Exercising in the Park

To be clear: I am not a fitness-freak. I enjoy sport, but that’s because you don’t tend to notice that it’s exercise. The idea of working out in gyms or going jogging makes me feel physically sick. I do not have the kind of determination you need to push through pain, and I certainly take no pleasure in it. The fact that a typically hectic London lifestyle doesn’t afford much time for working out has often given me an excuse to avoid it. And I definitely can’t afford the typical London-price gym membership.

However, I’m getting on a bit now, and have realised that if I want to eat quite as much pasta and pancakes, I need to do something to counter it, like some kind of cardio ordeal that makes me sweat like a horse. But no gyms. And no jogging.

So I’ve been finding cardio exercises that I can do every day which can, thankfully, be done in short bursts. They can also be done in nearby fields rather than gyms – and what London has in horribly expensive gyms, it makes up for with its zillions of fields and parks. Here are my findings: a list of the most horrible exercises that are doubtless doing me the most good.

Up-and-downs – Found this on some crazy fitness-freak’s site. Essentially, you throw yourself to the ground on your front, and get back up again, with a little jump onto your feet. Sounds all right, doesn’t it? Try doing ten in a row. By six I struggle. After eight I’m pretty sure I’m about to die. Numbers nine and ten must be the ones burning the most calories.

Burpees – Fabulous name, isn’t it? As a child, I did gymnastics – and boy, did they love making the room full of single-figures kiddies do this. I don’t remember it being quite so excruciating at the time. The idea is that you crouch down, put your weight on your hands and kick your legs out so that you’re in press-up position – and do a quick press-up. Then you jump them back forwards and leap up to standing. All in one fluid motion. Similar to above, except there’s no point, even for that split second, where your body weight is resting on the floor. It’s all in the arms. Oh, my poor arms.

Ten tuck, ten star, ten pike – Another favourite from the days when I used to throw myself head-over-heels into the air and hope for the best. In a row – count ’em – ten tuck jumps (knees right up to chest, if you please, with arms locked around them), ten star jumps (not jumping jacks; actual star jumps), ten pike jumps (with your legs as straight and as at right angles to your body as possible). Give it a go – tell me how you feel after 30 of those.

Box jumps – One you can do at home on the stairs (while cooking the food you’re about to burn off if you’re me) or in the park using a handy bench. Squat and jump, from two feet, onto whatever platform you’re using. And bounce back to two feet. And do it 20 times in a row.

Skipping – Not entirely equipment-free, but I daresay everyone can improvise a skipping rope from somewhere. Skipping is on here because you don’t need to do it for very long – it’s very high-intensity (footballers do it, if it makes you feel any less like a nine-year-old girl). Two-minute bursts of skipping will do wonders for your heart rate (but only if you do one jump per swing of the rope; otherwise you really are just a nine-year-old girl).

If you’re looking somewhere for a quick workout in your nearest park, here are a few suggestions, beyond the usual Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Green Park combo, which everyone knows about and most can’t afford to live anywhere near:

North East London – Try Finsbury Park, Clissold Park, Hackney Downs, Highbury Fields or Downhills Park

North West London – London is your oyster: if you can’t make it to Hampstead Heath, try Hendon Park, Gladstone Park, Roundwood Park, Highgate Woods, Fryent Country Park or King Edward VII Park

South East London – Brockwell Park, Dulwich Park and Peckham Rye Common are all pretty sizeable, and let’s not forget Crystal Palace Park, Blackheath and Greenwich Park

South West London – If you can’t make it out to the practically rural Richmond Park, and Battersea Park and Clapham Common aren’t in your area, there’s King George’s Park, Wimbledon Park (and of course the more well-known Common), Tooting Bec Common, Putney Heath or Wandsworth Common to try.

Image by Steve-h courtesy of Flickr

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1 Response

  1. Thea Jackson

    Loving these exercise tips! Thanks Sophie. I’m looking forward to getting back into shape this autumn and needed some motivational tips, and these have done the trick!

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