Tough Love: Outdoor trainer Summer says it's always the season to get fit

A Portaferry woman has turned fitness on it's head by opening an all year round outdoor circuits club at her home. Summer Love talks weight loss, tyre-flipping and cake with Jenny Lee

Flipping huge tractor tyres are just one the many novel training exercises at Summer Love fitness

SPRING, summer, autumn and winter, whatever the weather, four days a week at six o'clock in the morning, Summer Love can be found in the field beside her home putting people through their paces as they overturn tractor wheels, crawling under nets and bar pull-ups.

But Summer isn't your typical personal fitness trainer. She admits she loves doughnuts and she well knows the challenge of having to loose weight, having once been a size 26 herself and having lost five stone after the birth of her child.

The mum-of-three is passionate about promoting confidence and positive mental health, as well as fitness. But despite holding classes five times a day she admits she is a realist.

"I'm a real person. I don't have a six pack and I don't promote living solely on chicken and broccoli. You can eat the icing on a piece of cake – you just have to work for it," says the 32-year-old.

Essex-born Summer moved to the Ards Peninsula after marrying an Irishman. Before becoming a mum and piling on the pounds, she was in the communications team of the Royal Corps of Signals in the British army; she completed many hours of endurance training and served overseas in many locations, including Iraq.

She went on to achieve her personal training qualifications and worked at the David Lloyd gym and fitness club before setting up her own business, Summer Love Fitness, in January this year.

Portavogie fitness trainer Summer Love instils a love of fitness and the outdoor life in her clients

"I didn't want to be away from my children up to 80 hours a week, so I started up in the land beside my home. The weather was terrible, but the rainier and windier it is, the better the workout. It's just down and dirty fitness."

She combines her past experiences in making Summer Love Fitness as empowering as possible.

"I've used everything I learned over the years from being in the army and training so hard as well as the emotions I felt while being overweight and trying to join in classes where I have felt that I didn’t fit in, to design my classes.

"I wanted something that didn't waste people's time, that is designed for weight-loss, fitness and stretch. I wanted to create sessions where anyone, no matter what size, what fitness level or how weak or strong, where they could feel empowered by their own ability," says Summer, who uses calisthenic-type workouts.

The Down hurling team during a visit to Summer Love fitness

The fat-burning, stress-relieving, strength and cardio sessions involve a variety of "crazy ideas". These include jumping over tyres, flipping tyres, 'battle rope' whips, pushing or pulling a weighted sled or negotiating an obstacle course by pulling yourself across a bridge on ninja rings, all with a focus on building strength and muscle.

"We do calisthenics workouts. It's about making yourself stronger – anyone can do it. Anybody who gets up at 5.30 to take a 6am class generally aren't there for toning. They have a reason for being there and they work so hard."

Summer has built up a fitness club with friendship and motivation is at its heart.

"Being part of a team and being surrounded by people who want the same thing will help you achieve your goals," says Summer, who believes that if you train your mind, your body will follow.

"The outdoor circuits is challenging, but everyone can achieve and do it. My classes are non-judgmental. There are no numbers of drills or measurement of distance. All the tyres are different weights, so you can't compare yourself to other people and someone can miss an exercise if they wish."

There are many benefits to exercising outdoors – mentally and physically, as Summer explains.

"The natural environment puts extra demand on the body, meaning you need to work harder to perform the same exercises. Also, indoors, when you get hot your work levels decrease but outside you can work more because your body is not overheating.

"Mentally it's better than being in a sweaty gym with music pounding. Especially at 6am with the natural beauty of sunrise."

Summer firmly believes in the body's ability to recognise exercise routines and thus continually adapts activities, as well as encouraging her members to attend swimming fitness sessions in nearby Kircubbin and Jui Jitsu classes in Portavogie.

She also holds boxing and performance cycling sessions at her home, taking the bikes outdoors in the good weather. The club have outings too, such as taking part in a mud madness challenge in Portadown and climbing Slieve Donard.

As well as weight loss, many members train to get stronger to compete in other sports and interests. The Down hurling team come and take part in the outdoor circuits every six weeks for strengthening and team building.

Summer has her own personal fitness goals and as well as working towards achieving a judo coaching qualification, she is training for her debut mixed martial arts fight.

"I feel so strong and empowered by learning new skills which not only improve my fitness and strength but also teaches me how to defend myself," she says about the sport, which combines techniques form a range of combat sports and martial arts.

And she wants to expand her business, with plans to build a swimming pool and log cabins.

"I'd love to be able to host weight-loss camps with fitness as well a resident nutritionist. That's the end plan."

For for anyone sitting at home in front of a cup of tea and bar of chocolate, Summer's advice is get outside, whether it's in your local park or back yard, and "just do it".

"Every time I've lost weight I haven't done it by going to a legs, tums and bums class. I had to work real hard. I had to lift loads of heavy stuff and keep changing the routine and exercise.

"When you train you train for nobody else but yourself. You can get a small car tyre and do anything you want with those tyres. And don't be scared, because there's always someone more scared than you."

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