The First Taste of Freedom: How residents are enjoying the outdoors as restrictions ease

On Monday 29th March, the country saw the relaxation of some of the restrictions that we have been living under since the beginning of January. You can now meet others outdoors in groups of up to six people or two households, including in private gardens, outdoor sports facilities have reopened and larger groups can take part in formally organised outdoor sports once again.

Charlotte France went from working full-time in a gym as a fitness advisor, to being placed on furlough during the first national lockdown. She decided to start a new venture and completed a range of qualifications during her time in lockdown including personal training, indoor cycling, circuit training and strength and conditioning.

Following the completion of these qualifications, she set up Highest Peak Fitness, her very own fitness business where she offers personal training, bootcamps and individual and group exercise classes. Lockdown has meant that she has had to use Zoom to host her sessions. Tuesday evening saw her allowed to take her first outdoor bootcamp session following the relaxation of restrictions.

Charlotte said: “Lockdown was getting overwhelming so I had to focus my energy on something productive. The right opportunity came for me to start personal training. Being back outside has given everyone a new fire in their bellies. People are ready to train again but now more than ever they are more about the mental benefits and not just the physical benefits of exercise.”

“Since starting back, the atmosphere has been brilliant and I have had a lot of new members join which is fantastic. A lot of my clients are preferring to train outdoors now following the lockdown, and many have said that they will never go back to training in a gym. The only downside to being back outside is having to worry about the British weather again.”

Laura Williams, who attends Charlotte’s bootcamp said: “I have absolutely loved being back outdoors again. There is so much more room, fresh air and it is great to physically see others after being locked up for the past few months. It is a great atmosphere and we are all working towards improving ourselves and each other in one way or another.”

Swimmers were welcomed back to Hathersage Swimming Pool on Monday morning following the Government’s easing of restrictions. The capacity of the pool has been more than halved so that it can be operated in a safe way under the Covid-19 guidelines. Tickets are being released weekly to reduce the number of cancellations and also to give everyone a fair chance when it comes to booking a slot following high demand.

Natalie Rodgers is a regular at Hathersage Pool and is delighted that it has finally been allowed to reopen following months of closure. She said: “The scramble for tickets for the reopening was a similar experience to getting Glastonbury tickets but it was definitely worth the stress.”

“As someone who has regularly used the pool over the last four years, I didn’t realise how much I would miss it. I usually go with my friend on a Sunday morning and we always have a post-swim breakfast at the onsite café for a weekly catchup. The social element is really important but fundamentally swimming is a solitary activity and I have missed the meditative qualities this form of exercise has on me. It is such a relief to be able to return to the pool which is an absolute gem of the Peak District in a village that I love.”

Shirley Mcclune is also a regular user of Hathersage Pool and she feels extremely lucky to be able to use such a great facility. She said: “Swimming outside really wakes me up, makes me feel alive in the morning and sets me up mentally for the day. When you get out of the pool you can see the beautiful landscape that surrounds it and I feel very fortunate that I can go there. It is my mindful hour and I savour the whole experience every time I go.”

In two weeks’ time the government is set to relax restrictions even further which will see the reopening of non-essential shops, hospitality, leisure centres and gyms. Hopefully the easing of restrictions is just the start of the country getting back to some form of much-needed ‘normality’ as we head into the summer.

Lucy Chappell

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