Tracy Griffen: Life in Leith


Posted by in March's Magazine

We are the Specialists

What do you actually DO in there?” is one of the most common questions I get from curious neighbours, the concept of Griffen Fitness is perplexing to some. I have a shop front just of Leith Walk on Balfour Street which four days a week is a fitness studio. “But WHERE are your machines?” is another common question. The other three days pop-up shops, workshops and classes proliferate. What is confusing to many is how you can have a fitness studio with very little equipment. In fact the studio is deliberately left open and if anything it looks rather like a sparsely decorated lounge. 

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My personal fitness mission is that you don’t need to wear special clothes or even go to a gym to be fit. From 2005 to 2010 I cycled my trusty bike around Edinburgh getting people fit from their living rooms or local parks. You don’t need loads of kit when you know what you’re doing. The additional plus of not using loads of equipment is that it’s very easy to rent out a studio as a multi-functional space. All I need to do is shift a weights bench and Reebok step into the storeroom every week and the studio is an open space.

By contrast, I recently joined a newly opened gym, mainly because it was five quid for a month and also because I wanted to try the new-fangled cardio machines and VR classes. As a Personal Trainer of 14 years, I have a pretty good idea of what to do in a gym to have a decent workout. The problem is that gym environments rarely inspire me, especially when other gym goers are listlessly moving from machine to machine. “I’ll have a go of this machine… Oh, it does this… OK so now I’m bored… Maybe I’ll have a go at that one…” 

Gyms can be very useful (especially if you lift heavy weights, as they’re a faff to keep in the house). Running on a treadmill when it’s icy outside is a sensible training option. But how often is it too icy to run outdoors? There’s no doubt that a gym is a more economical option than a Personal Trainer. But it’s a bit like comparing Ikea with a joiner. You can go to Ikea and find a kitchen you like, but you’ll probably need some skills to install it well. I see myself in the joiner role – one by one I’m teaching people how to exercise by themselves, you can use a gym if you wish but knowing what to do is essential.

Working with any professional on a one-to-one basis means you get personal attention, something tailored to you. Like going to a tailor to get your clothes repaired, rather than buying cheap sweatshop-produced Primark threads. On Leith Walk you have the choice between mass-produced (Starbucks) and artisanal (Word of Mouth across the road) where the staff remember your regular lunch order and your dog is allowed in too. I’ve never been into a Starbucks (truth) but I hear they write your name on your cup. The thing about independent places is you get personal attention rather than a scribbled scrawl on your Christmas-themed disposable cup.

The one thing about running your own business is you need to be really good at it. If you’re rubbish you go out of business. If you are not an expert at what you do you probably won’t be passionate enough to open a business. Running a business in Edinburgh is HARD. There are endless challenges and big businesses moving in an unplanned manner – I was at the Easter Road Lidl consultation and they just couldn’t see that opening a supermarket at the old B&Q site would adversely affect local businesses. 

Reader Warning: Moan about the recent ‘A-board’ ban affecting small businesses. I did have a word in Council Leader’s Adam McKey’s lughole earlier in the year. He sees it as making life easier for blind people. My theory is that the council banned outdoor advertising after a pedestrian on their mobile phone tripped over an A-board and sued them. The ban is already hugely damaging to local businesses that rely on footfall for business. Griffen Fitness has been at 3 Balfour Street for eight years now, and I still get folk asking if we’re new. 

” I was at the Easter Road Lidl consultation and they just couldn’t see that opening a supermarket at the old B&Q site would adversely affect local businesses

Tattie Shaw’s is the best greengrocer it the world. Probably. Owner James knows his plums. That is the difference between visiting his shop on Elm Row and wandering into Sainsbury’s. You can ask James the best ways to cook chestnuts, what to do with a mooli and how fresh his avocadoes are. In our age of cost cutting, we are cutting some of the pleasures of being human. Interacting, learning, discussing… Have you ever been into the hoover repair and light bulb shop or Borland’s Darts an

They (and I) need you as a consumer to step outside the convenient, to do something more adventurous, more artisanal. You are our lifeblood, and we can help make your life richer. We are the specialists and we want to help you.

Twitter: @tracygriffen


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