‘We’re a little tribe’: Bowland Fitness founder talks overcoming tragedy, eschewing gyms, and the great outdoors
A one-on-one and class-based personal training provider based around taking modern exercise methodology back to nature Bowland Fitness covers the Slaidburn-Dunsop Bridge area, running various indoor and outdoor sessions as well as exercise classes in local village halls and old churches to bring fitness provision to everyone.
“When I played sports as a kid, I always found the fitness and training side of things more fun,” explains Matt, 34, from Accrington. “I was kind of mediocre at team sports like football, but I knew I could get better by being fitter and faster, so I joined a gym when I was about 15 and that’s when I fell in love with fitness.
“I immediately felt comfortable in gyms and that boosted my confidence,” he adds. “When I went to uni, I ended up spending the majority of my time in the gym - I’d literally go to the gym with my mates instead of lectures, which is when it dawned on me that I wanted to work in fitness.
“Then, sadly, in my final year, I lost my brother to suicide. That really hit home the fact that I wanted to do something I was really interested in, so I went down the fitness route. I started working in personal training at around the same time the paleo nutrition and move-nat functional exercise movements were coming about, so I latched onto that.”
Based on the mantra of escaping discomfort, unhealthiness, stress, and anxiety, Bowland Fitness was born of Matt’s own passion for back-to-basics and fundamentals fitness: movement + light, nutrition, and mind = less stress, more energy, and increased confidence.
“At the start of Covid, we had to train outdoors and that took me back to PTing in nature,” he says. “Then, after moving to Slaidburn in November 2021, it dawned on me that we’re right out in the Forest of Bowland, so I might as well really embrace the outdoor side of things, so I started Bowland Fitness.
“I did a few courses in applied movement neurology, so my main focus is the holistic side of fitness, connecting movement and mind, and things like nutrition, environment, and light,” adds Matt. “There are quite a lot of people who just don’t like the gym but who are interested in something different; something which embraces the outdoors.”
Aiming to connect people back to nature and the outdoors, Matt has also worked with The Forest of Bowland Area of Natural Beauty and Sport England as a rural lead, advising on how to get people in hard-to-reach places more active through bespoke fitness classes. For him, the work could hardly be more fulfilling.
“We’ve built a really strong community; we’re a little tribe!” says Matt with a smile. “That keeps people coming back and gives me a lot of pride because it’s good to know it’s working for people and that they’re more connected to nature. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, so for it to work is massively fulfilling.
“To see how far we’ve come is rewarding,” he adds. “Hopefully it’ll only grow from here.”