Boxing champ Jon Thaxton leads PE classes for care homes and children

PUBLISHED: 15:40 29 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 29 May 2020

Jon Thaxton  Picture: Nick Butcher

Jon Thaxton Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

It’s not just all about PE with Joe Wicks; in Norfolk a champion boxer and a consultant surgeon have joined forces to provide home workouts.

Daisy Fryer  Picture: Jim FryerDaisy Fryer Picture: Jim Fryer

“I’m almost wishing lockdown wouldn’t end, the classes have been so amazing!” said 72-year-old Sandra Ross. She has been enjoying daily fitness training with former British and European champion boxer Jon Thaxton – alongside scores of ill and disabled people across Norfolk, including 14-year-old Daisy Fryer.

Sandra, of Great Moulton, near Long Stratton, and Daisy, of Poringland, near Norwich, are just two of the people taking part in the boxercise and fitness sessions created by Norwich boxer and personal trainer Jon, with consultant orthopaedic surgeon Rachael Hutchinson.

Jon and Rachael combined their medical and sport knowledge to set up the not-for-profit Able2B gym. When the coronavirus crisis hit they moved classes online, as Able2B@home.

The daily zoom sessions have proved hugely popular and now they are leading classes for care homes too.

Sandra Ross    Picture: Peter RossSandra Ross Picture: Peter Ross

“This is a unique chance to ‘box’ alongside a former European Champion and have some fun at the same time!” said Rachel.

Sandra had a stroke three years ago, which left her with problems down the left side of her body.

“Since I have been boxing with Able2B I can move my arm so much better,” she said. “And I think I’m stronger and fitter now than I was before the stroke!

“Every other day it’s boxing and in between Jon does cardio work. I think Jon and Rachael are just amazing. They put so much effort in and are so lovely to us.

“Jon has such a sense of humour. I don’t even want lockdown to end because I want to carry on doing it six days a week!”

Sandra has just raised more than £500 for Able2B and stroke charity Different Strokes with a solo, socially distanced, sponsored walk around the village. Using a stick she was accompanied by her husband, carrying a collecting bucket. “I usually join a walk for a stroke charity every year and this year I thought I’d do my own,” she said.

Daisy, who is autistic and has learning difficulties, loves the Able2B@home sessons too. “It starts our day really,” said her dad, Jim. Daisy is a pupil at Parkside School, Norwich, for children with special educational needs, and used to go to an after school exercise club run by Jon.

Jim is home-schooling her during the pandemic and said: “She enjoys the exercise, as she’s quite active. She can’t go swimming or rollerskating now, but she can enjoy seeing her friends while she’s doing Jon’s classes. Jon is very good with them. Both Rachael and Jon have experience working with disabled children, and adults, which makes things much easier for all concerned.

“Daisy struggles with anxiety, so she likes being able to stay in her room. She won’t let me do it with her - I think she thinks it would be the equivalent of dad dancing!”

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Rachael said the online classes have proved hugely popular “Our virtual classes are important to support both physical and mental health in what is an incredibly vulnerable group through this time and is also a way to reach out to those who would struggle to come out of the house anyway,” said Rachael.

Jon, who held the British lightweight boxing title from 2006 and 2007, and the European title from 2008 to 2009, had already started a class for people with Parkinson’s disease when he met Rachael. “I went along, saw how good the results were and how much the participants could achieve by following patterned visual movements, and we started from there. We realised we are both former Sprowston High School pupils and our dads had played football together in the local Sprowston football club!” she said.

They set up a class for children with physical disabilities. “We then realised there were also concentration and self confidence benefits too and opened it up to children with learning disabilities such as ADHD and autism,” said Rachael. They believe their gym, in Gilchrist Close, off Bessemer Road, Norwich, is unique in Britain.

“By using our experience in motivational work and dealing successfully with medical problems and issues that can occur, we achieve outcomes that make a massive difference to day to day life and help people to discover their ability,” said Rachael, who works at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and also assesses Paralympic contestants in swimming and table tennis.

Able2B has worked with mainstream and special schools, British Blind Sport, the Prince’s Trust and won two Active Norfolk Awards.

The new zoom classes for care homes are also proving very popular. “The aim is to give them something different to try, get some physical exercise that all can get involved in and also a sense of community spirit by coming together with other care homes across the UK to participate in the class,” said Rachael.

“Jon is experienced, engaging and has a unique ability to give everyone a sense of achievement with his classes, whatever their ability.We have been working hard for two years to change people’s perceptions about physical exercise and disability and limited ability and give people more self-confidence in their own abilities. We are really looking forward to extending this idea past Covid-19 if it proves popular.”

Care home residents can either join in all together in a lounge area, or with individual residents if they have their own devices. “Everyone participating just needs a chair to sit on and no other equipment and the class is targeted towards those with limited physical ability, including severe restrictions-for example the class can be done by someone in bed and still be successful,” said Rachael.

At Heywood Grange care home in Diss project coordinator Rebecca Laughlin said residents loved taking part. “They find it fun and definitely enjoyable, and ask when we will next be taking part. And once the session is over everybody is smiling and laughing. It really seems to boost everybody’s mood.”

The daily (Monday to Saturday) Able2B@home class at 11am offers people adapted exercise in their own homes, via zoom, plus a sense of community and camaraderie. There are free give it a try/bring a friend sessions every Tuesday. For details of how to join visit

Regular classes, plus access to adapted relaxation and pilates sessions, costs £20 per month per household.

The care homes sessions are at 10am on Mondays and Fridays, with details of how to take advantage of a month’s free trial at

Classes are free for the first four weeks and then cost £30 per care home.

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