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LSE law graduate pulls punches with fitness business staffed by ex-prisoners

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Tough workouts with social justice at their heart

Image credit: Instagram @HardYardLondon

A new workout business has been launched in London which employs people who have spent time in prison.

The brainchild of Frankie Bennett, who studied law at the London School of Economics, The Hard Yard was launched in 2017 and has opened studios in Southwark, Angel and Brixton. The business was co-founded by personal trainer Beth Thayne, and currently employs three fully-qualified trainers who also happen to be former offenders.

Bennett came up with the idea out of an interest in social justice and thinking about the fact that “some people get a raw deal in life”. She explains:

“While studying for my LLB, I did a lot of work with the homeless and with young offenders and began to see how issues of homelessness, mental health and prison all feed into each other; people end up going to prison and what happens when they leave? Employers can be very hostile to them.”

The stats bear this out: only 26% of people leaving prison find a job in the first year of their release.

Bennett did not want to set up a charity because she wanted to build something which “could sustain itself”. She says: “Charities can only do the work which they can get funding for. I wanted to start an enterprise where we could find out what worked and then do that really well.”

Frankie Bennett (pictured left) and Beth Thayne (pictured right). Image credit: Instagram @HardYardLondon

Legal Cheek staff had a go at one of The Hard Yard’s three different types of classes: ‘shock’, ‘power’ and ‘strength’. We opted for ‘power’. Our 45-minute class took place in Hard Yard’s Southwark venue — a spacious studio in among the hub of restaurants, cafes and a theatre that populate this cool corner of London.

Shab, our trainer, who is 26, has a background in a range of sports and fitness, including: kickboxing, gym work and even American football. He has spent time “inside” where there is what he calls “designated gym time” but, he explains, “you’re not always able to do it. It’s not much. It depends on a lot of things”.

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The workout we chose is designed in 30-second blocks of high-intensity training followed by ten seconds of rest. Shab pushed us with squats, planks, press-ups, split lunges and much more. It’s safe to say the workout was tough.

Image credit: Instagram @HardYardLondon

Bennett believes that The Hard Yard has a lot to offer those in search of a new workout: “If you’re a bit tired of the gym, you’ll like it. The classes are tailored but also simple — no equipment, no prior knowledge, just good fun with a good playlist.”

Participants also benefit from the fact that while they workout, they are actually helping improve someone’s life. As Bennett says: “Most people are very open-minded and know that life is long and has many twists and turns and no one should be written off because of a past mistake particularly if they are being proactive and thoughtful about overcoming that. I would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t think that was a good idea.”

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31 Comments

Anonymous

So is LC now going to report on every law student who didn’t end up as a lawyer?

(8)(3)

Ella

how salty are you?? this is a great idea, fitness and exercise is so prevalent in prison culture it makes total sense the instructers would be experts

(8)(9)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I am sorry that you are not happy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

What is this?! What is the world coming to?!

These are CRIMINALS. People who have done wrong. People who have HARMED others. Yet people want to actively support them and help them when there are so many other poor young people outside of work?

This is shameful and disgusting.

(13)(16)

Anonymous

Daily Mail comments section —–>

(4)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Unemployment is at record low-levels, firstly. Secondly, if ex-offenders should be given a chance to go straight, without, what options do they have but to re-offend?! Thirdly, oh, I’ve just realised, you’re a troll… nevermind.

(5)(7)

Anonymous

SHUT UP. YOU are part of the problem. You believe that nonsense that unemployment is at record low levels. Tell that to the millions on zero-hour “contracts”.

I DID NOT say that ex-offenders shouldn’t be given a chance to go straight. They should have the same chance as everybody else, not CATAPULTED to the front of the queue.

My cousin Sandy has been out of work for 4 months. Why should a CRIMINAL be gifted a job because of a scheme such as this when Sandy has to keep struggling?

INFIDEL.

(9)(9)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I apologise that Sandy is finding it difficult to find work, but it is not our policy to hire employees with names that will remind existing employees of 1978 movie ‘Grease’.

(23)(0)

Anonymous

I propose that Mr SHUT UP YOU INFIDEL be placed in charge of the “queue” and determines everyone’s place in it according to his/her perception of their intrinsic merit.

Relevant considerations may include:
– Whether the person in question is Cousin Sandy.
– Whether the person in question is a dirty crim, “part of the problem” or an “INFIDEL”
– Ability to name all Daily Express columnists.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Who the F*CK do you think you are? How DARE you be so sarcastic and rude to ME? Do you know who I am?! No, so clean your filthy, disgusting mouth out with soap and water.

Get it through you fat, THICK skull that I am not proposing for there to be any queue or order. Jobs should be handed out according to MERIT on a case-by-case basis. My lovely cousin Sandy is not a CRIMINAL, so would not be eligible for a job under this scheme. That is RIDICULOUS and DISCRIMINATION.

You should have a good, long hard think about yourself and what you have said. You are a DISGRACE to our species.

Sandy

Calm down dear, the doctor is coming with his happy-sleepy time medicine OK?

Anonymous

HOW DARE YOU impersonate lovely Sandy by making a PATHETIC jibe about medicine and my state of mental well-being? First off, I am NOT in need of pills or ANY medication and I am perfectly mentally stable. I am fine. I am not unwell. I am perfectly fine. It is okay. But LOTS of people are not and mental HEALTH is something that should NOT be ridiculed. You are pathetic.

Sandy

Shush now dear, you’ll be back in your cell before long where the nasty comments can’t hurt you.

Anonymous

Who the fuck do I think I am?

Well, in a very real sense, aren’t we all Cousin Sandy?

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

Cousin Sandy is NOTHING like you. Sandy is sweet, caring, smart and a treasure to anybody’s life she touches. She NEVER got a detention at school and has 7 O-Levels. She can also play the piano and knows how to speak a little French.

You are plain NASTY and have come here to troll and cause a stir. We have a word for your types around here that I shall not repeat.

Anonymous

Dear Cuz,

The aggression you have displayed here shocks and appalls me. The wedding is off and you will never see our 8 fingered love-child (Dusty) again.

Yours and forever broken hearted,
Cousin Sandy

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Well, this has been edifying.

Trumpenkreig

That’s what your mum said to me last night.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Saw you getting sectioned, did she?

Trumpenkreig

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

3…2…1…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This comment should not be removed because it does not breach Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

I am inclined to agree.

This post has not been moderated because it has not breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

This is definitely not an original idea. College kids see this idea on a tv or on some buzzfeed article and copy it in their own city. not original. Also do you do a background check on each prisoner. Would hate to be stretched by a sex offender

(2)(0)

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