Saturday 6 January 2018

Time to ditch the treadmill: Weird ways to keep fit in 2018!

The School of Calisthenics shows how a human flag should be done. Picture: The School of Calisthenics
The School of Calisthenics shows how a human flag should be done. Picture: The School of Calisthenics

If one of your resolutions for the New Year was to kickstart an exercise regime, but the thought of soullessly plodding away the miles on a treadmill next to someone doing the same fills you with dread, Mark Edwards has some ideas that put the fun back into fitness in 2018.

Taking on the climbing wall at Sportspark at the University of East Anglia. Picture: University of East AngliaTaking on the climbing wall at Sportspark at the University of East Anglia. Picture: University of East Anglia
Turn your town into a gym with parkour
The sport - it is now officially recognised by sports councils across Britain - took off first in France, but now you will see people running, leaping and climbing through urban landscapes near you. It’s a demanding, high impact pursuit, though, so learning the basics and improving your strength and mobility before trying YouTube worthy tricks is paramount. Winters Academy holds parkour courses across Suffolk. Samuel Thomas is head of its parkour tutoring and creator of parkour troupe Urban Ateles. He has been teaching parkour for 10 years and caters for students from six-years-old to adult. He says: “Parkour is brilliant as it is a discipline that you can do for purposes of staying fit, building strength and mobility all in your immediate environment. It can make you a more self-assured, confident person but some people do it to try to push their boundaries.” The academy runs sessions in Elmswell and Stowmarket for all ages, some indoors and some outdoors. Email, visit here or go to The average class costs £4 per hour.
2 Strictly the workout for youPush Kitesurfing head instructor David Ursell takes to the skies over Holland-On-Sea, in north Essex. Picture: Push Kitesurfing
Push Kitesurfing head instructor David Ursell takes to the skies over Holland-On-Sea, in north Essex. Picture: Push Kitesurfing
Take a look at the Strictly Come Dancing cast of professional dancers. Their tans make be of questionable origin, but there’s no doubt their lithe, toned physiques have been honed by thousands of hours on the dance floor. Sue Matthews is a partner at the Ipswich School of Dancing and says “it’s better than going to the gym. As well as keeping you fit there is a great social side to it. It’s a great way to meet new friends. Couples have met and got married here.” The school offers classes on all the ballroom and Latin favourite dances such as the waltz, foxtrot, samba and jive as well as social evenings where you can show your freshly-learnt moves on the dance floor and have a night out with friends. Beginners’ classes at the Bond Street venue take place on Fridays from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. For more details, visit here
3 Make a hash of it
Fancy getting into running but fear it may be a rather insular pursuit, well hashing, in which groups of runners follow rural routes that always finish at a pub, is a far more social alternative. The name Hashing is derived from the curious sport of hare chasing which a group of British colonial officers and expats began in Kuala Lumpur in 1938. A mix of running and orienteering, hash groups of “hounds” chase a chalk “hare” across the country. If you’re happy to swap your personal best for a pint, the Essex Hash House Harriers set ‘trails to the ale’ for members each week on Monday evenings and Sunday mornings around Essex and South Suffolk. For more details, visit here
Develop agility, balance and strength wherever you are with parkour. Picture: Winters Academy of Dance and Performing ArtsDevelop agility, balance and strength wherever you are with parkour. Picture: Winters Academy of Dance and Performing Arts
4 Be a pole star
There is a difference between pole dancing and stripping, so don’t be shy about checking out a class near you. The deceptively hard skills involved are far more sporty than sexy. Attending classes regularly will improve your flexibility, core strength, cardio fitness - routines can go on for a while, and boost your body confidence. Holly Munson is a pole fitness instructor at Firefly Poles, in Norwich, and says her beginner classes are for everyone - and can be life-changing. She says: “Every time I meet my new pole dancing beginners, I get really excited to bring them into this world. People from all walks of life come along to pole classes - young, old, men, women, super strong, those who are brand new to exercise and everyone in between. Everyone is welcome.
“I love bringing people into our pole family because that’s what it is. Not only do you get to challenge your body and do all of the amazing things you perhaps never felt were possible, but you also meet some amazing friends, whilst building strength and confidence. Get ready - pole is going to take over your life!”
All kitted out. Drumming tutor and professional musician Ross Farley at his studio in Ipswich. Picture: Ross FarleyAll kitted out. Drumming tutor and professional musician Ross Farley at his studio in Ipswich. Picture: Ross Farley
Holly runs beginner classes on Mondays from 6.30pm to 7.30pm and Thursdays from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. Classes take place at the Firefly Poles studios in Unit 7, Halifax Court, 50 Hurricane Way. For more details, visit here and to see demonstrations of some of the routines, go to Firefly Poles’ YouTube channel.
5 Follow your hoop dreams
As Colombian singer Shakira will tell you, hips don’t lie. To get yours in tip-top shape and, if you are of a certain age, usher in some flashbacks to your Seventies childhood, try hula hooping. Michelle Weddup runs Impression Hoopers, offering hula hoop classes in Clare, Suffolk. The dance instructor also designs her own hula hoops that have been snapped up by exercisers as far away as Australia. She says: “I started hula hooping just to exercise my tummy muscles. When I realised how much my body was starting to tone up – I lost four inches from my waist – I started making hoops and teaching some close friends!
“My classes are the lowest impact classes that you can attend which still burn just as many calories as Zumba, the gym or even boot camp! The more attitude you give the better the results you get!
