Published: May 11, 2022 | Updated: May 12, 2022

UK’s first – and only – beach gym run by ex-special forces shapes up for second hit season

Liam Adams*, Founder, Who Dares Gyms: “We’re putting Bournemouth more on the map than it already is.” Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

He’s seen action all over the world – and faced down danger in every type of scenario.

But when it comes to praise, the Founder of Bournemouth’s Who Dares Gyms looks distinctly uncomfortable.

That, though, is also the product of his 20 years of military service – five years in the Royal Marines and 15 years in the Special Forces.

As Liam Adams* says: “I suppose it’s our humbleness in the Special Forces.

“We just get on with the job.

“We don’t want to be in the headlines.

“We don’t talk about our operations, it’s just ingrained in us.

“Because I’ve done it for so long it just means I crack on.

“I do get excited when I talk to businesses, and other people, but I don’t like to blow my own smoke.”

For those unfamiliar with Who Dares Gyms, it’s an outdoor gym located on the beach near Bournemouth Pier on the East Cliff.

Not just a few dumbbells and bars.

This is the real deal.

A full gym with state-of-the-art equipment and, without doubt, some of the most spectacular views available anywhere.

But that’s only part of the offering.

Billed as the UK’s first – and only – beach gym, it also features Special Forces and Commando-led classes, real military bootcamps, mental health classes, self-defence and yoga and meditation instruction.

Only launched last June, Who Dares Gyms has built a legion of fans, and hundreds of users.

And they’re not just local.

Some travel from all over the country including several big names, described as the ‘blue tickers’ of social media.

They include the likes of Jason Carl ‘Foxy’ Fox of TV’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, pictured.

The former Royal Marine, and member of the Special Forces, lives in London but was working out at the gym at the weekend.

“Foxy says what we’ve built is amazing,” said Liam, a 39-year-old father of one.

“We don’t have to pay people to visit Bournemouth.

“They want to come to this gym which is great.

“We’re putting Bournemouth more on the map than it already is.”

Medically discharged from the military with multiple injuries, Liam came up with the concept of Who Dares Gyms last February.

He said: “It was during Covid and we were still in lockdown.

“I was walking down Bournemouth beach and I just thought: ‘I’ve been to America and why haven’t we got anything like Muscle Beach?’ [the Santa Monica birthplace of the US physical fitness boom].

“I knew we could do it better. The British way, bringing more to the party.

“Also, with my military background, I knew that outdoors you get a different type of fitness which you can’t get in a gym.

“Using the terrain, using the environment.

“I knew I could put the two together.”

After running the idea past someone who had dealt with BCP Council – “they thought it was brilliant and the council would 100 per cent love it” – Liam contacted the local authority.

He said: “They did love it and said ‘let’s meet down the beach’ where they loved it even more.

“The key fundamental was my background.

“The fact that I was trained in so many aspects up to paramedic level, as a lifeguard and had been in lots of different environments so I knew a safe way of running a beach gym.

“It wouldn’t just be a gym set-up to last a month.”

After submitting a two-page proposal, Liam worked closely with the council on all the different aspects, especially the health and safety.

He said: “They were good but very scrupulous.

“They knew they couldn’t say ‘yes’ and let me run wild.

“They wanted the correct answers, and I had them, as in the build and how I’d do it safely.”

Who Dares Gyms launched in just two months, a timescale considered impossible by many.

Liam said: “It was hard graft but that’s where my military background came in again.

“I saw it as 60 days to get the job done – and it was.”

Word spread like wildfire about the new venture with the military ethos, and in particular the non-hierarchical approach adopted, proving an immediate success.

Liam said: “I wanted to bring back the old gym environment of the 1960s and 1970s where, regardless of whether you were really good at training or a first-timer, you actually spoke to each other.

“Unlike a gym with four walls, where everyone is looking in, here people are looking out at the amazing environment and also talking.

“The concept of working out outdoors has been around since we’ve been alive as a human race.

“I’ve brought everything here you would get in an inside gym.

“That’s what people like along with the military aspect.”

Luke Power, a physical trainer at Who Dares Gyms. Picture: Dorset Biz News.

Users of Who Dares Gyms range from 16-year-olds through to people in their 70s and of all sexes and levels of physical fitness.

Brands such as Grenade, the protein bar and health drink specialist, and BeaverFit, regarded as a world leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of training equipment, have been involved from the beginning.

Liam said: “That’s why I knew I could make this work.

“I had a company – BeaverFit – who’ve worked with the military and I could approach for the design of the gym.”

Liam raised thousands of pounds for three charities – Dorset Children’s Foundation, Rock2Recovery and REORG – in the first season and has now added a fourth, MYTIME Young Carers, for 2022.

He has also secured the support of two investors.

As a result, Who Dares Gyms is planning to expand to other locations, possibly Cornwall and Devon, next year.

It’s also to “push hard” on the corporate market, bringing training direct to companies nationwide.

Liam said: “But whatever we do, at the heart will remain the three fundamentals: mind, body and soul.”

So is he proud of what’s been achieved?

Back to where we began as Liam looks distinctly uncomfortable again.

After a pause, he says: “I’m very proud”.

But, he adds immediately: “I don’t like to boast about anything I do, to be honest.”

* Not the Founder’s real name.

  • Who Dares Gyms runs memberships, bootcamps and pay as you go tickets. It offers a 15 per cent discount for military and services and ten per cent discount for students and corporate.