For Rich Evans, exercise should always be fun – not about making people feel bad or unattainable targets.
His Fitness and Weight Loss Playground model is proving a hit in Chichester and when I visit it, is an exhausting, laugh-filled, 45 minutes of activities.
“When we were kids we used to run around and have fun and we were active, we didn’t think of it as a workout, we were just having fun,” said the 46-year-old.
“Then we grow up and people stop having fun. When did it change from having fun to having a workout?”
Rich used to run a ski business and qualified as a personal trainer about five years ago.
“It was more as a part-time thing to do in the summer because the ski industry was obviously in the in the winter,” he said.
When he sold the business, Rich started to take on more one-on-one clients.
However, he was often asked if he ran group sessions they could take their friends along to. Rich started running group workouts and eventually the fitness playground was born.
“I didn’t want to be that shouty, bossy, boot camp guy saying ‘give me five more press-ups’,” he said.
“The whole idea is it should be fun, we play team games, we get the space hoppers out.
“I also try to keep it varied, I just find it keeps people motivated if you are not doing the same thing over and over again.
“I’d much rather people get to the end and think ‘Has it finished already?’ rather than think it has dragged.
“I normally try to get three or four different games within each session.”
The varied nature of the sessions, incorporating four or five ten to 20-minute games, means they are suitable for the super-fit or beginners.
“We have slightly more women than men, certainly when it comes to fitness there’s a whole range,” said Rich. “There’s a couple of people that come along and they have done triathlons and 10k runs and there are other people that have literally started coming along a month ago.
“I try to make it all inclusive. I never do activities like run to the tree and get back because then you have some people waiting around and other people feeling guilty.”
Whatever someone’s level of fitness, Rich says they should be able to challenge themselves.
“The first week of every month we always have a test,” he said.
“It’s a series of about eight exercises, a minute of each and I keep a note of it. It’s not about beating anyone else, it’s about next month, knowing how many you did.
“Some of them I have got notes from two years ago, I can track their progress and it is amazing.
“Each time you come along you’ll be exhausted, you start to think ‘Am I actually getting fitter?’ if you don’t test that, you’ll never know.”
Rich also limits his sessions to a maximum of 20 people to ensure everyone is getting the appropriate workout.
“It is important to me that people are having fun but I don’t want people to do the exercises in the wrong way,” he said.
While the outside element of the playground might put some people off, it gives Rich more freedom and, despite it being a cold wet winter’s night when I visited, you’re soon warm enough anyway.
“I asked everybody ‘We can stay inside and you’ll be dry but we won’t have as much space and probably won’t have as much fun’ and they all said let’s go outside,” he said.
During my visit I met Amber Wilson who had been attending the sessions for three months.
“The social element is really good because you’re in a group and you’re quite often split into smaller groups and there’s quite a lot of banter and you all end up friends,” she tells me.
“Obviously Rich has known them all for a long time so he’s really relaxed with them.
“I always feel like I have had a really good workout but we always end up laughing and sometimes you don’t even realise you’re exercising – that is what I love about it.”
Rich’s personal experience also means he understands people may struggle to motivate themselves, whether it’s with an exercise regime or diet.
“In the past I struggled to keep the weight off – and still do – so I think I can relate to it a little bit more,” he said.
“I don’t love exercise, I don’t wake up at 6am and think ‘Great, another day to workout’.
“I do it because I know it is going to make me healthier.”
There are several different packages available through the Fitness and Weight Loss Playground.
The Prefect package includes a monthly weight loss and goal-setting session and a free recipe book.
“Diets don’t work, everybody knows that yet 70 per cent of people go on a diet,” said Rich.
“It is finding something that works for that person. We are all busy, everybody’s running around and unfortunately healthy snack food isn’t readily available so you do have to be prepared.
“I do have to make it a lot more realistic for people – it is a lifestyle change.”
So what’s next for the Fitness Playground?
Rich is looking to launch a new 12-week programme aimed at brides or people looking at fitting into a special outfit for a special occasion.
“It is not just about dropping a dress size to look skinny on your wedding day,” he said. “It is about clear skin, sparking eyes and shiny hair – all-round good health.”
More information on all the packages available can be found online at www.playgroundfitness.co.uk.
Rich is offering Observer readers the chance to win a month free at the Fitness and Weight Loss Playground when signing up to the sessions.
To be in with a chance to win, register using the Observer’s designated section of the website: www.playgroundfitness.co.uk/Observer.
The draw will be made on Friday, April 10.
One lucky winner will win a free month, five runners-up will win 50 per cent off their first month and everyone who enters will get a free seven-day pass.