When it comes to suntans, the humble brag of yore consisted of shrugging a coffee-coloured shoulder while exclaiming, “oh this? I’ve just been in the garden!” But alfresco fitness raises the bar for boasting. “Oh this?” one can widen one’s eyes in surprise, while flashing an inch of toned, terracotta tummy, “I must have caught the sun doing yoga at 800ft. I do like to start the day with an outdoors downward dog!”
And so, for a body that’s brown as well as buff, here’s where to exercise alfresco this summer…
A walk in the park
One Element offers outdoor training, including weights sessions and yoga, in parks all over London. Members often go for brunch or drinks afterwards, and the social side includes ski trips and an annual touch rugby tournament. If you stick around beyond summer, there’s a weekend away in the South Downs with a hog roast, live music and a green light to bring-your-own-bottle, while a trip to Mount Everest is on the cards for November.
Pilates by the river
For open air Pilates, head to Kingston in South West London where free classes are taking place by the river at 7.30am every Wednesday in July and August. Run by All Things Pilates, they promise their Riverside Pilates Flow will lead to increased flexibility and core strength, as well as improved mental wellbeing. Places are limited, so book via their app.
Battlebox is a new outdoor workout that involves CrossFit-style exercises. You could find yourself pushing sleds, lifting weights or climbing an obstacle course, while the family version (suitable for children of eight and over) focuses on teamwork, speed, agility and balance. Battlebox has just launched at David Lloyd Clubs in locations including Manchester, Birmingham, York and London. It’s members only, but choose your friends strategically and you could tag along as a guest.
Head for the heights
Climbing equipment is provided for those brave enough to claw their way up the O2 to do a yoga class or HIIT session, 52 metres above the city. Panoramic views mean that landmarks are visible up to 15 miles away, and there’s time to snap a selfie after the 50 minute class, before climbing back down for a juice before departure. Sessions are suitable for all levels, and they take place every Saturday throughout summer, starting at 8am. Get your tickets here.
Enjoy sunrise yoga in a roof garden, accompanied by National Symphony Orchestra harpist Alice Kirwan. After 45 minutes of stretching and flowing to classical music, head downstairs for breakfast, which is included in the £30 ticket price. Taking place on 19th July, this event will be followed by monthly morning yoga sessions at The Ivy Spinningfields in Manchester.
Londoners, meanwhile, can head to the Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street for yoga in an oasis of greenery, 36 floors above the City. There’s no harpist but classes run Tuesday to Sunday every week until October, and yogis are welcome to take a post-breakfast stroll around the gardens at their leisure.
If you thought it was just Londoners who lap up wacky fitness trends then you clearly you haven’t been to Devon recently. Head to Dartington Dairy – a working dairy farm where their livestock double up as yoga buddies. Human participants in “Goat Yoga” are warned to be “vigilant at all times to avoid injury from the goats” who apparently aren’t averse to jumping up and nibbling people. The benefits? According to Simply Soulful who are running the classes over the summer, animal therapy and laughter are a bonus on top of the physical and emotional benefits of yoga.
If you want a burly man to stand over you while you’re doing burpees, head to a session with Be Military Fit. While other exercise classes have come and gone, BMF has been around since the 90s, and it caters to every fitness level, in parks all over the UK. Taking place rain or shine, I say go while it’s sunny and ask for lots of demos…
Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here