This was one of the first steps Scotland All Strong took as an organisation following the announcement of the lockdown. The funding they have received as a result has allowed them to quickly adapt their services with the creation of a new website and app which will provide online community support ‘for the self management of mental health, life struggles and stress with a particular focus on physical activity,’ giving users an online space to share their journey in small private groups.
In terms of a silver lining, Andy has noticed a move towards more collaboration and informal partnerships across different sectors in Scotland as a result of COVID-19. He has also seen a newfound kindness in people: “Everyone is sharing work a lot more and collaborating… Everyone’s under various stresses and strains but I think, overall, organisations are responding brilliantly. Despite the tragic things that are happening, good can come of it. Even if it’s just as basic as being a bit more friendly and seeing the humanity in that other person.”