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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Gymtopia series: Leaving a legacy

Ray Algar reports on the gym chain giving young homeless people a future

By Ray Algar, Gymtopia | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 3
Centrepoint currently supports around 8,400 young people a year / photo: ©tilly harris
Centrepoint currently supports around 8,400 young people a year / photo: ©tilly harris

This month’s Gymtopia story pays tribute to Baron Carl Gripenstedt, chair and founder of Lifestyle Fitness, who died suddenly in January of this year aged just 59. It’s a story of inherited privilege and wealth, generosity and homelessness.

A noble upbringing
Gripenstedt was part of the Swedish nobility and was raised at Bystad mansion, an imposing estate in Kilsmo – a locality of just 263 people, 200km south-east of Stockholm, Sweden.

The family owned Brevens Bruk AB, a large family estate comprising swathes of forestry, agriculture and real estate. By normal standards, it was a life filled with abundance; if we were all issued with a ticket at birth, Gripenstedt’s would have been golden. So how does this privileged upbringing shape your view of the world and the lives of others less fortunate? Let’s take a look.

A passion for wellbeing
Of all the industries available to him, Gripenstedt chose fitness, starting Competition Line (UK) in 1982 – a company that distributed an extensive range of fitness equipment that was manufactured in Sweden.
The company also moved into club operations with its Lifestyle Fitness brand of low-cost gyms, which are now spreading across the UK. I find it interesting that a member of the Swedish aristocracy chose to offer affordably priced gyms rather than premium clubs for the more affluent.

Compassion for others
I was first drawn to find out more about Gripenstedt and Lifestyle Fitness after reading an article on The Sun newspaper website in 2012 entitled: ‘Homeless man given new chance by gym’.

Lifestyle Fitness discovered 40-year-old Dean Saunders sleeping rough in a building it was converting into a new gym in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Work could not commence until the man was moved on.

Gripenstedt was informed of the situation and made an extraordinary suggestion: that his company pay to re-house Saunders and, when was he able, to employ him at the club.

Speaking to the local newspaper in 2012, Gripenstedt commented: “He was going to be kicked out straight away, but I’ve been working with homeless people for a long time and I said to staff: ‘No, no – we do not do that.’ If he wants, we will help him. With a little determination he will get through his problems. I would be really proud if we could turn him around.”

The promise was kept and Saunders was found a local home, funded by the company. Saunders was conflicted over this random act of kindness, saying: “I have slightly mixed feelings about it all, but I’m going to do it. I think it could be the worst or best day of my life, but I won’t know until I go for it.”

I would like to write that this story opened a new and positive chapter for Saunders, but it didn’t; homelessness isn’t just about shelter. There can be very complex reasons why people sleep rough and a warm bed is not the cure-all.

Enter Centrepoint
But Lifestyle Fitness stuck with its commitment to help homeless people, and entered a partnership with UK charity Centrepoint in 2012.

Since 1969, Centrepoint has been pursuing a long-term vision to end youth homelessness. Its everyday immediate mission is to give homeless young people a future, which begins with offering them a warm, safe room.

But think of this as just the first ‘room’ they require – others are labelled ‘life skills’, ‘education‘, ‘health and wellbeing’, ‘employment’ and critically ‘rebuilding self-esteem’. The Centrepoint journey is to move someone from being a homeless and vulnerable person to become a flourishing and independent adult. So you can see that Saunders was at the very beginning of this big journey.

Centrepoint currently supports around 8,400 16- to 25-year-olds each year. However, this is scratching the surface in the UK, as the charity reports that up to 80,000 young people experience homelessness every year. This number would fill every seat at Manchester United’s stadium and still have people standing.

Long-term partnership
The partnership between Lifestyle Fitness and Centrepoint continues today. The company has pledged to raise a minimum of £100,000 towards the charity’s work and keeps a running total on its website for visitors to see. As I write in early February 2015, £52,253 (US$80,000) has been raised through a combination of club member challenges and direct company donations based on new members joining.

So what difference can these funds make to Centrepoint’s mission? Well, it costs Centrepoint around £15 a day to provide a warm and safe room for a young person. This means Lifestyle Fitness and its members have already raised sufficient funds for 3,466 room nights, and this will increase to 6,666 when it reaches its funding milestone.

Of course, we know a simple room does not solve homelessness, but it’s a vital first step to providing young people with a brighter future.

