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How physical exercise and overcoming adversity inspired two founders

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by Startacus Admin

Arc Fitness
Proof of the life-changing impact that physical exercise can have, as we look at two inspirational businesses that have been created by their founders overcoming mental health and addiction issues...


Whilst we all know that exercise has a significant beneficial effect on our physical health, it’s becoming ever more apparent that it also has a hugely positive effect on our mental health and general wellbeing. This in turn is becoming the inspiration for more and more people to start their own businesses, particularly when buoyed by their own personal experiences.

fighting spirit logoStep forward Gwen Richards, who founded Fighting Spirit Wellbeing CIC following the discovery that non-contact boxing fitness training had a powerful impact on her mental health, subsequently making a full recovery from long term depression.

Realising the benefits, Gwen started working within the community, running sessions for all age groups, to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

These sessions proved to be so successful that Gwen then created “Fighting Talk” sessions. Building on the Boxing Fitness Training, Gwen leads these sessions with support from an accredited counsellor and she uses a bespoke approach tailored to meet client needs.

Gwen is also now supporting companies with their mental health awareness strategies. Gwen has developed a range of workshops aimed at both management and employees. These workshops cover various topics including developing personal resilience, building self-esteem and managing stress.

Fighting Spirit The management programme is aimed at equipping employers with the tools they need to tackle mental health challenges in the workplace, create a positive culture conducive to strong mental health, raise awareness and ultimately gain a better understanding.

In addition to this, Fighting Spirit is also in the process of developing a pilot programme with 20 patient referrals from the four NHS trusts within the Greater Manchester region. The aim is to offer a social prescription via GPs - in line with the recent growth in social prescribing services partnering with the NHS.

To date, Fighting Spirit has also hosted various fundraisers and plans are afoot to hold a benefit concert in 2020 and generate considerable funds for mental health causes.

arc fitness logoAnother person who has been inspired by his own personal journey to start a business is Gary Rutherford, founder of ARC Fitness in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Gary had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for many years and this had a destructive impact on everything in his life - from his personal relationships to his own self-worth. Having had a couple of spells in treatment centres and then relapsing on and off for a period of two years, Gary finally became sober and is now in his 10th year of recovery from addictions. As well as returning to college and becoming a mental health nurse, Gary credits exercise and physical activity as playing a massive part in his recovery.

Wishing to help others and inspired by his own experience, Gary created ARC Fitness as a not-for-profit social enterprise that supports individuals with substance use disorders to achieve healthy and sustainable recovery through the application of physical activity and positive lifestyle choices.

It provides small group personal training services for people in recovery from drug and alcohol dependence. ARC Fitness also provides Addiction Recovery Coaching and signposts people to local addiction and mental health support services and fitness providers. Its mission is to fundamentally help people to “thrive and succeed in their lives after addiction”.

Inspirational stories from Gwen and Gary, and whilst geographically they are miles apart, it's great to see two similar businesses born from dealing with personal adversity - in a positive way. We wish both them and their businesses continued good luck and success!



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Published on: 18th November 2019

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