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Socially conscious fitness for everyone
WHEN junior college mates Lionel Choong and Moses James picked up CrossFit nine years ago, little did they know that their common interest would lead them to starting a gym of their own.
"We started CrossFit after completing national service and fell in love with the sport and decided to delve deeper during our university days. It was then that the idea of starting our very own gym took off," says Mr Choong, co-founder of Innervate Fitness.
When Innervate Fitness started in 2015, its founders set out to alter a commonly held perception of CrossFit - which consists of a combination of aerobic workouts, body weight exercises (calisthenics) and Olympic bodybuilding - as an activity only meant for the fit.
"There is an impression out there that it is a harsh and intensive sport and as a result, people might shy away from trying it out and that's where we wanted to challenge that opinion," Mr James tells The Business Times.
Off the bat, social consciousness stood as a key element in Innervate's business. The gym has long supported at-risk youth through Operation Broken Wing, a fitness charity movement.
"Personally, this is something that I wanted to do a long time ago and we first ran the event four months after we opened. With each passing year that we have run Operation Broken Wing (the fifth edition was held in January), proceeds have grown from strength to strength," Mr Choong says.
This year, Innervate partnered Singapore Children's Society (SCS) and together with other members of the fitness community in Singapore, raised S$100,000 for the charity and youth-at-risk.
Innervate's efforts go beyond donations. It conducts weekly CrossFit classes for the youth at the SCS and imparts life skills and values to them. "That's a one-two punch," Mr Choong remarks.
At the heart of it all is also a commitment to developing a strong community spirit among participants of Innervate's classes.
In its bid to use fitness to change the lives of the young and old, Innervate started a Kids & Teens, and a Silvers programme shortly after opening its doors.
Classes are specially designed for these age groups in mind and tailored to them using functional movements which are natural, safe and essential to mobility.
The Silvers is the most popular of the programmes Innervate has, seeing 15 participants per class, four times a week.
"From our experience, we realised that seniors were underserved in this area (fitness). We learnt that they had the desire to try new things but there was just no platform to do so," Mr James says.
The classes for the seniors are also an opportunity for community building. Mr Choong has seen the group having breakfasts and dinners together after class and even celebrating birthdays together. "It is a lot of growth for the individual, not just on the physical aspect but the mental and social as well," he adds.
Innervate Fitness also works with the House of JOY, an elderly service centre located in Pine Close to give fortnightly classes on Tuesday.
"That is one way of expanding our reach, to go to places where seniors cannot come to us, such as those of 75 years of age and above," Mr Choong says.
In 2017, the gym began classes for the physically disabled, called the Adaptives programme. Mr James recalls: "At the time, there were no such classes in the region that catered to CrossFit programmes for people with disabilities."
To get the programme started, the duo reached out to contemporaries in the US for advice on how to start classes for the disabled in Singapore. Classes are heavily subsidised at S$100 for a 12-class pass.
Classes for the Adaptive group are held around the same time as some other classes, which Mr Choong notes fosters a good level of integration with the rest of the members.
On public holidays, community classes are run, where a mass training session combines teens, adaptives, seniors and adults. "We see this as a way that our community is being built and fostered as well. It is a strong part of our brand identity actually," Mr Choong explains.
"We know some people join the gym because of our social angle and they want to do more than just train. They are always welcome."
- This article is part of a biweekly series highlighting Social Enterprises in Singapore. Social enterprises provide business solutions to address unmet and emerging social needs and gaps. Visit www.raise.sg to learn more about these socially impactful companies