GYM owner Jo Holmes is ready to fight it out in the world of fitness.

While many businesses are cutting jobs or even folding in the recession, the 54-year-old former teacher has taken the brave step of investing £40,000 into her York gym – and all after battling back from having both knees replaced.

She has rebranded, reinvented and remodelled the Samson And Delilah Gym in Haxby, which has now become Xercise.

Jo, who took over sole owner-ship of the gym earlier this year, is determined to make it succeed, although at one point she felt like giving up.

Jo said: “I was working 70 hours a week for only £3 an hour and the business was losing money. The future seemed very bleak and a return to the comfort of teaching was very tempting.”

But she decided to fight back.

Jo said: “I have a vision of a new more accessible gym, which will appeal to the local community of Haxby and the surrounding area.

“Most of all, I realised the existing culture had to change, and my vision is of a gym where anyone, regardless of age, gen-der, or personal goals, will be able to train in a safe, gentle environment, where they will feel welcomed and valued.”

The changing rooms have all been refurbished, a separate weight-training area has been created, together with a functional area for exercise and a consultation room.

“The old gym, we felt, was a bit too cramped. We have created a bit of space and even taken out some pieces of equipment.”

Jo, who lives in New Earswick, created her vision while recuperating from having both knees replaced, the result of playing netball and squash at a high level.

The former York College A-level sports teacher was told 12 years ago she would need major surgery on her knees and she was given a letter from a consultant suggesting that she never play sport again.

But Nigel Davies, her personal trainer at the time, tore the letter up. His suggestion was to strengthen the area surrounding the joints and to delay major surgery for as long as possible.

Jo said: “With Nigel’s support and my own determination, I got another ten fantastic years of sport and training from my dodgy knees.”

But 12 years later, Jo could not hold back the surgery any longer, as even walking was proving to be extremely painful.

“I could only walk for half an hour at a time,” she said.

Following surgery, Jo planned a training regime with Nigel, culminating in a mammoth cycling trek around Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with her friend Sarah Nicholson.

“It was an out-of-this-world experience, and with my titanium knees in place I am proud to say we cycled almost 1,000km.

“One of the highlights was staying with a Cambodian family sleeping in a treehouse in Laos where we had to zipwire between the trees.”

• Xercise is holding an open day on January 5, from 9am to 4pm.