Working out and staying fit is not always easy, and not everyone finds it enjoyable. But what if this is just because most people associate this with the gym? Enough people have told me that the gym is just not for them – they can’t get motivated to sit there for an hour or so, lifting heavy things.
That is an incredibly valid point – and staying motivated makes a very big difference in being able to train well and train often. So I have decided to make a list of alternative ways of staying fit, and, hopefully, this means some can find other ways of doing so that also lets them enjoy themselves.
Running away with the circus has been a dream for many of us. Classes tend to focus on two main ares: Acrobatics and Aerial.
With acrobatics, this can include handstands classes, acrobalance (when a pair of two, or more, people do things like lift each other in the air) or tumbling (eventually doing things such as somersaults). With aerial, this means static trapeze, flying trapeze and rope.
The good: Great workout, especially for your core, and time really flies by when you’re having fun. And then you can impress your friends with the cool stuff that you do. Courses range from the basic to more advanced. Most of the courses also work on your flexibility.
The dangers: Both acrobatics and aerial are incredibly safe. The classes are small and there is no risk of injury any more than there is in the gym. Be ready for some serious DOMS the day after, and with rope I have been told you will get some wonderful bruises.
The where: Circus Space (now called the National Centre for Circus Arts) in Old Street offers both aerial and acrobatics – and I have trained for a few years there. There’s also Flying Fantastic in either Battersea or Farringdon, but I believe they only do aerial. They have a great FAQ page here if you want to know more about aerial.
This category has such extensive activities involved (from fencing to muay thai) that it would be impossible for me to include all of them in this one post that is more focused on giving you the big options. If sufficient interest is shown, I am happy to write a big post just for this.
The good: Very good cardio, as well as excellent workout for various muscle groups depending on the martial arts that you do. Fencing is more legwork intense, whilst wrestling is a whole body workout. The best thing about doing martial arts is that they also give you a certain confidence – you are essentially learning how to fight.
The dangers: Some martial arts can be quite violent, and are not for everyone. Ranging from fencing which is really safe (I can’t envision how you could get injured there), to wrestling, where not only will you end up with a lot of bruises, but you can end up with broken arms or the sort. I should note you can also get broken limbs from skiing, so don’t let this put you off, but you need to be aware.
The where: London Fight Factory offers some great courses – it’s where I go and do wrestling. They also offer Brazilian Jiujitsu, MMA and Boxing. London offers almost anything else as well – but do keep in mind that different gym train at different levels of intensity, and can even have completely different styles of approach to the same martial arts.
You’ve probably seen groups of people doing this weird thing of jumping on walls and over various crap all over London – and indeed those people are not crazy they are doing something called “parkour”. It’s a bit like being in Assassin’s Creed to be honest, or, in non-gamer terms, it’s basically circus acrobatics meets running from the police.
The good: Just like circus acrobatics, great overall workout, and give you a very good sense of space. Plus, you get to look cool and experience parts of your cities in ways you perhaps never thought of looking at.
The dangers: Whilst being similar to circus acrobatics, it’s in a less controlled environment and the streets aren’t cushioned. Then again, unlike circus acrobatics, you don’t really have to try anything crazy. The level of difficulty you want for this is your own.
The where: Two of my friends told me of the Chainstore Gym which is a dedicated parkour/freerunning centre.
In truth this is something my sister is much more experienced at than myself – but if you just Google “naked rock climbers” you can see what I mean when I say that the activities on this list can give you a very pleasant shape. Don’t be alarmed, you don’t need to be outdoorsy to try this out as there are plenty of indoor climbing walls.
The good: Excellent toning and strength training. If you are an outdoorsy person, can also mean that you can do go on hikes and get some amazing views whilst doing this. High in adrenaline as well.
The dangers: This is potentially the most dangerous in the list – and I only say potentially for two reasons. One is that you can do climbing indoors where the risk is absolutely minimal. Two is that you can make sure even if done outside as long as you are careful you should be fine.
The where: Quite a few options – Mile End Climbing wall for example.
Lasting thoughts: “Alternative fitness” (yes, some of these are sports/ways of life for some of us, not just fitness; I get it. Let’s move on) tends to be much more expensive than a regular gym membership. Whilst being much more fun, you must also be aware of what you are trying to achieve and assess whether that particular sports or activity helps. Remember that your diet plays a hugely important role as well.
If you have any feedback on how I wrote this section, or whether you would like something more, do leave a comment! I tried to keep it as snappy and minimalist as possible, but maybe that wasn’t the best way.