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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Wood

iCan: Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Control, Competence, Coping, Confidence, Connection, Character and Contribution are the 7 C’s to resilience. Here at iCan we like to believe we have this in spades after years of facing adversity on our way to developing our Health & Fitness Company.


The first Recession hit us hard as were right at the start of our (then) Curves journey and lost approximately 25% of our 400 strong membership. We had to make changes to staffing meaning Julia and Jo (previous Director) had to actively coach on the circuit as well as manage the business and Lisa (Manager at the time) had to increase working hours. Marketing budgets had to be cut and that meant we had to rely on peer to peer marketing to encourage new memberships.

The second recession, only a few years later, hit us even harder as our membership decreased even further as people were struggling for expendable income and unfortunately Health and Fitness tends to take the first hit when finances are tightened over other ‘leisure activities’. The team worked hard to focus our communities on where to make changes to their lifestyle so health and wellbeing didn’t suffer during a turbulent time!

Despite our best efforts, further cuts had to be made to staffing leaving the 2 Directors and Club Manager to manage all aspects of the business. Working around the clock (mostly 18-hour days) for less than minimum wage - we pushed through and survived. We are proud to say we maintained an exceptional level of service to our members every step of the way. Every member was carefully looked after - being offered active coach mentorship, Weighs and Measures, Healthy Eating and Living Support and above all friendship.


As most people will remember, most of Cumbria was hit by devastating floods in 2015 - Storm Desmond. Our Club had recently changed from a Curves Franchise to our own independent iCan Health and Fitness, (then) located by the Old Fire Station on Corporation Road. The club was devastated by the flood, with serious damage caused to most of our expensive hydraulic machines and loss of computer systems, paperwork and everything in between. This left the Directors with some difficult decisions: Do we close the club and walk away or do we stay for our communities wellbeing? The iCan Members and community (family, friends and other local businesses) helped to make the decision to stay and fight through yet another tough time. Everyone rallied around to help fix the premises up by drying out walls, painting and kindly being gifted computers, stationary etc. At the same time, Directors made the decision to move away from being a private company and formed as iCan Health & Fitness CIC ( A community interest company - a not for profit organisation) to continue to make better decisions for their community. We are extremely proud to say we were one of the first businesses to reopen after the floods in just 5 short weeks.


Since the floods, iCan Health & Fitness CIC has gone from strength to strength, being granted several funding initiatives including the National Lottery Community Fund, Sport England Community Asset Fund, County Council programmes and more, we have relocated our premises to a more flood resilient area, developed ABC (Active Brew Crew) and several outreach programmes (to name a few).

In 2019 we were honoured to officially become CUMBRIA’S BEST COMMUNITY FITNESS CLUB at the Cumbria Sports Awards with Colin Glover, Leader of the Labour Group saying; “Congratulations all, a very well deserved award and thank you for all the great work that you and your team do for our communities."


Now we are faced with a new challenge: the Covid-19 (Corona Virus) pandemic, and whilst this has forced us to make the difficult decision to temporarily close our club on 16th March until the current crisis has passed. This has not stopped our momentum!

In response we have had to think about providing Health & Wellbeing advice to our membership in different innovative ways including a weekly virtual Coffee morning, launching iCan at home (an online membership platform to receive workout videos – free to members or just £10 a year to non-members. ), providing our Live Well Guide Free of charge to members and launching this incredible product online to purchase (Check out ‘More From iCan’ on the W.O.W homepage) and now we are looking to the future after this temporary crisis has passed with our amazing W.O.W Facility bringing bellicon rebounding to you on our (actual) Bouncing Bus, Chair-based Exercises, as well as Health & Wellbeing advice from the W.O.W Live Well Hub.


We are proud to say 25% of our members have stood by us since the early days and weathered these challenges alongside us and every iCan member, staff member, partner and Steering Group are still a part of the iCan Family as we look forward to a bright, (mentally and physically) healthy and happy future turning I Can’t to iCan for the Cumbrian Community!

W.O.W "Empowering You To Live A Healthier Lifestyle"

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May 13, 2020

Great blog of our wonderful journey! We have come so far and have a great future ahead!

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