Fresh air and fitness in Norfolk
There's a revolution happening. Across East Anglia, people are swapping pounding on the treadmill for toning in the park. EMMA LEE meets the founder of Libert� Fitness, Papillon Luck.
In 2008 high-flying Papillon Luck won, in her words, 'the best job I ever got'. She was working in the City of London and earning a good salary.
But something wasn't quite right. Her work-life balance was off kilter and she was feeling dissatisfied.
Action was needed – and she took it.
'I thought 'enough's enough',' she says. 'I can't believe I did this, but I resigned and went to Australia on my own.'
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Papillon has a strong entrepreneurial streak and had a long-held goal of being her own boss. And it was on her travels down under that inspiration struck.
She was invited along to an early morning training session on Bondi Beach.
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She thought the sands would be deserted, but to her surprise there were hundreds of people there.
'They were all exercising. Some were boxing, some were doing yoga, some were swimming in the sea. Everywhere I went in Australia I noticed people were training outdoors, before they went to work,' she says.
'I've always loved fitness. Working really long hours I couldn't create the lifestyle I wanted – to eat healthily and exercise. But I couldn't seem to make it work while I was living in the city. And I've always wanted to work for myself.'
Upon her return to the UK, Papillon set about making that dream a reality – and Libert� Fitness was born.
With its tongue-in-cheek slogan 'ever done it outdoors?' it has motivated dozens of people a week to take part in open air exercise sessions in picturesque parks and on beautiful beaches in Norfolk and Suffolk.
'I wanted to recreate that Australian atmosphere and attitude here,' she says.
As she talks about Libert� Fitness, Papillon's enthusiasm shines through. She talks about it being her 'absolute passion' and you're in no doubt that it is. She certainly makes toning in the park sound like an enticing alternative to pounding away on a treadmill.
'You can hear birds singing and see the sky. After five minutes you forget about all the things that were on your mind. With a little bit of effort the rewards are just so huge. You feel really happy and de-stressed,' she says.
Papillon runs the sessions with Gareth Thomas, a former army captain who has overseen the training of a number of high profile royal officer trainees and is a great motivator.
'He's the best personal trainer I've ever met,' she says. 'He encourages and pushes you without you wanting to give up.'
Papillon says that there's also a great comaraderie between the 'Libertarians' as they've begun to call themselves.
'Everyone cheers each other on. There's this real bonding. The members wouldn't let somebody be left behind,' she says.
Papillon started out with sessions in Suffolk, near her home, and launched in Norwich, at Earlham Park, in April. She is also holding day-long beach workouts at Holkham during the summer.
Not only do participants benefit from exercise, but also just from being in the fresh air. Sessions go ahead whatever the weather dishes out, apart from thunderstorms for safety reasons. Because you're battling the elements it means that there's plenty of variety in the sessions. And exercising on uneven surfaces could help burn up to 20pc more calories than if you were working out at the gym.
'People are just indoors too much,' says Papillon. 'No two sessions are the same – you get a different workout depending on the weather. And if it's raining because we're all drenched together it doesn't seem to matter.'
Anyone can join Libert� Fitness, regardless of age or fitness level. The sessions are taught by qualified instructors and include a mixture of cardiovascular exercise, circuit training, toning and team games.
Papillon, 34, says that while some of the participants have been converted from the gym, some might not have done any regular exercise since PE lessons at school.
A Libert� park session focuses on the five principles of physical fitness – muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and motor skills, so participants get a thorough all-round work out and exercises have been developed with Loughborough University's Performance Sport Services.
Since joining Libert�, Nick Richards has seen his health and fitness levels improve – and it's been good for his social life as he has made new friends too.
Nick, 36, started attending exercise sessions in January and now works out at either Earlham Park or Bury St Edmunds two to three times a week. 'I've got asthma and I used to worry about not doing too much and getting out of breath. I was going [to Libert� sessions] once every fortnight and I found it really hard to start with. Half way through I would be panting. Then I started going more often – two to three times a week – and it's got a lot easier. And my asthma has almost cleared up. At the gym you're on your own – at the park you're all in it together.
'I love being outside. Even when it's raining you get on with it. You get dirty – but you can always have a hot bath at the end of it,' he says.
Libert� sessions are held at Earlham Park, Norwich, on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays. Beach fitness days are being held at Holkham on August 13 and 14 and September 10 and 11. For more information about times and prices visit www.libertefitness.com