LEGIONS Gym opened its doors for the first time since lockdown on Monday.

The Clifton Moor-based gym had been shut since mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic but was able to welcome back some of its combat sports members earlier this week.

At present, the number of participants taking part in their training sessions is limited due to social distancing rules in the gym.

Sparring also remains on hold, with fighters restricted to bag work and fitness drills in the main.

Despite that, their classes are fully booked with Dave Phillips, the gym’s co-founder and Muay Thai coach, hailing the family atmosphere at the gym.

“The classes are full already and I’m currently turning people away,” said Phillips.

“They were pretty much full as soon as I announced them.

“We’re like one big family here, it’s not like a normal sports gym, people that come here tend to stay.

“We’ve made the classes shorter and put more classes on but we’ve still not been able to fit everyone in.”

For Phillips and his fellow coaches, the break from training has been their longest spell out of the gym.

“We closed a little bit earlier than when lockdown was announced - I think it was March 18 when I took the decision to close the gym,”

“I think it’s been around 19 weeks since we were last in the gym.

“I think that the longest I’d previously been away from the gym is two weeks when I’d been to Thailand or on holiday with the family.

“19 weeks is a long time not to be doing anything, it’s been a strange period.”

The members returning to the gym will walk into a different gym to the one they left months ago, however.

There are marked areas to separate fighters, the changing rooms are shut and there’s a one way system for entry and exit.

“In terms of our procedures, we’ve got loads of new rules,” explained Phillips.

“We can only have so many people in the gym and we’ve spent a fortune on hand sanitizer and signs.

“We’ve just done a Covid first aid course as well and we’ve got our certificates for that.

“We’re good to go.”

Though gyms are back open, fights for their boxers, mixed martial artists and Thai boxers are still not yet on the table.

Phillips continued: “Until you’ve got the right number of people allowed to come to a show, it’s just not financially worthwhile to put a show on, because you need to get so many people in to cover your costs.

“If people can’t spar or clinch in training, how can they get ready for a fight?

“We’ll just have to keep going with their fitness and be ready for when they can get back at it."

Though the gym has been shut during lockdown, the amateur boxers at Legions have been training outside with coach Ashley Martin.

The sessions were limited to just one boxer at a time and then five at a time, as restrictions began to ease, something which Martin was keen to stick to.

He said: "It was important to me that we adhered to the Government guidelines because I didn't want to do anything that would jeopardise the boxers' safety or the gym's reputation.

"On an evening, when all of the other boxing coaches were available, we'd have them taking sessions down the street in the other business' car parks, having got permission from them.

"We had around 20 boxers working in their own bubbles on different skills.

"It's kept them going and given them the normality of coming to the gym and seeing each other's faces - even though they weren't allowed to punch them!"

On a positive note, the lockdown meant that Martin and his coaches have been able to focus on their boxers' technique, without the pressure of getting physically and mentally prepared for a fight.

"We're usually competing every weekend of the year and we've got boxers out at multiple locations across the country," Martin added.

"So, you're always aiming for a fight and your training is intense.

"To some degree, a level of technique training might have been getting overlooked due to us being so busy.

"We've got so many boxers in the gym, so it can be hard to break something to do with everyone.

"Now, we've been able to help the boxers develop technically and to discuss why we're doing certain things, without that stress of preparing for a fight.

"It's amazing to see how much they've been able to learn. But, it would be nice to see them being able to put this work into practise."

Zachary Evans, the Elite Yorkshire boxing champion at 69kg, is one of many boxers who saw his ambitions at winning titles this summer put on hold due to the virus.

"I'd just entered the National Championships before the lockdown," he said. "Being someone that had fights so often, it's been hard to get used to that because you've got nothing to aim for. You're usually so used to having that goal to reach but then there's nothing there."