Shed those holiday pounds with a leap of faith in unusual sports

Bodies in flight: the majestic sport of free running. Pic: Tecnópolis Argentina (flickr)

After a season of goodwill and good wine, where the only five-a-day you managed was turkey sandwiches, it is time to bid a fond farewell to the sofa.

For those ignoring that dusty gym timetable, EastLondonLines has found some fun alternatives to get you active in the New Year.

Horse riding is still a good way to build leg muscle, in spite of Katie Price tarnishing its reputation. Check out Lee Valley Riding Centre, where you can join in a ‘have-a-go’ class, and more experienced riders can take a turn on the cross-country jumping course.

If you’re not a fan of four legs, the next two sports could be more your thing.

The lack of sheer cliff faces in Hackney means that any climbing should be done indoors. The Castle Climbing Centre contains a whole host of boulders, quarries and catacombs.

Claire Lee, who works at the centre, said climbing is an all-over body workout, which strengthens and tones your muscles. Lee also described the “adrenaline rush” that you get from “pushing your ability and safety to the very limit”.

Novice courses are available for those not used to hanging from great heights, and Lee says that tallness and upper body strength are not prerequisites. Ladies can also check out the brilliantly named ‘women with altitude’ sessions, run by female staff.

Also bringing the outdoors indoors is Parkour, a method of moving from one place to another in a fast and fluid way, often using flamboyant moves. Parkour is the French term for free running, which uses the urban landscape as a jungle gym on which to perform movements. For those worried that leaping between tower blocks might be a bit much, indoor classes can teach you the techniques. Parkour Generations run a Monday night class at Optimal Life Fitness in Hither Green, Lewisham.

Dan Edwardes, director of Parkour Generations, described how the discipline trains the body as well as the mind through “constant challenge and adaptation”, enabling you to develop “functional strength and fitness” through the “hardest workout of your life”. Not ideal for those who get out of puff bowling on the Wii.

Duncan Buckley, 31, from Hounslow, has been doing Parkour for nine months. He trains for the “freedom” the sport gives him. He explained: “When I perform a move I feel free for a split second, like I have no constraints on me anymore. The city has become my playground and I start to look at my world in a whole new light.”

Whether you take the plunge with Parkour, reach new heights with rock climbing, or jump to the challenge of a cross-country ride, these three sports are guaranteed to be more thrilling than the running machine. Speaking about the weekly classes he attends, Buckley said he found the mix of people there “entertaining and refreshing”. A new sport can be not just a means of shedding the festive pounds, but an exciting lifestyle change.


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