It’s that time of year again when we all want to be a little fitter, faster or just plain skinnier. But it doesn’t have to be such a task. Victoria Purcell looks at five ways to have fun while getting fit
1 Fighting fit
Why not learn something valuable while getting in shape? Martial arts and self defence are an awful handy life skill to have, and Krav Maga, made up of a variety of techniques from boxing, Judo and wrestling, is the system of choice for army, police and security forces around the world. But don’t let all that serious talk put you off – South London Krav Maga is a friendly, expanding club operating out of Brixton, running classes for beginners to advanced levels. Krav Maga was developed in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld, who in 1948 became Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga for the Israeli Defence Force.
Eventually it expanded all over the world and is regarded as the most effective method for the rapid development of fast, simple, effective and controlled self defence. In terms of fitness, the high intensity of the drills – which feature intense bursts of punch-kick combinations – mean efficient training in cardiovascular and muscular systems as it improves the use of oxygen, boosts metabolism and triggers the afterburn effect, creating lean, reactive muscles.
The Brix, St Matthews Garden, Brixton SW2 1JF; 020 8432 2023; southlondonkravmaga.com
2 Fresh Fitness classes
Push Studios love to dangle new classes under your nose to get you out of your fitness rut. Take Piloxing from 2012, a high cardio mix of Pilates and boxing that’ll get you tautened and toned while you’re having a sweaty ball.
New classes for 2014 include Power Pilates, for those who want to up the intensity of Pilates with weights, toning balls and bands, Ballet Blast, a series of basic ballet moves using a weighted barre to help you burn fat, sculpt muscles and build strength and Natural Bodyweight Class, which strengthens and conditions every muscle in the body with pulse-racing sequences to develop endurance and strength.
And if you’re a fan of circuits, try Hot on the Spot, a circuit class with ‘stations’ but no equipment to slow you down – it’s a hardcore, high-cardio, fat-burning workout designed by Push Studios’ very own Personal Trainer, Chay Barnes.
17 Blackwater Street, East Dulwich SE22 8SD; 020 8693 9111; pushstudios.co.uk
3 Run rabbit
Nobody was more surprised than me that I suddenly went from hating running to loving it last year, all because my friend ran the Virgin London Marathon. Once we got going with a structured programme and proper pacing, I really got into it.
Our first five-mile run was a real high and we went on to run all over London, from Hyde Park to Dulwich Park, come rain, shine or blizzard. Now I regularly cover seven or eight miles at the weekend and really enjoy it. But my knees don’t love it quite so much, so an expert analysis of the way I’m running seems like a good call.
The Running School, which operates out of a number of London bases including Crystal Palace Football Club, teaches you how to run, regardless of age and ability, in three progressive steps: Move Better, Run Better, Run Faster. First, a detailed biomechanical and functional movement analysis identifies your running weaknesses and movement issues (I have horribly flat feet, which causes the tendons in my knees to overstretch. Strengthening exercises and Pilates stretches help, but I can also adjust the way I run to lessen the impact). Next, you’ll learn a more efficient running technique, and then you can work on improving your speed. You might just learn to love it.
4 I want to ride my bicycle
Fancy being the next Victoria Pendleton or Chris Hoy? The success of Team GB in recent years has seen track cycling become more popular, and with the recently resurrected Herne Hill Velodrome right on our doorstep, why not give it a try?
Herne Hill isn’t as steeply banked as many other velodromes, making it ideal for beginners. Before you get started, you’ll need to take part in an induction session to give you a grounding in the basics of track riding. Sessions take place on fixed-wheel track bikes, which are provided for your induction and can be rented for free for beginner and intermediate training sessions. On Tuesday nights there are road bike sessions, for those attached to their current wheels! And if you’re itching for the challenge,
Herne Hill Velodrome hosts more open race meetings than any other track in the country. Their Super Series of events, including the legendary Good Friday meeting, attracts top national and international riders – Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins have all taken part at one time or other.
104 Burbage Road, Herne Hill SE24 9HE; hernehillvelodrome.com
5 Just dance!
With a facility as fabulous as the Rivoli Ballroom on our doorstep really we all ought to be pro-jivers already! There are plenty of local classes to try out. Learn to Lindy Hop on Thursdays at the Royston Club in Penge, SE20 (swingdanceuk.com/calendar). The beginners’ session starts at 7.45pm, intermediate at 8.45pm and from 9.30pm it’s time to put what you learned into practice in the freestyle session. There’s also a licensed bar if you need a little Dutch courage.
For Rock n Roll classes try the Paris Rock Club at the Waterloo Action Centre on Baylis Road, SE1. Their most popular class takes place on Monday (parisrockclub.com) from 6pm for beginners and 7.10pm for intermediates, with practice sessions in between. From 9pm till late there’s Cajun and Zydeco music at the next door cafe (classes £8, all evening £4 extra). They also run occasional acrobatic workshops for those who want to learn some impressive lifts – keep an eye on the website for details of these.
You can also learn to Lindy Hop in Brixton, at Studio B on Brixton Hill, SW2 (studioblondon.com). Beginners’ Lindy Hop Level 1 with Swing Patrol takes place every Thursday from 7.45pm and is designed for new dancers. No booking or partner is required, just drop in (£8). Lindy Hop Level 2 with Swing Patrol is on Thursdays at 8.50pm and is designed to take you to the next level with fancy footwork, styling tips and swing dance variations (£8 or £4 if taken with a Level 1 class). After class is practise time from 9.50pm until 10.30pm.