“Time spent in the garden, the woods, the park, gives people a greater feeling of vitality,” says Martyn Standage, who is an expert in motivation in health, exercise and sport.
Personal trainer, power lifter, and body- builder, mother of three Zoe McCurdy, has opened up classes, creating a positive little community on Garryvoe Beach where she runs keep-fit sessions.
“People are facing many challenges both physically and mentally from having their fitness regime reduced during lockdown,” says Zoe, who lives close to the beach.
“The classes aim to help and support local individuals in getting back to fitness.
“Living so close to the beach has allowed me to access the most beautiful environment to run small outdoor classes,” says Zoe.
“The energy from the sun, sea, and fresh air, all makes for a perfect setting to get people motivated, moving, and the heart rate pumping.”
Even though bonding is difficult these days with social distancing; exercising in groups of four; people feel more united.
“We have created a lovely little community for ourselves,” says Zoe.
“Everyone is very positive and supportive of one another. Being active outdoors is great for the mind and for the body. The ladies and gents are really benefiting from the exercise, doing it together at a safe distance; still feeling part of a group.”
Sophie Kearney, from East Cork, has benefited in mind and body since she met Zoe a year ago.
“If somebody told me a year ago that I’d be working out at 7.30 in the morning; I would have laughed at them,” she says.
Now Sophie, happy and healthy, has a constant smile on her face.
“I came across Zoe on Facebook,” says Sophie, who is a mother of one.
“Back then, I had different goals in my life and I wasn’t living a very healthy life. I was on the wrong path. I had developed bad habits and I was way out of touch with what my priorities were.”
When Sophie made her wellbeing and healthy body image her priority, things changed.
“I wanted to better myself,” says Sophie, who is in her early 20s.
She made the right call.
“Zoe asked me; ‘how are you feeling?’” says Sophie.
“She showed me kindness and concern. I had never met anybody who cared so much. Zoe wasn’t about the money.
“I signed up for Zoe’s classes and I learned about nutrition and healthy eating. She was on my doorstep.
“I thought I would never be happy until my ribs were sticking out and my collar bone was visible. I was afraid of the scales.
“Getting stronger and healthier, I began to love the body I have, not comparing it to other people’s bodies.
“I used to compare myself to my friends and I wanted to wear what they wore. It was disheartening.
“I am happy in my skin now. I don’t want to be six stone. I want to be fit, healthy and strong.”
Sophie has other plans.
“I have great plans, gaining qualifications for the future. Already I have acquired certs in further education. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be.”
And she is a beach bunny.
“I am!” she says, laughing.
“And I love it. We work-out and have a laugh together.”
Stella Collier, who lives in East Cork, has taken to the great outdoors too.
“I ran 10 miles this morning,” says Stella who lost 36.6kg, more than five stone, in a year when she signed up to Zoe’s fitness and weight-loss programme.
“I might be going the distance round in circles, but I am running 10 miles most days.
“I find Zoe really inspirational,” says Stella, aged 52, who has three grown-up children.
“Zoe is non-judgemental, making you believe in yourself.”
Zoe offers sound advice to her clients.
“I began to learn what my body needs, re-thinking my eating and how to change my mind-set,” says Stella.
Now she has a positive mind-set, full of the joys of life.
“I am five clothes sizes smaller and I’m fit as well,” say Stella.
Stella, like Sophie, made the right call too.
“I saw where Zoe was doing a five week challenge in Cloyne gym,” says Stella.
“She had two places left. I wondered, will I? Won’t I? Then I thought, I’ll give it a go. I went to a meeting and I got a food sheet, which was a food plan and not a diet. I could eat four meals a day; I couldn’t believe it. That was massive to me. Before, I was eating all the wrong food that doesn’t fill you up.”
Signing up with Zoe, Stella thought she had bitten off more than she could chew.
“I was never sporty,” says Stella.
“I signed up for the five week fitness challenge that included personal training, weight training, H.I.T class and spinning. I needed to get my head round that! I was incredibly unfit and I thought; Oh my God, I’ll never be able to do all those classes!”
But Zoe knew she could.
“She believed in me,” says Stella.
And Stella believed in herself.
“I signed up for another five weeks!” she says. “I didn’t expect that to happen. Zoe and I ran the Cloyne 4km last year. I’ve done four of them now.”
Life is different now for Stella.
“When I used to go out, I’d put my hand- bag on my lap to hide the weight. Now I feel like a million dollars, getting up in the mornings at 6.30am for a run. I can’t thank Zoe enough for motivating me.”
Whether you’re beach bunny or a middle-aged housewife, health and fitness is within the grasp of everyone.
“Anyone can get fit,” says Stella. “If you put in the work, you will get the results.”
Zoe, aged 46, with her personal, caring approach, has seen lots of positive results from individuals who took the first brave step to change old habits and cultivate new healthy habits and lifestyle.
Born and raised in the UK, Zoe moved to Cork in 2000 and, like a lot of mothers who need motivation to lose weight, she took up regular fitness classes after her third child was born.
“Like many mothers, the weight gain started after my third child, Zahara, aged 14, was born,” says Zoe, who has two older daughters, Keana, aged 19, and Nyomi, aged 17.
“I began to take up fitness classes and a bit of running.”
After two knee surgeries and several months of physiotherapy, Zoe was introduced to a gym and she began to learn about strength training with weights to rehabilitate her injuries.
“I very soon became passionate about weight training and the benefits that came with it,” says Zoe.