Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Great Outdoors

A lot of people don’t get London. Some of my friends and family who live out in the sticks struggle to understand why I have stayed here so long. My sister often smugly tells me about her weekends spent pottering about the rolling dales of Yorkshire. During a country walk across the border, my Lancastrian cousin once asked me what us city dwellers do in our time off, seemingly bewildered that some people actually enjoy more urban activities.
The idea of not having an expanse of unspoilt space within a five minute walk of home is for some people a little too much to comprehend. Don’t get me wrong - I like a bit of greenery too and every now and then find myself fleeing to Hampstead Heath or the nearest train station in pursuit of real fresh air and the sight of a horizon unspoilt by tower blocks.
Having said that, this desire to escape the sprawling metropolis has been less apparent of late. And I think I know why. You see, since signing up for the Race For Life I have ditched the gym for the local park. Not only is it far more interesting than trudging along on the treadmill (think Blur’s Parklife and you get the idea) but I think it is doing my well being the world of good too. And it isn’t only us joggers (going round, and round, and round) who keep their fitness up outside. In Finsbury Park there is not only a basketball and tennis courts, but a range of gym equipment for those who like to go their resistance work somewhere other than a sweaty studio. My recent attempts to learn (at the grand old age of 31) to cycle have also let me indulge in a bit of otherwise unscheduled greenery. My sessions (which are going quite well, thank you) are held in Highbury Fields which is not only very pleasant, but has a conveniently placed café and ice cream van too – perfect for when I need a bit of a break from pedal power.
About a year ago I met some volunteers who run Green Gyms across London. No, this isn’t an eco-friendly version of Fitness First, but an opportunity for people to get outdoors and get fit whilst doing a bit of conservation work – something that I would definitely commit to if I was a lady of leisure. And, although the Urban Jungle isn’t as rich in flora as its name might suggest, if you feel the need to get out and about and stretch your legs, London is a great place to go walking. I’m a big fan of my Time Out London Walks book and have been on a couple of guided walks too – great exercise with a bit of local knowledge thrown in for good measure. What’s not to like?
So, as I quickly approach the date of my 10k race (EEK!), I am considering more and more seriously cancelling my gym membership and getting myself out there. Okay, so when the weather turns a jog around park might be less appealing, but at the same time the idea of wrapping up in my thermals and braving the great outdoors sounds quite invigorating, even a little romantic. And, at the end of the day, I always have my Wii if I really can’t face the elements. And it will save me a heap of cash.
In my book, outdoors is definitely back in.

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