Fitness for you

Melanie Sykes supporting Champney's campaign

Melanie Sykes supporting Champney's campaign - Credit: Archant

Whether your New Year’s resolution is to get in shape or you just over-indulged over the festive period, there is a class to attend and event for you to aim for to keep you motivated, no matter what your ability. It doesn’t matter if you hate running or can’t touch your toes, if you want to make a difference, we’ve got it covered. By Carrie Bone

Race for Life

Race for Life - Credit: Archant

Charity events

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to get fit is to raise money for charity while you’re doing it. Getting active while benefiting a good cause can be one of the inspiring things you do this year.

Girl power will see you through one of the best-known charity events, Race for Life.

Lynn Daly from organiser Cancer Research UK says, ‘You don’t have to run to take part. You can walk or jog, so there’s no pressure and you can take it at your own pace. Most of us have friends or family or know people who have been affected by cancer, so it’s good to feel you’re helping and keeping yourself fit at the same time.’ If you do get the running bug and want to set yourself an even bigger goal, Race for Life is structured so you can start on 5km one year and then train to move up to 10km next time.

Isabel Hospice On Your Bike event

Isabel Hospice On Your Bike event - Credit: Archant

If you fancy running in the company of family and friends and being covered in coloured paint powder at the same time (well who doesn’t?), then apply for the Colour Me Happy event organised by Isabel Hospice of Welwyn GC. Spokesperson Beth Hardy says, ‘There’s a real togetherness element to it and we’ve lowered the age limit so anyone over five can now take part. It’s not serious. It’s just good fun, and being cascaded with bright colours is part of it.’ However, Hardy advises, it’s probably a good idea not to wear your best trainers.

Another way to have fun while helping the hospice is to join in Isabel’s On Your Bike event, where you can pace yourself over a choice of three circular trails ranging from a modest 25km to a challenging 50km and up to a competitive 100km. And, as Hardy explains, you don’t have to be the next Bradley Wiggins to enter. ‘People enter who have never done anything like it before in their lives,’ she says, ‘and the trails follow a scenic route through some beautiful countryside.’ The 2015 event is on May 31, starting from Bishop’s Stortford Rugby Club.

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Races and challenges

Ultm8 Juniors

Ultm8 Juniors - Credit: Archant

A great way to spur on your fitness ambitions is to set yourself the goal of running a half or full marathon or taking part in a challenging obstacle race. That’s the advice from Ian Ling, fitness manager at Hartham Leisure Centre in Hertford, who says people just starting a fitness regime should try to establish a rigid plan to follow for the first six weeks to create a working-out habit.

The sort of thing he has in mind is the Warrior Adrenaline Race – or WAR for short. It’s a fun and muddy obstacle test run in association with Regiment Fitness. It takes place on Hartham Common over a 5km or 10km course complete with zip wires, slides and tunnels. Ling says it’s a good way to get into fitness because ‘There are always other people there who are doing it for the first time. It’s geared for people just starting out,’ he explains. ‘You can use it as a stepping stone for bigger events and you’re in competition with yourself rather than anyone else. That means you can to push yourself harder than you would in the gym and be outside your comfort zone.’


Boot camps

Another way to get yourself fit in the great outdoors rather than heading indoors to a gym is to sign up to the boot camp trend.

David Perry, an instructor at the health and fitness venue The Hertfordshire at Broxbourne, says, ‘People of any fitness level can do a boot camp. It’s a more achievable and therefore rewarding way of getting into fitness.’ However, he advises anyone contemplating the venture to pop to the gym a few times first, since ‘you’ll get through boot camp all right but you may not be able to walk the next day’. His advice to people starting out is to ‘set themselves goals which are realistic and create short-term achievable aims so they don’t get disheartened’.

If you want a boot camp with a luxury touch, look no further than the Champneys spa resort at Tring, where instructors will help to get you in shape in an attractive setting backed-up by thoughfully-prepared meals and luxurious rooms in which to relax afterwards. As part of Champneys’ Inspire the Nation campaign, 10 per cent of the revenue from the resort’s boot camp goes to the Pink Ribbon Foundation breast cancer charity.

Regiment Fitness, which helps to organise the Warrior Adrenaline Race above, is also a prolific provider of boot camps in Hertfordshire, with more than two dozen locations from which to choose. Local mum Laura Stafford decided to try out the boot camp idea after giving birth to twins and says she has never looked back. ‘If you’re new to the idea and are feeling a bit hesitant, give it a go,’ she enthuses. ‘The instructors work you at your pace and each week is varied, so you tone up different areas each session. The results are great!’


Dance, yoga and everything else

If all this talk about running and getting muddy makes you cringe, there are a bunch of other options to help you in your quest for fitness and (literally) keep you on your toes. Dance is one possibility. An adult beginner class is a great way to exercise without being as strenuous on the body as running – and no, you don’t have to wear a tutu.

However, if you think the ballet or ballroom is too genteel, maybe the fast-paced dance workout Zumba will appeal instead. It’s modern and lively and followers say it will tone you from top to bottom. St Albans-based Fit4Less instructor Jon-Bradley Moloney says, ‘It doesn’t matter if you have the best rhythm in the world or the worst; a Zumba class is a great option to start your quest for fitness in an enjoyable way and it’s also a great way to maintain a high cardio workout.’

For a slightly more traditional approach, get your kit on for classes inspired by Strictly Come Dancing; fans swear you won’t even know you’re exercising. The FitSteps organisation created by three of the stars from the show, Natalie Lowe, Mark Foster and Ian Waite, offers an programme featuring a combination of classic Latin and ballroom dance and has classes run by enthusiastic instructors all over Hertfordshire.

Another ally in the quest for fitness is the long-standing tradition of yoga, a popular choice for anyone looking for a low impact and gentle way to get everything in trim by increasing flexibility and strength as well as the core muscles for posture.

And if you’re still looking for ideas, check out the websites and newsletters from your local health clubs and similar organisations for special events during the year. One typical example is the Aquathlon, a combination of a 400m swim followed by 5km run. Hertford’s Hartham Leisure Centre will be hosting its second one in April.


Children’s activities

Themed obstacle course races featuring Viking shields and Thor hammers, and other get-fit events designed specifically for children, have proved a winning idea for the Ultm8 Warrior operation. It is run by Hitchin-based Daniel Scott, who says he is passionate about the events he organises because ‘they involve children who wouldn’t necessarily take on team or individual sports, they have fun and they are distracted from the fact that they’re exercising’. The business runs regular ‘training camps’ as well as the Ultm8 Warrior Championships and Junior Challenges all over the UK, including many in Herts.

For young runners, the 2015 St Albans Half Marathon on June 14, run in aid of selected local charities, will feature as usual a 1.5-mile Children’s Fun Run. Elsewhere, the Race For Life women’s marathon organisation is also gearing up for 2015, while schools can apply now for kits and start putting together plans for their own races for both boys and girls. Race for Life proceeds go to Cancer Research UK.

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