Leaving a legacy
Gripenstedt leaves a thriving business spanning 57 clubs across the UK, with more than 109,000 members, but these are not the things that truly define a lasting legacy – the sum of all the things we leave behind. An enduring legacy is more about impact than size, and I believe what Gripenstedt leaves behind is a compassionate business that recognises it has the capacity to do more than simply serve up a great low-cost fitness experience.

The late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop summed it up succinctly: “If I can’t do something for the public good, what the hell am I doing?”

Gymtopia - a place where clubs do social good

Gymtopia was conceived by founder and chief engagement officer Ray Algar, who believes the global health and fitness industry has enormous influence and potential to do good in the world, beyond its immediate customers. The idea of Gymtopia is simple: to curate and spread remarkable stories in which the fitness industry uses its influence to reach out and support an external community in need. It was created with the generous support of five organisations: Companhia Athletica, Gantner Technologies, Les Mills, Retention Management and The Gym Group. Gymtopia received an Outstanding Achievement Award in the ukactive Matrix Flame Awards 2014.

Read more stories and submit your own: www.Gymtopia.org

Chief engagement officer Ray Algar
Chief engagement officer Ray Algar

IN A NUTSHELL

Project by: Lifestyle Fitness, UK
Web: www.lifestylefitness.co.uk
Charity supported: Centrepoint
Project status:
Ongoing and long-term
Impact: UK
Gymtopia keywords:
Clothing & Shelter, Education, Health & Wellbeing

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Baron Carl Gripenstedt, chair and founder of Lifestyle Fitness
Baron Carl Gripenstedt, chair and founder of Lifestyle Fitness
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/633400_852798.jpg
Ray Algar reports on the health club chain giving young homeless people a future, thanks to the legacy of Baron Carl Gripenstedt
Ray Algar, Gymtopia,,Gymtopia, Carl Gripenstedt, homelessness, Centrepoint, Lifestyle Fitness
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features

Gymtopia series: Leaving a legacy

Ray Algar reports on the gym chain giving young homeless people a future

By Ray Algar, Gymtopia | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 3
Centrepoint currently supports around 8,400 young people a year / photo: ©tilly harris
Centrepoint currently supports around 8,400 young people a year / photo: ©tilly harris

This month’s Gymtopia story pays tribute to Baron Carl Gripenstedt, chair and founder of Lifestyle Fitness, who died suddenly in January of this year aged just 59. It’s a story of inherited privilege and wealth, generosity and homelessness.

A noble upbringing
Gripenstedt was part of the Swedish nobility and was raised at Bystad mansion, an imposing estate in Kilsmo – a locality of just 263 people, 200km south-east of Stockholm, Sweden.

The family owned Brevens Bruk AB, a large family estate comprising swathes of forestry, agriculture and real estate. By normal standards, it was a life filled with abundance; if we were all issued with a ticket at birth, Gripenstedt’s would have been golden. So how does this privileged upbringing shape your view of the world and the lives of others less fortunate? Let’s take a look.

A passion for wellbeing
Of all the industries available to him, Gripenstedt chose fitness, starting Competition Line (UK) in 1982 – a company that distributed an extensive range of fitness equipment that was manufactured in Sweden.
The company also moved into club operations with its Lifestyle Fitness brand of low-cost gyms, which are now spreading across the UK. I find it interesting that a member of the Swedish aristocracy chose to offer affordably priced gyms rather than premium clubs for the more affluent.

Compassion for others
I was first drawn to find out more about Gripenstedt and Lifestyle Fitness after reading an article on The Sun newspaper website in 2012 entitled: ‘Homeless man given new chance by gym’.

Lifestyle Fitness discovered 40-year-old Dean Saunders sleeping rough in a building it was converting into a new gym in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Work could not commence until the man was moved on.

Gripenstedt was informed of the situation and made an extraordinary suggestion: that his company pay to re-house Saunders and, when was he able, to employ him at the club.

Speaking to the local newspaper in 2012, Gripenstedt commented: “He was going to be kicked out straight away, but I’ve been working with homeless people for a long time and I said to staff: ‘No, no – we do not do that.’ If he wants, we will help him. With a little determination he will get through his problems. I would be really proud if we could turn him around.”

The promise was kept and Saunders was found a local home, funded by the company. Saunders was conflicted over this random act of kindness, saying: “I have slightly mixed feelings about it all, but I’m going to do it. I think it could be the worst or best day of my life, but I won’t know until I go for it.”

