Exercise classes take to the great outdoors as fitness fanatics can finally work out together again

By | June 15, 2020

A host of exercise classes are taking place in the great outdoors in parks and green spaces, as the country embraces getting fit once again.

Though online fitness classes have been one of the hits of the lockdown, for many nothing could replace the social and real- life experience of group exercise.

And a growing number of fitness experts are getting back to hitting the mat, heavy lifting and fighting to make their businesses a success.

Under the Government’s phase two guidelines, groups of up to 15 people, including trainers and coaches, can take part in non-contact outdoor exercise, as long as social distancing of two metres is observed.

Claire Corcoran (42), who runs Stretch it Yoga, has held a popular class outside at Father Collins Park in Clongriffin, north Dublin, on Saturday.

And she will be teaching mother and baby yoga outdoors from July 6 in the grounds of St Fintan’s Parish Centre in Sutton, north Dublin.

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Leader: Yoga instructor Claire Corcoran during an outdoor class in Clongriffin Park, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Leader: Yoga instructor Claire Corcoran during an outdoor class in Clongriffin Park, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Leader: Yoga instructor Claire Corcoran during an outdoor class in Clongriffin Park, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The yoga teacher has been inundated with expressions of interest and is delighted to be back in business.

“I put up one post online and I’ve had an overwhelming response, so it’s something people really want,” Ms Corcoran said.

“The rain doesn’t even put people off.”

Even Ms Corcoran’s daughter, Isabel (6), is a mini yogi and has been practising her downward dog during lockdown.

Mrs Corcoran has thought of everything to keep those who attend her park classes safe during the pandemic.

Everyone is asked to bring their own yoga mat, to socially distance their mats two metres apart, while hand sanitiser will also be available.

Mental health nurse Tracey Kiernan (34), from Coolock, Dublin, is one of Ms Corcoran’s students. And while she says she is “no expert” in yoga, as a frontline worker she finds the activity more important than ever during the pandemic.

The mother of two said: “We promote mindfulness and being good to yourself in my line of work but often we don’t practise what we preach.

“So, for me, yoga is that time when I get to switch off from the day.

“It’s been challenging during the pandemic and yoga gives me the opportunity to wind down and ground myself.

“It’s my time and I’m looking forward to doing it out in the air and getting out of the house,” she added.

Elena Gobber (41) is teaching her Elena Fit and Fun training classes in Merrion Square in the heart of Dublin city centre.

The fitness instructor has also been getting a lot of interest and she is also offering dietary support for those who sign up.

Ms Gobber, originally from Italy, is teaching body weight exercises and piloxing, a combination of boxing and pilates which delivers a high-intensity workout.

“People just need to bring their own mat and work with their body weight, they don’t need to bring equipment or anything,” she said.

“They book beforehand, pay beforehand and if it rains we can switch to online.

“People have really enjoyed online workouts because it cuts out travelling and showering in a gym but there’s nothing like having a group class together.

“There are major benefits to the classes, not just for the body but the mind and people will enjoy breathing in the fresh air.

“The classes help people deal with stress, which of course is a major issue right now with families working and living at home.”

Ronan Mahon (38), from Ballsbridge, Dublin, is co-owner of Movement Fitness, which is providing classes which include HIIT, high-intensity interval training.

The classes of up to 15 are taking place in Rathmines, Donnybrook and Sandymount.

And the company plans to launch more outdoor classes soon.

The owners are also aiming to open a new gym in Sandymount in August or September.

Mr Mahon said: “Rather than training two metres apart, we do it four metres apart. The workout zone is marked by yellow cones.

“We have a queue system when coming into a class, hand sanitiser, people book in.

“The classes are safer than doing your food shopping because there’s more social distancing.

“One thing I recommend for those who haven’t been training in a while, is don’t go too hard too fast,” he added.

Claire Arnold (34) from Ranelagh, Dublin, has been logging on to the company’s online classes during the lockdown. However she is relishing the opportunity to exercise outdoors and to taking part in a group activity again. “I look forward to the outdoor classes,” Ms Arnold said.

“People are starting to feel more confident to go out and about and they want to work out in real life, with real people, who they recognise.”

Ms Arnold, who is in the process of setting up the Arnold neighbourhood grocer and community events space in Portobello, added: “I also push myself more when other people are round and it’s just great being part of a group activity again.

“This is just what we need right now.”

Though many exercise classes are taking advantage of the milder weather by setting up in parks and outdoor spaces, they are also maintaining their online activities to keep a balance available for their customers.

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