Fun ways to get fit
Jo Haywood finds out that getting fit can be happy days
1. Become a social climber How do you fancy swinging through the trees and dangling from rope bridges across gaping chasms? Hey, if it was good enough for Tarzan, it's good enough for you. There are now 21 Go Ape aerial climbing courses across the UK (a further four will be open by the end of this month) and the Chief Gorilla's favourite is right here in Yorkshire. Dalby Forest is home to hilltop to hilltop zipwires, the longest of which is 250m, an Indian bridge that stretches across a 15m wide gorge, a rope passage that takes you 15m up in the air and a total number of 37 aerial crossings. In addition to the Go Ape course, the forest is also home to miles of waymarked paths, cycle routes, an orienteering course, an adventure playground and even a river for - a quick paddle. For further details about the forest, phone 01751 460295 or click on www.forestry.gov.uk/dalbyforest. If you would like to know more about Go Ape, call 0845 643 9215. If monkeying about in the great outdoors sounds a bit too much for you, why not try your hand at indoor climbing instead. There are numerous walls in the county, including The Leeds Wall on 0113 234 1554 (www.theleedswall.co.uk); Climbing Works in Sheffield on 0114 250 9990 (www.climbingworks.com); and Rockcity in Hull on 01482 223030 (www.rockcity.co.uk).
2. Make a splash For an island nation, we've been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to watersports. But now we're making up for lost time and getting wet whenever we get the chance. Pugneys Country Park in Wakefield has two lakes - the largest of which is 100 acres - and a modern watersport centre offering sailing, wind surfing, canoeing and kayaking (you can hire a watercraft or bring your own). And if you don't fancy getting your feet wet, you can always take a brisk two-mile stroll (or jog) along the footpath that runs round the lake in the shadow of Sandal Castle, or you can visit the nature reserve and bird hides at the smaller 24-acre lake. For more information about Pugneys in West Yorkshire, phone 01924 302360 or click on www.wakefield.gov.uk. Other places for a splashing time include Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, where kayaking, canoeing and rafting are all available on Lake Semerwater (01969 650432; www.lowmill.com), and Billabong Watersports Park in Brandesburton, East Yorkshire, where you can wakeboard, kneelboard, waterski or be towed on an inflatable (01964 543631; www.billabongwatersports.co.uk).
3. Get your skates on You've seen Ellery Hanley do it and now you want to do it too. Dancing on Ice has become something of a TV phenomenon, causing more people to get their skates on than ever before. IceSheffield runs special novice sessions for people over 50, so you can wibble and wobble about in peace without being mown down by overzealous five year olds zooming past on one leg at 50mph. The sessions are held every Monday and are specifically designed to encourage people to keep fit through ice skating, as well as providing a chance for socialising in a fun, friendly - (if a little chilly) atmosphere. 'The sessions are designed for both experienced skaters and those who are just starting out,' said ice development manager Peter Morrissey. 'We are hoping to introduce a fully qualified coach to provide training, so skaters can improve their skills and increase their confidence even more.' For further information, call IceSheffield on 0114 223 3900 or click on www.icesheffield.com. Other cool rinks in the county include Bradford Ice Arena in West Yorkshire (01274 729091; www.nicetime.org), and Doncaster Ice Skating Rink in The Dome, which boasts 'hot ice technology' so you can skate all year round without having to wear 27 layers of clothes (01302 370777; www.the-dome.co.uk).
4. Get taken for a ride In these eco-friendly days, everyone knows that four wheels are bad and two wheels are good. But if the thought of getting on your bike after years behind the wheel fills you with fear (and not just because bicycle clips do nothing for your street cred), maybe a guided cycling tour is your best bet. Escape Mountain Biking offers guided two-wheel tours around Nidderdale,Wharfedale and Malhamdale. You don't have to read a map, juggle with a compass or even think about where to stop for lunch - everything is done for you (apart from the peddling). Each weekend tour is graded according to three levels of ability with routes created specifically to cater for different grades of fitness and cycling skill from beginners up. For details, contact Escape Mountain Biking in Ben Rhydding, Ilkley, on 01943 600 600459 or click on www.escapemountainbiking.co.uk. Other useful cycling contacts include, Sustrans (the National Cycle Network) on 0845 113 0065, www.sustrans.org.uk; the TransPennine Trail on 01226 772574, www.transpenninetrail.org.uk; Yorkshire Dales Cycleway on 0870 1666 333, www.traveldales.org.uk; and Off The Rails Tours in the Dales on 01729 824419, www.offtherails.org.uk.
5. Become a highflier Hull Marina is home to the only parasailing centre in England. Humber Parascending collects potential fliers from the Admiral Steps on Victoria Pier in Dragonfly, one of the fastest boats on the Humber (it reaches speeds of around 48 knots - that's 50mph to all you landlubbers). Even if you don't actually want to take to the skies on your harnessed parachute, you can simply enjoy flying along in the boat watching the world pass by (at some speed). If you do opt to fly though, you can expect to be winched up behind the boat to around 200ft, giving you an unprecedented view of the Humber Bridge and surrounding landscape. You don't even get your feet wet when you land as you are brought safely back down again on to the boat's platform. The experience lasts about one-anda- half hours and usually ends with a relaxing drink and a meal at the Minerva Hotel. For further information about Humber Parascending, phone 01964 603018, www.humberparascending.co.uk. Other activities for potential highfliers include Target Skysports in Leeds, which offers skydiving courses in tandem parachuting, accelerated freefalls and static line jumps, on 0113 250 5600, www.skydiving.co.uk; Bridlington Airfield, one of 20 Skyline parachuting centres across the UK, on 020 7424 5500, www.skylineparachuting.co.uk