A new independent gym has opened in the North East this weekend and aims to support both established athletes and newcomers.

New business, Olympus Gym, in Hartlepool, opened its doors to gym veterans and beginners alike this past Saturday (January 7).

Owner, Matthew Fleet, 30, from Hartlepool, has been training for over a decade, and began competing as a strongman in 2016.

Alongside his business partners, Danny Weatherill, 28, who holds two title for Britian's Strongest Man under the 120kg weight category, and Stephanie Clarke, 31, who owns the cafe at the gym's entrance, Matthew said he was really happy to welcome new gym-goers.

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Speaking on the Coniston Road gym's opening, he said: "It was class, it was brilliant.

"I did a Max Log [lift] for the day because there was a big crowd, there was about 100 people through the door.

"It's just fantastic, we didn't expect that much support. It was quite humbling to receive such massive support on our opening day. 

"It's hard to compete against big franchises when you're just a small business. We're trying to have a niche, unique selling point.

"We're not just a strongman [gym], we're for everyone. We want everyone to be their best selves."

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He said that on Saturday people were invited to train for free to see if it was for them.

To mark the occasion, Matthew undertook a 151kg Max Log lift, hoisting the log above his head, which was shared online by sports apparel company, Cerberus Sports.

Adding to this, notable names in the sport such as World's Strongest Woman, Donna Moore, British strongwomen Jenny Todd and Annabelle Chapman, as well as Scotland's Strongest Man Louis Jack all visited the gym.

Mr Fleet said they have been trying to spread the word regarding their opening, and hope to help people at any level take part.

Speaking on the difficulty of opening a business in this period, he said: "It's a tough time to open a business, you've got to full sympathise with other business owners who aren't receiving enough support from the government.

"Especially in the face of growing energy costs, but I think now is a time more than ever for people to band together and support small local businesses.

"We all want to see the North East thriving, we want people's physical and mental health to improve.

"We've got to be valiant, in times of despair, we need to try and rebuild our lives to the same standard as they were."

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He said he hopes people band together and help support each other and local businesses in the wake of Covid, multiple lockdowns, and the rising inflation rate.

He said he and Danny, a Strongman champion, offer a free Sunday training session to all gym members, and anyone is welcome to learn about the strongman sport.

He said they hope to get rid of the stigma surrounding gyms and help people not fear attending these spaces, and hopes they can build a friendly, "welcoming community." 

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The gym hosts a whole range of exercise equipment, including specialised weightlifting and cardio gear, as well as housing a 20m run.

Other equipment includes a treadmill, a power sled, exercise bikes, Atlas Stones, kettle bells, boxing bags, as well as a sauna which fits three people at a time.

He said the gym will be installing a FOB system for trusted members in February, which will allow the business to be open 24 hours a day.

Outside of the gym equipment, the gym also has a 'chill-out' corner where patrons can unwind, and even play the odd game of Mario Kart.