This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here Close

Is it time to ditch your gym membership?

A new, simpler way of keeping fit is finding favour with those in the know. The outdoor gym is a secret you’ll want to know as we reveal the new forest health and fitness retreat.

As the recession rumbles on and we look for ever more inventive ways to trim the fat from our spending, it can be easy to wonder where all the fun has gone. But when it comes to health and fitness, saving money doesn’t always mean sacrificing pleasures. As we find out from Oliver Roberts, founder of Natural Perspectives, sometimes the free alternative is infinitely more rewarding than its paid-for cousin.

The forest health and fitness retreat is an exciting joint venture between Natural Perspectives and Forest Holidays. It gives you the opportunity (for significantly less than your gym fees) to learn a unique fitness programme you can follow, free of charge, for the rest of your life.  And you’ll have fun, meet new friends and enjoy some of life’s luxuries while you are learning. 


Natural fitness in a natural setting

To find out more we put some questions to Oliver about what exactly a fitness retreat is.

“It’s really a kick start to a healthier life, away from distractions and in a natural setting. We have a unique, balanced fitness programme using calisthenics and the outdoor environment.”


“It’s from the Greek, literally “beautiful strength”. It’s an exercise method in which you use your body’s own weight resistance to build strength, endurance and power. Which is why you can do it anywhere and it costs nothing.”

And are there any particular benefits to training outdoors?

“There is a huge mental well-being aspect here. Think about a session in the gym: headphones on, TV screens flickering, isolated yet surrounded by sweating bodies, no fresh air; an artificial, man-made environment. Now picture yourself in the forest with a small friendly group, leaves crunching underfoot, sunlight glinting through the trees and the sound of birdsong in your ears. Do I need to explain the benefits?”

Who goes on a fitness retreat?

So, who signs up for retreats? Are they boot camps for the super fit?

“Our retreats are for anyone who is motived to do something positive about their health and well-being. The pace is matched to you, and the emphasis is on long term benefits. For some, the time has come to take control of their fitness; others, jaded by the overhyped gym culture, are looking for something more stripped back, more natural. The retreat is simply the start, the pathfinder if you like, for a new direction in your physical and mental well-being.”

And why have you teamed up with Forest Holidays to run these retreats?

“I can’t think of an environment more suited to our programme than the forest. Apart from being a natural outdoor gym with all the equipment you need - fallen logs as steps, trails and paths to run along and clearings for exercises - it provides mental refreshment; forests reconnect us with who we are; they are good for the soul. When I got talking to the team at Forest Holidays I realised that they care about this natural connection as much as I do and their ethos fits with my own philosophy”

Running in the forest

A simple, motivational philosophy

So, it’s a philosophy Oliver?

“It’s about stripping back the layers of complexity that have grown up around keeping fit, and giving control back to people. We teach techniques that will cost you nothing and can change your life – and we make sure you have fun while you are learning.”

And what can someone who comes on the Sherwood Forest or Blackwood Forest retreats expect?

“A balanced programme of exercises and outdoor activities, including forest jogs, abdominal core strength exercises, stability and natural bodyweight training, group fitness challenges and workshops. There are also climbing, cycling and many other outdoor activities. And I should mention that you’ll be staying in a luxury woodland cabin with an outdoor hot tub to soothe away the day’s exertions.”

It’s starting to sound very appealing now!

“This is the point really, if I am going to get you motivated, which is what it’s all about, you need to be enjoying yourself. It’s friendly and sociable, with lunches together, a trip to the pub and a team barbecue on the last night. One of the reasons I am so excited about the forest fitness retreats is that I can show people that fitness can be fun. A friend of mine suggested that all I was doing was giving grown-ups permission to go out to play. In a way, he’s right, and what a playground!”

Lasting benefits

The health benefits are clear; apart from improving physical fitness and mental wellbeing and helping you to shed pounds, there is an added element at play –it’s about rebalancing, reducing your stress levels and reconnecting with yourself. It sounds like a fulfilling 3 or 4 days, but how do you make sure that people carry on after they have left the retreat?

“All the activities and techniques are replicable back home so there are none of the usual barriers such as money or equipment. To help with your motivation you leave the retreat with exercise cards, nutrition advice, easy make-it-yourself power snacks and your own Natural Perspectives training shirt. And during the retreat we will have helped you to create a fitness programme that fits in with your lifestyle, ability and goals.”

Feeling motivated?

Has the time to come for you to take control of your fitness the natural way? Start by ripping up your gym membership card and heading for the forest.

Did you know?

Research shows that exercise outdoors is good for you. The visual stimulation of the outdoors can have a cathartic effect and lead to reduced stress and anxiety.

Did you know?

The outdoor terrain gives a natural change and balance to exercise intensity and this in turn improves your recovery rate and results in increased fitness levels.

Oliver Roberts’ top 5 outdoor fitness tips

1. If you feel unmotivated to train outdoors, imagine yourself already there, soaking up the sights & sounds of the forest.

2. Create your own ‘natural gym’ by using the outdoor environment; look for benches, steps, trees and puddles.

3. A single bench can be used for an upper body and core workout, as well as for step-ups - a great lower body workout that gets the pulse racing.

4. We love it when it rains; it will be muddy and more challenging. And running into the wind gives added resistance; increasing the heart rate and burning off excess body fat.

5. Get yourself a good, lightweight, waterproof jacket and get out there.