Leicester's 'hidden' gym offering women and children a safe space to exercise – Leicestershire Live

The Survival Den is located on Yeoman street in the city centre
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A new 'hidden' gym has opened in Leicester and is catering to an underserved part of the population who are normally restricted from working out in traditional settings. The new gym is tucked away on Yeoman street, in the city centre, and offers small group sessions for friends or families that prefer to train together privately, as well as one-to-one sessions.
Women from certain faiths are often restricted from exercising freely in public gyms – specifically for modesty reasons – and are not able to train around men or have their skin on show. Despite not being religious herself, 30-year-old Dina Al-Samawi, empathised with these women and also wanted to provide children with fun and alternative ways to get fit and healthy – and so, Survival Den was born.
Survival Den offers a comfortable and private space for women to work out as well as special programmes designed for children to get in shape. She said: “We’ve got a lot of religious women coming here, and when we see them taking off their hijabs and shamelessly training hard, it’s a great feeling. There aren't many places in this city where they can do that.”
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Dina, who is also a coach, said: “The inspiration came from knowing that there wasn’t really anything out there for women and children to gain health and fitness in a different way. My mum really suffered with her mental health and her weight, and I wished that there was someone there for her at the beginning to help her.
“If I can be that person for other people, at the beginning of their lives and fitness journeys, then I can help them have a better quality of life. There are so many women out there who have children or get to a certain age, and they’re covering up more or not feeling confident – so again, I want to change that for them.”
Dina said that despite there being existing sports groups out there for children, she felt as though there was still a gap in combining fun with exercises that are really beneficial for children’s health long term. “Not every kid wants to be a boxer, or swimmer, so personally, I try to combine different sports that work for me to keep me fit and healthy, that will then hopefully work for them,” she said.
"I combine calisthenics – which involves minimal equipment and mainly body weight exercises, with gymnastics and CrossFit. It's not often that you see these different forms being combined, but, again, I wanted to create workouts that would benefit my members in the long term."
After having two children, Zaynah Pandor said that she was very low on self-confidence and energy. She had tried several boot camps in the past but she admitted that she had always given up – but the Survival Den hooked her in, and she hasn’t looked back.
“At the Survival Den, everyone is welcome, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, Dina meets you where you are. As a Muslim, it’s also been nice to be able to comfortably work out without feeling nervous about people watching.
“This is the longest I’ve stuck to an exercise regime. At the Survival Den, we learn all sorts of different moves and she helped me with nutrition and skills that I would have never learned otherwise.”
Another Survival Den member, who wanted to be known as Crystal, is a full-time carer for her husband. She said: “I’ve been in complete isolation and have struggled with depression and anxiety.
“The gym is literally across the road from me, and it is an absolute heaven-send for me. When I first came I was very awkward, and didn’t get out much, but Dina met me where I was and now I can do a lot more movement.
“My self-esteem and self-worth has improved so much. When I come, I sit taller, and I actually want to push myself more than I did the last time.”
“The space is full of great energy, great motivation, and it is just full of love.”
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