Born and brought up in Edinburgh, Gavin Barry went to Craigmount High School before joining Parsons Peebles as an apprentice engineer. But he was made redundant in 1980, at the age of 20, and decided to join the police. He served with the Lothian and Borders force for the next 30 years.
Starting off in uniform, he switched to the CID in 1983 and was promoted to sergeant five years later. He went to the police college at Tulliallan as a PT instructor for three years, where he helped cadets get through their fitness training. “That was how I got interested in physical exercise,” he says.
Back in the CID he rose through the ranks and worked all over the Capital. “I don’t think there’s a police station in Edinburgh I haven’t served in.”
He ended up as a detective chief inspector and was involved in some high-profile cases, leading the investigation into the “head in the bag” murder case in 2008/09 and the Tommy Sheridan perjury case.
But he always maintained his interest in physical exercise. “I’ve always played football and all kinds of other sports. About 15 years ago I got training at Marco’s Leisure Centre and got friendly with one of the personal trainers there, who suggested I should get more involved so I started taking part in various classes at Marco’s.
Marco’s closed in 2007 and Mr Barry joined the Energy Gym at Boroughmuir Rugby Club at Meggetland.
He sat exams through training provider Lifetime to become a qualified fitness instructor.
“When I retired from the police in 2010, an opportunity came up to buy over the licence to run the place, which I did. It was really a failing club at the time – it had just 29 members. Now we have over 300.” Mr Barry, 53, says the success of the gym has been achieved largely through word of mouth. “We have really good staff,” he says. “It’s not like the big chains where it’s all just about getting numbers through the door. We know every member by name. and when they come through the door they are getting a personal service all the time.”
There is also a family element to the business. Mr Barry’s partner Siobhan helps run the gym, his nephew Craig also works there and daughter Samantha is a regular at the zumba.
Now Mr Barry has been shortlisted as one of the top 20 in this year’s Lifetime Learner Achievement Awards. The awards celebrate the learning achievements and resulting career successes of those who complete a qualification with Lifetime. He was chosen from 167 nominations. The final result will be announced at the awards dinner next week.