Funky house music blares through the air from a gym PA system as trainer Sadi Jones shouts, ‘Ten more seconds until you reach the top of your mountain’.
The women attending the class are looking for motivation to complete the last set of squats before the buzzer signals they can take a water break.
Welcome to the SheBeasts sorority where women train mind and body.
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From the outside it may seem like an average gym class – but founder Sadie Jones, 37, is offering a free lifeline to survivors of domestic abuse using fitness, mindset and nutrition coaching as tools to transform their lives.
Before becoming a successful business consultant and competitive bodybuilder, her experience with domestic violence inspired her to help women regain control.
“You feel a sense of embarrassment, shame, or conflict of love and hate for the person,” she says.
“Women go through so many different emotions and trying to express that to someone else might make you think, ‘Am I going crazy?’
“We try to offer something different because often organizations helping survivors can’t do much once you find accommodation.
“Then you’re alone and that’s when the abuser is most likely to try to get back because you don’t have anyone around.”
Bouncing from hostels to mother and baby shelters to living with extended family, Sadie remembers domestic violence as the backdrop of her early childhood, which followed her into early adulthood.
“I witnessed abuse at a young age and from then on the abuse was constant throughout my life.
“It was hard to break that cycle for me because I had always seen destructive relationships.
“When people told me what I was going through was abuse, I got defensive because I thought the behavior I was seeing was what normal couples do.”
She says things changed when her four-year-old intervened in an abusive argument.
“It was the first time it clicked for me – he shouldn’t have to grow up in that environment. I wanted to break that cycle.”
SheBeasts, which uses the Fit Box gym in Balsall Heath, offers women one of two workshops which cover rebounding exercises, bodyweight movements and nutrient sessions.
The sorority also gives wellness and mindfulness workshops, encouraging women to reflect on their self-esteem, the language they use to talk about themselves and their thoughts.
Sadie adds: “As the ladies get stronger, mentally and physically, their confidence blossoms and they start to see themselves in a different light. Their belief in what they can accomplish ignites, and for the first time in a long time, the present and the future aren’t such dark places.
“Exercise provides many benefits by restoring the nervous system by burning adrenaline and movement releases endorphins, which fight depression.”
In partnership with Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWAID), survivors and victims have the choice of an eight-week or 12-week program which also aims to encourage women to re-enter the labor market, offering them an apprenticeship with SheBeats.
Terri Walsh, 24, was referred to Sadie by BSWAID after his mental and physical health began to deteriorate during an abusive relationship.
She’s now a SheBeasts apprentice and the transformation she’s had is one she’s proud of.
“The She Beasts sorority is a true support network for women. They have a community of other women who support them every step of the way and it’s fantastic to see how they encourage each other.
Women’s Aid offers a live chat service between 10am and 4pm on weekdays and 10am and midday on weekends, as well as other online services and the UK Domestic AbuseDirectory for your local domestic abuse service at www .womensaid.org.uk
- The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247 (run by Refuge)
- The Men’s Advice Line, for male victims of domestic violence, is 0808 801 0327 (run by Respect)
- The National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0800 999 5428 (run by Galop)