Outdoor fitness! Brrrrr-ing it on
Gyms are closed and PE with Joe Wicks raises the heart rate in the wrong way. Embrace outdoor exercise to escape the family and witness the fitness.
It’s the not the start to 2021 that we wanted, but we’re not going to let lockdown #3 defeat us. You can still kickstart your January fitness and boost your mental health by raising your heart rate outdoors. No need to run the the wifi gamut during streamed classes and you get to enjoy some much-needed ‘me time’ too.
Fancy jumping on the outdoor swimming bandwagon? Yes, even in winter. Trust me, the benefits are huge. Not only does it provide a shot of mood-boosting natural endorphins, it improves brain power, helps manage anxiety and depression and rewards you with clear skin and glossy hair. Priorities, people. Plus in colder months, you only have to do it for a few minutes to reap the rewards. In Berkshire, we have lots of rivers and lakes to take the plunge, but not everywhere is suitable for a swim. Colne Brook in Wraysbury is a popular spot, as is Pangbourne, Sulhampstead and Streatley. Remember, only swim if it is safe, do not swim alone (use your government-approved plus one), know your limits, wear a swim hat or two to preserve heat, acclimatise to the water temperature and steadily warm up when you get out.
If you prefer to be in a more formal setting (post lockdown) head to Bray Lake Watersports, Caversham Open Water Swim and SUP and Tri20 Swim Centre in Reading and Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre in Sandhurst and Liquid Leisure Windsor.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, trail running bears an uncanny resemblance to school cross country without the indignity of wearing gym knickers. But it could be a welcome distraction if you’re sick of pounding the pavement when restarting the Couch to 5K (again). It’s off-roading, you will get dirty and the ground is fiendishly uneven, so you might want to go slow to prevent tripping, falling and injury. The benefits? It’s totally acceptable to hike up the steep bits, max out on the mindfulness boost bring outdoors and surrounded by nature and it’ll improve your strength and stamina. Think of it as a running holiday. Jogging the same route is boring, mix in something different and you’re less likely to fall off the fitness wagon. You’ll find some the best running trails in Berkshire here.
While rambling is considered an activity for the old and nerdy, say that you hike and you’re immediately a fully paid up member of the cool crowd. Long before lockdown entered our vocabulary, going into the great outdoors had seen a marked uptick among those in their 20s and 30s. It’s got an army of celeb fans too – Rebel Wilson, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, Meghan Markle, Reece Witherspoon, Gigi Hadid and many more – who love the full body workout and mental health benefits The beauty of a hiking is that you don’t really need any special kit other than something to keep you warm and dry, but a pair of hiking boots might come in handy. Where to hike? Fortunately, Berkshire is a treasure trove of countryside, woodland and riverside trails. Here’s 22 walks for all abilities to get your started.
If you’re longing to get back to your spin class, hop onto your bike and hit the road instead. What is lacks in loud music, darkness and a crazed instructor barking orders at you, it gains in fresh air, variety and the opportunity to use your daily exercise to cycle to and from a café to get our takeaway latté and cinnamon bun fix. Go one you deserve it. Obviously you’ll need a bike, a helmet, and hi vis is always a good idea to ensure you’re seen. Go as far as you feel or comfortable, but if you need a bit of inspo, you’ll find some great road routes here.
You’ll not work up a sweat, or burn that many calories, but head into the woods and breathe it all in. Forest bathing is a Japanese art of relaxation known as shinrin yoku. Anyone can do it, all you need is some peace and quiet and to be surrounded by trees. Once you’re in the zone, mentally and physically, take deep breaths, observe nature and super-charge your health and wellbeing. It’ll help both adults and children de-stress, switch off from screens. We’re spoilt for choice in Berkshire, but some of my favourites include Bisham Woods, Quarry Woods, Swinley Forest, Sulham Woods, Winkfield Row, Wellingtonia Avenue, Pope’s Meadow, Crowthorne Wood, Cliveden National Trust and Basildon Park.