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ARC Fitness

Providing hope and re-connection to individuals and their families

After struggling with addiction for 15 years, Gary Rutherford turned his life around, training as a mental health nurse and addiction counsellor. In 2019 he set up ARC Fitness to share his personal and professional experiences using mental and physical fitness for the benefit of others struggling with their negative relationship to substances.

What was initially planned as an online signposting service connecting individuals to existing services, rapidly snowballed with many more enquiries from people recognising Gary as a role model and the person whom they trusted to lead their own recovery journey.

18 months later…

…having recognised that stopping drinking and doing drugs is only the first point for many, ARC Fitness has created a unique platform combining the therapeutic benefits of exercise, education and individual coaching to build self-esteem, self-worth and physical and mental resilience as a means of sustaining a fulfilling life free from addiction.

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A pioneering 6 week recovery programme

The pioneering six-week recovery programme includes individual and group training, running therapy, restorative yoga, mindfulness and even boxing, all tailored to suit all levels of ability. Emotional resilience is built by way of one-to-one counselling and group meetings. Participants can access the ARC Academy – an addiction recovery eLearning platform to better help them understand the nature of addiction, recovery and promote personal development. Individuals are encouraged to join the weekly goal setting and accountability check-ins and join in regular community based social events when possible.

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More than 70% of participants continue to engage with their peer group after the initial six-week programme

A fast growing active community

Above all, ARC is focussed on providing hope and re-connection to individuals and their families, helping them build healthier lifestyles within a supportive community. More than 70% of participants continue to engage with their peer group after the initial six-week programme. ARC has created a fast growing sober active community.

Essential to ARC Fitness’ acceptance as an innovative service, has been the documenting and evidencing of the positive impact the programme generates. In addition to the powerful testimonies from over thirty people who have benefitted from the ARC approach, the improvements in individual anxiety levels, depression, cravings, sleep and the quality of life and relationships have been validated in a research study by Queen’s University Belfast. This research has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Mental Health Practice further reinforcing the validity of the programme.

Since its inception in 2019 ARC fitness has

Helped numerous individuals re-take control of their lives

Secured long term funding and dedicated premises to continue to offer support to those in need

Created a validated programme that has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Mental Health Practice

Set up for future success

Having started ARC Fitness whilst in full-time employment, Gary initially struggled to meet the overwhelming demand that he had created and so much of 2020 was devoted to creating a sustainable structure for ARC Fitness. This has led to the appointment of a voluntary Board of Directors, recruitment of a dedicated support team including coaches, peer support workers and therapists and a clear strategic plan. In late 2020, having secured longer-term funding and sponsorship for dedicated premises, Gary was finally able to commit himself on a full-time basis to ARC and to increasing the audience and impact of ARC Fitness in the years to come.

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Other partners who are making a difference

Identifying the right network of dedicated and ambitious partners has enabled us to deliver on our charitable purposes and activities. Here are just some of the life-changing projects that our grant partners have been involved in.

  • Sólás


    Initially established in 2009 as a charity supporting children and young people with a broad range of additional needs including autism and ASD.

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  • South Belfast Foodbank

    South Belfast Foodbank

    Responsible for providing over 270,000 meals to people in crisis and for the distribution of over 200 tonnes of food.

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  • Flourish NI

    Flourish NI

    Helping survivors of human trafficking not only recover from their traumatic experiences but also to regain self-belief and new skills so that they can lead safe, independent and fulfilled lives.

    Read More