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I’m not naturally a cynical type of chap, however politics seems to bring a side out of me that I don’t really like.

While trying to decide who to vote for, I find myself muttering phrases such as

“Well, they’ll never actually do that, will they?” This really isn’t like me at all.

Apparently this time we are to be “helped” in our decision by the TV debate. As far as I’m concerned, this X-factor style circus only makes it more likely we’ll end up with a pretty boy/girl with lots of style and little substance.

What I’d like to do is vote for the party whose policies are best aligned with my life and that of my family. I couldn’t give a hedgehog whether the leader smiles or can remember someone’s name, but I do want to know if they know what they’re talking about.

I have a business to run – much like the rest of you. If I spend the required time trawling through all the information that would allow me to decide which party will make my business run better, then somebody else will no doubt be spending that time making their business run better than mine.

So I have to guess, basically. My guess is that Brown is an economist, whilst Cameron and Clegg are basically pop stars in suits. I think that Brown will probably ultimately be seen to have dealt well with the financial upheaval of the past 18 months, and that on that basis he should be retained. That’s enough thinking for me. Back to work.

Ross Campbell, The Exercise Club, Clifton.

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Everybody knows that if you stand still you are, in reality, going backwards.

My company, a Bristol gym, is fortunate to be in a location that is conveniently close to its target market, which makes advertising virtually unnecessary.

Most readers will be aware of the statistic that most gym members stop going after between one week and three months, after having paid for a year’s membership.

It seemed clear to me from the outset that we ought to focus our time, energy and money on what we offer the member once they have joined, as opposed to the industry model which, as some of you may be aware, is to promote heavily, sign people up and then just ignore them.

We hold about four staff meetings each year. Last Tuesday we spent one and a half hours discussing whether we should alter the number of repetitions (ie complete lifting and lowering of a weight) that we advise members to attempt, on the basis that it might be easier for them to understand what we wanted from them, if we gave a lower figure.

It’s easy to forget how much resistance there can be to change, simply as a gut instinct. I personally find the process draining, possibly because I don’t like to tell my staff what to do, I’d rather work through some questions and examples in the hope that they will feel empowered by their decisions.

In the initial stages, progress is slow, because people have different levels of understanding. But the best bit for me is always the passion they show for their jobs and for our customers – the members. They show this passion by arguing with each other about what’s best. I think this is lovely.

Ross Campbell, The Exercise Club, Clifton.

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Every business has its sales peaks and troughs. A gym in January is supposedly one of the classic peaks. “I’ve eaten too much turkey, I must go to the gym and punish myself”.

The small club I run in Bristol was founded on the concept of “ethical exercise”, because we are not dealing with inanimate objects, but real people. In practice, we pride ourselves in telling people what they need to do, which usually differs from what they wanted to hear. This concept is not unique to the fitness industry.

The big question for us is this: Should we take advantage of the public’s desire to abuse themselves with a gym machine on the assumption that if we don’t take their money someone else will? We could put the fund to good use. Or should we “maintain our professional integrity” and tell them the truth, that it’s better (for the body’s physical and psychological health) to bang your head against a brick wall for 30 minutes than attempt to purge excesses with exercise?

The question is further complicated by both our hot water and central heating boilers breaking down in December, requiring an outlay of just over £1,500. It would, of course, be tempting to try to recoup that from some January lemmings.

In one of my favourite training handbooks, Superslow by Ken Hutchins, there is a chapter about the “Real vs assumed objective”.

The Real objective is to deliberately stress the body to illicit a response for the better (faster, stronger, etc). The assumed objective is to set yourself a target (eg 12 reps/5km) and cheat just to get there.

As I often do, this was applied to the above “big question”, which leads to the following answer. My business is based upon ethical exercise and it must succeed or fail on this principle, otherwise the Real objective is compromised.

Please don’t think I’m preaching. I still haven’t got the heating fixed, but I’m sleeping well at night.

Ross Campbell, The Exercise Club

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