Designing for Different Needs with David Sully of Stride Fitness

The Good Gym Guide Podcast • Series 1, Episode 3

This episode is with David Sully, who runs two very different exercise groups in Bristol - the LGBTQ fitness classes at Hamilton House and the Yate Active Wellbeing Group. 

Although the content of these classes, and the people who go to them, are very different, in both settings Dave creates a space where exercise is used as a tool not just for improving our physical health, but also to start conversations and build relationships.

Dave talks about his experience of using exercise to improve his mental health, how this led him to train as a PT and start the classes, what he’s learned in the years he’s been doing them, and how he’d take these lessons into the running of a permanent, dedicated training space designed around the needs of these groups and others under-served by most gyms.

It was really inspiring to hear how he recognised a gap in the provision of services that he felt he needed, and then created them so that they were available to others.

Similarly, about how his experience of feeling isolated and unconfident can be turned into empathy and compassion in his practice as a coach. It made me think about what we each bring of our own experience to our training. How there are as many reasons for training - and coaching, or any other sort of gym work - as there are people in the gym, and whether it’s possible to create an environment that serves all of them without excluding others.

I really appreciate how specific Dave got about aspects of that - like saying about how some of his Yate group like training in bare feet. That idea will recur in another episode in this series actually - episode 5, with Adaptive Martial Arts. It’s easy to say platitudes about “oh, it should be a space that’s welcoming to everyone”, but achieving that is probably impossible. Having specific examples and specific guidance is much more helpful, especially when given by people directly affected by thoughtless design.

Dave’s work

Episode links


  • All the photographs above came from Dave

  • Most other photographs on this website were taken by Paul Samuel White

  • Production support by Yas Clarke

  • Graphic design by Steph Weise