“As I get older, it becomes more difficult to get out of bed in the morning – exercise helps keep those joints moving.”
At 88, Michael Shepherd is one of the oldest members of the Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club. He is a regular visitor to the club’s fitness center where he enjoys using the gym.
“It helps me maintain my mobility,” he says. “It’s also the thing that brings me the closest to going out these days, so human contact is very important to me.
“I love chatting with the staff and regulars in the morning. It’s so nice to see familiar faces that know your name and greet me when I arrive.
The tennis club dates back to 1880, opened just six years after the game was first patented by its supposed inventor, Welsh Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.
For players at the time, the club – T&A Trader of the Week – would be unrecognizable. Over the decades, it has developed into a leading racket sports facility covering tennis, squash and racketball.
Its facilities include five indoor courts, six floodlit courts, and five squash and racquet courts.
The Stourton Road club is less known for its fitness center, which draws members from the area and beyond.
According to General Manager Adam Della Rocca: “The club has continued to grow over the past decade, with the expansion of a state-of-the-art fitness center, two fitness studios and a large club- house with changing rooms and sauna.
A complete redevelopment in 2016 saw the expansion of the fitness center and two fitness studios.
“Ilkley needed a top-notch gym and fitness studios and now he has one,” says Adam. “We haven’t looked back.” The facility is equipped with the latest Technogym cardiovascular equipment and a wide range of free weights.
A spin studio accommodates up to 20 people per class, at any time of the day or night. “It’s really popular,” says Adam. “We also have a larger studio with classes such as Pilates, Yoga, Bodypump, Metafit and many more.
“The studios offer the best views of Yorkshire with the backdrop of Ilkley Moor visible from the glass second floor.”
Serving club members and the public, the popular SERVE Café. “It offers the best views in Ilkley, overlooking the grass courts and the Cow & Calf,” adds Adam.
Before the pandemic, the club had around 2,400 members. “Members are still recovering from the forced shutdown due to the pandemic,” Adam said. “We have a wide range of members from each group, from our youngest tennis juniors to octogenarian racquets and fitness members.
“The majority of our members are from the area, with others from Skipton and Harrogate.”
Tracy Collins, 31, remained active throughout the lockdown but was eager to return to the gym.
“I did exercise classes on Zoom and even started running and cycling with my husband, but nothing beats training with others in a class, side by side with other people who want to see the same physical changes as me, ”she says.
“Even though I don’t feel ready for a tough workout, there are other people next to me who want to push themselves and laugh while doing it. I missed using the weights at the gym as it’s something I couldn’t do at home, and noticed your appearance change.
The club’s fitness team offered Zoom classes throughout the lockdown, relaying encouragement and advice to keep everyone involved.
“When we reopened the outdoor courts, they were full all day,” says Adam. “The excitement was palpable. We had outdoor fitness classes and spin classes on an outdoor patio – all were sold out. As we were able to open more, we saw people eagerly returning to their sporting activities. ”
He adds, “During the lockdown, many people discovered how important exercise is for mental health. Some maintained their level of activity throughout the two closures, but they were the minority. People gave up their old habits and tried to create new ones, with little or no success.
“Social interaction was a big part of the motivation people came to the club for, and without it people really had a hard time getting excited about exercising alone – this is where the instructors are worth their weight in gold. ”
“Lots of members told us how much steady state cardio they did in the form of long walks or bike rides, but the second lockdown in winter saw them getting less and less.”
The main thing that people missed was the weight element in their training. Adam explains, “Lean muscle mass is essential for everyday living and is also vital for effective body fat loss.
More than 20 employees work at the club. “This includes class instructors, personal trainers, racket coaches, and cafes and operations staff,” says Adam.
Health and Fitness Manager Marcus Whitehead says: “It’s fantastic to see so many familiar faces return to the club as well as many new members joining, in a bid to get back into shape.
“The gym is vital to the mental health of many people. Everyone has missed the feeling that comes with a good workout. The return to the club has been slow and hesitant, but we are gradually coming back to the numbers we had before the lockdown . ”
During the lockdown, the grounds and operations team gave the club a facelift.
“The whole building was redecorated and we entered the squash court adjoining the gym to create individual training modules where our members could train,” says Adam.
Marcus adds: “The extra space has been very well received. It’s nice to have the buzz about the place again and to see everyone regaining their lost fitness levels.”