Olympian grandmother launches Sunderland fitness studio to raise spirits and confidence through weightlifting

An Olympian weightlifter is looking to raise the confidence of those least likely to head to the gym – with the promise of a sweet treat as an end of session reward.

Weights and Cakes is preparing to launch in Nile Street once lockdown eases, with Olympic weightlifter athlete and coach Zoe Chandler at the helm.

The 48-year-old has set up the Community Interest Company (CIC) to run classes, encouraging those who might shy away from fitness venues and sports to strengthen their bodies and mental health.

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Olympic weightlifting athlete and coach Zoe Chandler ahead of the launch of the new Weights & Cakes business at her Nile Street studio.

The group classes will end with a chat, a cuppa and a cake, giving people a chance to seek out support and chat about anything they want to talk through, with one-to-one training also available.

The mum-of-five, who took up weightlifting to improve her own physical and mental health as she reached 40, has made the studio a body positive and inclusive coaching facility which welcomes all ages, abilities, genders and previous experience.

Working alongside Ellie Lowther of Essential Learing Curve, Zoe will be running classes for transgender people, while she and fellow coach Karen Shek will work with people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, children who struggle with the school system and those with autism among others.

Olympic weightlifting athlete and coach Zoe Chandler with coach Karen Shek (L) ahead of the launch of the new Weights & Cakes business at her Nile Street studio.

The exercise space features tyres, sledgehammers, sand bags, metal logs and other objects, while outdoor work can feature truck and car pulls set up by Zoe.

Zoe, who is also known by the surname Berry and has worked alongside mental health charities on previous projects, said: “Weights and Cakes is training, it’s not going to be a gym, people aren’t going to be doing 100 burpees or anything ridiculous like that.

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"This is about believing in yourself, increasing your strength and being part of a community.

"We all work as a family and we celebrate each other’s successes.”

Olympic weightlifting athlete and coach Zoe Chandler will work alongside a host of people who would usually not head to the gym at her new Nile Street studio.

Zoe, who counts 10-year-old granddaughter Libby Warwick-Snow among her trainees, includes Northern master champion in Olympic weightlifting in 2018, British masters silver medal 2018 and English masters champion 2019 among her achievements, with a host of competitions on the horizon once pandemic restrictions ease.

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More about the studio, which has been set up inside one of the Broadside Creatives Community Interest Company buildings and will serve up Cake Box treats, can be found via its Facebook page Weights & Cakes CIC.

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Olympic weightlifting athlete and coach Zoe Chandler with granddaughter Libby Warwick-Snow, 10, as she puts her through a training programme.

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