'We're excited to be back': Kristina and Ben finally re-open Northampton gym doors for first time in four months

Fitness centres have been shut since March 21, with people forced to get creative when it comes to exercise

By Carly Roberts
Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 9:18 am
Trained yoga teacher Kristina has seven studios including one that is specially designed for hot yoga.
Trained yoga teacher Kristina has seven studios including one that is specially designed for hot yoga.

But gyms, leisure centres and indoor pools have started to welcome fitness fanatics back from July 25.

SooYoga in Northampton, co-owned by former Strictly Come Dancing star Kristina Rhianoff and ex-England rugby player Ben Cohen, is no different.

After spending two years trying to find their perfect building and a further five months ripping out and refurbishing their business they finally opened their doors to the public in June 2019.

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The studio where pilates takes place.

Kristina - who met Ben on the 2013 series of Strictly Come Dancing - said the couple chose Northampton to open their first venture because the town lacks a large dedicated yoga studio.

The determination and focus that took them to the top of their respective careers paid off handsomely when they showed off their family orientated yoga and wellbeing centre with seven yoga studios, including the first professionally equipped hot yoga studio in Northampton.

The 13,000sqft building, once home to BST Mixed Martial Arts Academy, also hosts dance and spin classes alongside a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, a crèche and a soft play area.

But less than a year later, like other fitness centres, the pair shut their doors as lockdown measures were introduced.

Social distancing measures area in place at the vegetarian-friendly cafe, Soo Greens, which was set up by the Smoke Pit brothers Matt and James Ingram.

Kristina said Boris Johnson introduced lockdown measures too late for gyms, leaving them standing next to empty for two weeks before owners could claim on their insurance.

Kristina said: "He should have locked us down a little bit before too be honest, I think a lot of people feel like we went into lockdown two weeks late. All of us in hospitality and gyms we all came to work on the Monday with no one coming in.

"We understood that people were becoming worried and vigilant, which was fair enough, but we couldn't close ourselves. It was just done very incorrectly in my eyes. I know from talking to other people in the same industry as me that they felt the same.

"When we closed we were very worried. We immediatley emailed everyone and said 'we are going to start streaming classes on Zoom for free and we see how it goes and if there's an interest we will move everything online'."

A new ventilation system has been put in to extract stale air from the studios.

After asking their customers if they required further support through the stricter stages of lockdown Kristina started to get nutritionists on board.

"We had a person on Zoom ever other week and delivering a talk," Kristina added. "We shared advice on nutrition, self-massage, diet and mental health.

"That really, really helped our clients. People said it helped them no end when they were low and really down, so that was great. I've felt that we've really helped people on that front."

Now, after four long months, the couple welcomed back gym-goers on Saturday – albeit with a host of new safety measures in place.

Kristina and Ben are all smiles following the news they could re-open to the public again on Saturday. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

"I'm really, really excited to be back," she said. "I'm obviously scared like every business owner with what's going to happen next year. We have significantly cut our prices on membership to 50% because we understand that people might have lost jobs or might not have any money at the moment.

"Because we are a family business and we are not a big chain, we put everything into our work because we love what we do. Hopefully we make people feel great about their physical and mental health."

Measures set out in the guidance includes limiting the number of people using the facility at any one time and using systems such as timed bookings which allows sufficient time between each class to avoid groups waiting outside during changeover.

Kristina is particularly proud of the new ventilation system which was installed when SooYoga first opened their doors last year. It extracts stale air from the studios and avoids recirculation.

Speaking of her customers, she added: “They are really excited to get back to our meditation and Hot Yoga studio because these are very special studios we've built to make them feel transported to another world.

“It's been wonderful to hear how much they cannot wait to get back and we hope we can draw new people in as well."

The pair are running a 'Back To Fitness' campaign for August where anyone can pay £29 for one month of unlimited classes.