I would like to write that this story opened a new and positive chapter for Saunders, but it didn’t; homelessness isn’t just about shelter. There can be very complex reasons why people sleep rough and a warm bed is not the cure-all.

Enter Centrepoint
But Lifestyle Fitness stuck with its commitment to help homeless people, and entered a partnership with UK charity Centrepoint in 2012.

Since 1969, Centrepoint has been pursuing a long-term vision to end youth homelessness. Its everyday immediate mission is to give homeless young people a future, which begins with offering them a warm, safe room.

But think of this as just the first ‘room’ they require – others are labelled ‘life skills’, ‘education‘, ‘health and wellbeing’, ‘employment’ and critically ‘rebuilding self-esteem’. The Centrepoint journey is to move someone from being a homeless and vulnerable person to become a flourishing and independent adult. So you can see that Saunders was at the very beginning of this big journey.

Centrepoint currently supports around 8,400 16- to 25-year-olds each year. However, this is scratching the surface in the UK, as the charity reports that up to 80,000 young people experience homelessness every year. This number would fill every seat at Manchester United’s stadium and still have people standing.

Long-term partnership
The partnership between Lifestyle Fitness and Centrepoint continues today. The company has pledged to raise a minimum of £100,000 towards the charity’s work and keeps a running total on its website for visitors to see. As I write in early February 2015, £52,253 (US$80,000) has been raised through a combination of club member challenges and direct company donations based on new members joining.

So what difference can these funds make to Centrepoint’s mission? Well, it costs Centrepoint around £15 a day to provide a warm and safe room for a young person. This means Lifestyle Fitness and its members have already raised sufficient funds for 3,466 room nights, and this will increase to 6,666 when it reaches its funding milestone.

Of course, we know a simple room does not solve homelessness, but it’s a vital first step to providing young people with a brighter future.

Leaving a legacy
Gripenstedt leaves a thriving business spanning 57 clubs across the UK, with more than 109,000 members, but these are not the things that truly define a lasting legacy – the sum of all the things we leave behind. An enduring legacy is more about impact than size, and I believe what Gripenstedt leaves behind is a compassionate business that recognises it has the capacity to do more than simply serve up a great low-cost fitness experience.

The late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop summed it up succinctly: “If I can’t do something for the public good, what the hell am I doing?”

Gymtopia - a place where clubs do social good

Gymtopia was conceived by founder and chief engagement officer Ray Algar, who believes the global health and fitness industry has enormous influence and potential to do good in the world, beyond its immediate customers. The idea of Gymtopia is simple: to curate and spread remarkable stories in which the fitness industry uses its influence to reach out and support an external community in need. It was created with the generous support of five organisations: Companhia Athletica, Gantner Technologies, Les Mills, Retention Management and The Gym Group. Gymtopia received an Outstanding Achievement Award in the ukactive Matrix Flame Awards 2014.

Read more stories and submit your own: www.Gymtopia.org

Chief engagement officer Ray Algar
Chief engagement officer Ray Algar

IN A NUTSHELL

Project by: Lifestyle Fitness, UK
Web: www.lifestylefitness.co.uk
Charity supported: Centrepoint
Project status:
Ongoing and long-term
Impact: UK
Gymtopia keywords:
Clothing & Shelter, Education, Health & Wellbeing

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Baron Carl Gripenstedt, chair and founder of Lifestyle Fitness
Baron Carl Gripenstedt, chair and founder of Lifestyle Fitness
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/633400_852798.jpg
Ray Algar reports on the health club chain giving young homeless people a future, thanks to the legacy of Baron Carl Gripenstedt
Ray Algar, Gymtopia,,Gymtopia, Carl Gripenstedt, homelessness, Centrepoint, Lifestyle Fitness
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Health clubs and leisure centres in Northern Ireland reopened their doors on Friday 30 April, ...
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Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Cryotherapy specialists, L&R Kältetechnik, launch new artofcryo.com division
L&R Kältetechnik has launched a new division, named artofcryo.com, after 30 years’ experience with -110 °C electrical solutions.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: iFit: your readymade omnichannel fitness solution
With gyms and leisure centres in England reopened, and the rest of the UK due to shortly follow suit, the time for being theoretical is over.
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Company profile: Myzone
Myzone is an innovative heart rate monitor and community engagement tool to track physical activity ...
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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Diary dates
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Virtual summit,
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Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
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Online,
Diary dates
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Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
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Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
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Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
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Diary dates
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Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
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tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
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