EDMONTON -- The beginning weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta left Ryan Hirtle with extra time on his hands and missing his workouts at the gym.

He decided to build himself a set of dumbbells, searching out trees and crafting perfectly weighted pieces.

Dumbbells made from trees

The project has now grown into something more than a backyard gym.

"It's kind of like my little oasis," Hirtle told CTV News Edmonton. "Something for me, for my mental health and a release of negative energy."

Hirtle's oasis now includes custom-built stations for stretching, pull-ups, dead lifting, squats and more. Plus he has added a golf hole, an archery range and a berry garden that is attracting even more wildlife to his yard.   

He says every addition came with its own challenges but the project has been rewarding.

"It's peaceful right, just a bunch of positive energy," Hirtle said.

Family and friends have helped along the way and are enjoying the space. And his community is growing thanks to sharing the progress online.

Closer to home, several neighbours and businesses have stepped up to help including the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Grande Prairie, Anytime Trucking and BPM Fitness.

After 18 weeks of construction, the oasis continues to expand and change. In fact, it may never be truly finished.  

And as conventional gyms begin to reopen, Hirtle isn't sure he'll go back.

"This piece of Mother Nature back there, it's allowed me to focus more on mindfulness," he said. "Maybe [happiness] doesn't have to come from going heavy in a big gym."