This week we want to introduce you to a superpowered small business owner … who set up her own gym in Canton. Meet Shahina, and welcome to Haya Fitness!
So my name is Shahina Ahmed and I am originally from London, Westminster where I worked in retail. I was manager of Tie Rack, which sadly closed down not long after I left to move to Cardiff. I am not saying there is a connection … but it is a coincidence.
I had never come to Cardiff before meeting and marrying my proud Welsh husband Mo. We met online and hit it off straight away. After marrying I decided to move to Cardiff, at the time Mo had just started a graduate job and couldn’t move to London.
That was 13 years ago. My first memories of Cardiff were all how green it was and how much more space there was compared to London. The first place I visited was Tesco Western Avenue because that’s how lame Mo is (talk about romance!).
I moved to Mynachdy and have stayed put here. We love being amongst the community of the place. I have also done so much sightseeing I could be a tour guide but having kids you have to find ways to keep them entertained.
My favourite places in Cardiff differ depending on what I am doing, if it’s hanging out with Mo then it has to be City Road. It’s vibrant and energetic. Mo and I are both Muslim, and City Road offers loads of Halal and Muslim friendly places (plus Mo seems to know every restaurant and shop owner so they give us the VIP treatment wherever we go). With the kids I love St Fagans, the Museum and Cardiff Story Museum – they keep the kids entertained but are so educational – so they are always learning. I also think it’s really important the kids build their Welsh identity, and these places help with this.
About a year ago, I opened Haya Fitness Ladies Only Gym. I was a gym novice but wanted to get fit and healthy again after I had had kids. I wanted to be a strong, confident and healthy mum and I knew fitness would lead to a generally healthier lifestyle. I was pretty intimated by mainstream gyms, I had no idea what to do and having loads of men around made it that much more scary.
I also thought how great it would be if I could just take the kids with me instead of arranging babysitting. This is the niche for Haya Fitness – it is run by women for women, it’s welcoming and inclusive for all ladies. It’s aimed at offering women both a place to get fit and is an easily accessible gym venue with classes. We have two hours free parking in the car park opposite, there is a buggy parking zone for mums and a wide enough variety of equipment and classes to keep everyone zoned in.
We are open 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday (we close a bit earlier on weekends), I have created 6 new part time jobs for mums and students and have 6 freelance gym instructors and PT’s working out of the gym. We have classes running daily which includes HiiTs training, Legs, Bums and Tums, Dance, Zumba and different types of workshops.
Many people think I am a gym fanatic and that is why I opened up the gym, Im not, I am a busy mum of 3 who wanted to easily get into a gym to lead a healthier lifestyle without feeling self conscious about myself. Now its great, I can go to work, take my baby Esa who is 6 months old, attend classes and feel good that Im allowing other women to exercise.
I searched high and low for a location but everything was either too expensive or not located in a place where women would want to go to – especially in the winter when it becomes dark early. A space came up in Canton off Cowbridge Road East opposite a Tesco Metro, it used to be a snooker hall and it was perfect. A busy high street, safe to attend at anytime of the day, big enough to accommodate my grand plans of a proper gym, studio for classes, a kids zone and I even threw in a Sauna for good measure. In fact the place is so big I have also added a Hair Salon.
Im located on 1a Leckwith Road and it seems the place has so much local history, builders were coming in saying remember it as Bills Snooker Hall or remember drinking in it when it was the City Sports Bar. I remember on Contractor who came to price up a new ceiling, he was an older gentleman and said he remembered it when it used to be dance hall and he had his first dance with a girl there, so sweet. Canton is such an amazing place too there is a real sense of community there. I shop local and its great to see other businesses thriving. Everyone was so helpful too from City Print who helped do our sign and staff t shirts to Toolbox who seemed to have everything we needed when we were kitting the place out too. I cant forget Brian and Tracey Landlord from the Canton Cross Vaults next door who are the loveliest people in the world.
I dislike the reputation it has, Canton is a thriving place and more people should know about it.
When I am not working I love taking my family out around the city. I have compiled a “busy mums top list of things to do with the kids in Cardiff”:
- Cardiff Story Museum
- Cardiff Castle especially when they have events on
- Taff Trail on the bikes or scooters
- Cardiff Bay Barrage park for the skate park, the sand park, ice-cream and walk along the barrage itself
- Cardiff Bay Boat Trip – £10 gets you onto a boat with the family
- Victoria Park especially in the summer as they have the wet play
- Thompson park for a nature orientated day out
- St Fagans – just amazing
- St David Shopping Centre, build a bear and the lego shop give hours of entertainment
- All the Libraries and Hubs across Cardiff
Any We Are Cardiff readers can try out the gym using the code WRC2018 and if they quote We Are Cardiff will receive 10% off prices.
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(That’s Shahina on the left)
Big thanks Shahina! Til next time …