On a chilly Tuesday evening at 6:15 pm, the York Masters Boxing Gym in Redeness Street buzzes with determination – gasps, grunts, and the rhythmic thuds of punchbags. In this empowering space, a diverse group of at least a dozen women, spanning various ages and backgrounds, partakes in a rigorous workout.
Under the guidance of Charlie Malarkey from the Salvation Army, the women take on challenges like lifting tires, pulling on ropes, jumping over benches, and delivering powerful blows to punchbags. Charlie’s motivating shouts of encouragement fill the air, creating an atmosphere of strength and resilience.
This session marks the initiation of a new initiative – a regular free training and boxing class exclusively for women. Every Tuesday from 6 pm, the gym opens its doors to women, providing a safe and supportive environment for them to embrace physical and mental strength.
The Salvation Army, in collaboration with York charity Chocolate & Co, recognized the demand for women-only sessions. While the Salvation Army already conducts two free mixed training and boxing sessions on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, the need for a space exclusively for women became apparent.
One participant in the inaugural session expressed her enthusiasm for the opportunity. She had long desired to engage in training but couldn’t afford a commercial gym. The Salvation Army’s free Tuesday evening sessions filled this void for her.
Highlighting the empowering nature of the experience, she stated, “It’s about getting out, feeling more confident, being around other women – and there’s a lovely atmosphere. And if I can get myself some self-defence skills, I’ll feel much better.”
Another participant, a supervisor at Chocolate & Co, joined the sessions to improve her fitness. She notes the dual benefits, saying, “But you feel so much better as well! You feel physically better, but it’s also good for your self-esteem. When I heard there was going to be an all-female session on a Tuesday night, I was over the moon!”
A representative from the Salvation Army shed light on the vulnerabilities some women face, especially those who have experienced homelessness or are survivors of domestic abuse. Regardless of their background, the representative asserted that the workout provided in these sessions can yield significant mental health benefits, boosting self-confidence and self-esteem.
With the warm-up concluded, the focus shifts to the punch bag. One of the session leaders emphasizes the inclusivity of the space, stating, “This is a non-intimidating space, where we’re all here to help each other. For women who have had a difficult time or a stressful background, it really helps them get rid of that stress.”
The initiative not only promotes physical fitness but also addresses mental health concerns, providing a therapeutic outlet for stress and anxiety. For women who may have faced adversity, the gym becomes a sanctuary where they can rebuild their strength, both physically and emotionally.
As the women take turns pounding away at the punchbags, it’s evident that this initiative transcends the realm of fitness; it’s about empowerment, solidarity, and the creation of a supportive community. The collective effort in the gym resonates far beyond the echoing punches, heralding a new chapter in women’s fitness and well-being in York.