Fitness, fun and friendship: how couple's two-month programme in Leamington has given myself and others the boost we needed after living under lockdown
Courier reporter Oliver Williams has been taking part in Phyiscal Formula's eight-week transformation programme PT in the Park at Victoria Park and has now written about his experience
Feature by reporter Oliver Williams
Time does fly when you're having fun while keeping fit and escaping from the stresses and strains of lockdown.
I write this article in the eighth and final week of the PT in the Park transformational programme I have been taking part in and the first ever session I attended still sticks in my mind and seems like only yesterday.
It was a wet, cold and windy bank holiday Monday back in May and I sent Martin Browne - the health and performance strategist who is running the course alongside his partner, fellow trainer and nutritional expert Olivia Kreigenfeld, under the banner of their company Physical Formula - a message asking if the session was actually going to take place due to the weather.
Martin replied that he and Olivia would be at Victoria Park where the programme has been taking place on five days of the week for the last two months (you've probably seen the flag if you have been at the park at some point in that time), 'come rain or shine'.
I was dubious as to how it would be working out in those conditions but also excited to get out in the fresh air and away from exercise sessions on Zoom or socially distanced and Covid-restricted workouts at the gym.
Over the past few years I've been keeping myself fit and in good shape both before and during the Coronavirus pandemic - but this was going to require a new level of commitment to my training not to mention much more thought into what I ate and how I looked after myself in regard to things such as how much water I drink, how much sleep I get and even how much time I spend looking at TV, computer or mobile phone screens each day.
I needn't have worried, the session was well attended and PT in the Park has been fantastic from the get-go - the effort and desire of fellow members to get the most they possibly can out of the programme was clear to see from the beginning.
Over the last eight weeks we have squatted, jumped, lifted weights, ran on the spot, negotiated hurdles, done various different stomach and abdominal crunches and body weight exercises.
Sessions have been varied and nicely challenging and have often included using weights and, sometimes, resistance bands to cover cardio, abdominals, upper body, high intensity interval training (HIIT), full body conditioning legs and glutes, core and full body
What's more, and what has also been important, is that we have all enjoyed it together and made some great new friends along the way - a blessing which cannot be underestimated in these times of 'bubbles', the 'rule of six' and generally being discouraged to mix with anyone we don't already know.
Everyone on the course has had their own personal goals and many have achieved impressive results.
Some hadn't done any intense exercise in years, some had been unable to train properly due to injuries and conditions and needed coaches who could offer alternative exercises and be sympathetic to their needs while others, like myself, were hoping to give themselves both a physical and mental boost after the stresses and strains of living under lockdown for too long.
Most were aiming to lose weight, tracking calories on their FitBits or Apple Watches etc in friendly competition with other members, others were simply looking to maintain their body weight while others, such as myself, wanted to build some lean muscle.
There's been many success stories from the course in regards to people trying to reach and exceed individual targets.
Pam has lost more than 20lb during the eight-week programme by sticking to a minimum of four sessions a week and following Olivia and Martin's ketogenic, low-carb, meal plan.
Ben gained a total of 4kg of mass using weights and meal plans to help him build strength and muscle mass.
Jacqui overcame her fear of lunges and squats due to several debilitating diagnosis including arthritis.
She is now squatting and running without any pain.
Stewart has exercised at classes or the gym for more than 20 years and has said that his body is feeling tighter and looking visibly more toned and defined than ever before.
Members have happily shared their thoughts on the programme.
Laura said: "This is the best experience I've had training so far.
"I'm really impressed with how thorough and extensive the wider resources of the plan are i.e. online platform, videos, recipes, weekly challenges.
"The sessions are progressively increasing in difficulty which is a great incentive to work harder and get through each one."
Tracy said: "It has been invigorating and life changing.
"This is not a quick fix exercise programme; it’s a lifestyle change and I don't want it to end."
Heather added: "My experience so far has begun to change my life.
"I’m getting properly fit for the first time in years, enjoying exercising and feeling much better in myself."
Sunita said: "I’ve been a gym member and to compare that with working outside I can say that it’s more enjoyable and fun and, more importantly, my motivation and drive is always there.
"The coaches are so friendly and down to earth.
And Elly added: "I have been empowered by the changes in my unfit body, I am loving the support from the instructors and the group as a whole."
In total, members have lost 150lb or ten stone of combined weight between them, they have burned more than 500,000 calories and, as of Saturday, they will have completed more than 1,000 hours of exercise.
My smart scales at home have been showing me positive results in regard to gaining muscle and Olivia has always been on hand to provide myself and other group members with useful advice on nutrition and some fantastic and simple recipes for meals suited to our specific needs.
As someone who is fit and in decent shape, being a part of PT in the Park has been amazing.
And to know that it has been life-changing for others of varied levels of fitness and seeing them motivated to exercise and hit their targets has been inspirational.
It's also worth me mentioning that being a part of PT in the Park has also helped me in my grief over the death of my father last September - this has been invaluable.
Eight weeks of exercise on most days of those weeks might seem like a big commitment over a long period of time.
But when I think back to that first early May bank holiday session, of how fast the time has gone since then and how much myself and many others have done and enjoyed in that time, I really don't want it to end.
Off of the back of the success of this first course, Olivia and Martin will be running another eight-week PT in the Park programme at Victoria Park from Monday July 12.
To find out more visit https://physicalformula.com/pt-in-the-park