Michelle teaches on Monday evenings in Sible Hedingham from 7.30pm to 8.30pm at the Sible Hedingham Village Hall, Tuesday evenings in Clare at the Stour Valley Community School, from 7pm to and Wednesday evenings in Bury St Edmunds at the Moreton Hall Community Centre from 7pm to 8pm. For more information, visit here
6 Become a ninja
Ever watched an episode of ITV’s Ninja Warrior UK and thought ‘I could do better than that’? Well, the chance to have host Chris Kamara collapse in fits of giggles as you slip into an unintended and agonising splits position between two wobbly platforms and then faceplant a swimming pool is here. Ultimate Ninja UK is a unique, purpose-built indoor obstacle course in Colchester, Essex, and will give you the chance to perfect your moves ahead of your TV trial or just provide a fun way to improve your fitness and agility. Ultimate Ninja personal trainer Kev Knights says: “The course features iconic obstacles such as quintuple steps, jump hang, spider wall, salmon ladder, the warped wall and of course the airbag plunge. It tests speed, strength, fitness, balance, coordination and agility. It’s become a training playground for celebrities such as Steve Backshall, Helen Glover, Blue Peter’s Radzi and regular Ninja visitor Ollie Murs as well as the ITV show contestants.” The course can be attempted by anyone aged eight and over – though younger ninjas will have the course scaled to their abilities – and costs £10 an hour, which guarantees at least one clear run to set a PB on the course. For more information, visit here
7 Makes waves with open water swimming
Swimming is an excellent full body exercise, but if you are souring of traveling up and down your local indoor pool, getting out into open water offers a far wilder challenge. It’s not something to be attempted alone, especially if you are new to it, so a group such as the Felixstowe Swim Scapes would be a good starting place. Group founder and channel crossing relay swimmer Seamus Bennett says even during the winter months 15 to 20 brave souls meet every Saturday morning on Felixstowe beach by the promenade and the Fludyers Hotel. In the summer there can be as many as 60. Sean says the group is very friendly to newbies. “We’re a very inclusive group. We have all ages and probably more women than men. There’s a great camaraderie here and it’s much nicer and safer to do an open water swim as a group. It is great exercise, focuses the mind and it’s free. Swimming in the sea makes you feel alive.” For more details on the group, visit its Facebook site or call 07818 664751.
8 Become a rock star
If you want to take your fitness levels to new heights, find an indoor climbing wall near you. Physically you’ll feel the benefit as you test your core muscles, grip and lower and upper body strength. It’s also a tonic for the mind as there’s nothing like an element of risk and focusing on where your next hand or foot placement goes, put you in the moment and cast all other concerns aside. Sportspark on the University of East Anglia campus has a climbing wall with a bouldering cave. It has separate adult and junior taster classes - £15 each for non-members - on January 13, February 2, February 24 and March 17. If these spark your interest, the centre has courses you can join to build your skills. For more details, call 01603 592398 or visit here
9 Sort out your stress with Tai Chi
If one of your reasons for improving your fitness is to find some calm amid a stressful lifestyle, then the ancient martial art of Tai Chi, which has been described as “meditation in movement”, could be for you. Its mixture of natural stretches and movement that improve posture, balance and breathing can be learned at The Suffolk Tai Chi Academy. Instructor and founder Ray Norris says: “I originally learned Tai Chi 20 years ago whilst I worked as a prison officer at HMP Hollesley Bay. A few officers decided to practice Tai Chi as a stress management tool. Since I retired in 2010 I was encouraged to teach Tai Chi locally. We are now a voluntary group of over 200 members with 10 instructors and are accredited by the NHS through One Life Suffolk.
“Health and fitness to most people means how fast or far they can run or how heavy a weight can be lifted, or winning a sports match. But Tai Chi is health & fitness through flexibility, improved circulation, healthier internal organs, improved posture and balance, calmness and a lessening of work stress. You can’t buy happiness but you can train here. Which is the same thing!”
The academy runs classes in Ufford, Melton, Saxmundham, Kesgrave. Ipswich, Witnesham and Southwold. Visit here or call 01394 471748.
10 Fence to keep fit
If you want to take up a sport, but are put off by the dissent, bad manners and shifty tricks in most sporting arenas, fencing may be the one for you. It is a bastion of etiquette. Your opponent must be shown the utmost courtesy, albeit while you make every effort to repeatedly stab them. If you fancy a go, you’ll need a club to lend you the protective clothing, including a mesh face mask, and teach you the basics. Ipswich Fencing Club has been training Suffolk fencers for more than 30 years and keeps that tradition alive at St Albans High School, in Digby Road, Ipswich, every Wednesday. It is starting its next four-week beginners’ course from January 17. Equipment is provided. There is a cost of £60 to cover coaching, venue hire and insurance.
Club treasurer Duncan Merren says: “When you don fencing whites you get a workout for both mind and body, giving a great cardiovascular workout, improving coordination and exercising your core, arms and legs.” For more information, email here
11 Get high as a kite
With miles of beautiful coastline, East Anglia is fast becoming a top spot for kitesurfing in the UK. But learning in the sea, especially in the winter months, when the risks include hypothermia and drowning, understandably put many off. Far smarter than to learn all the skills you need to kitesurf, without actually getting wet (unless it’s raining). Step forward landboarding, which retains the power and thrill of a kite, while traveling on what looks like an eight-wheeled skateboard. Push Kitesurfing, based in Clacton, has been running kite lessons for more than 13 years. Lessons from the school’s experienced instructors are British Kitesurfing Association approved. Head instructor and pro kiteboarder David Ursell has more than 20 years’ experience as an instructor and once helped Sir Richard Branson complete a world record kitesurfing crossing of the English Channel. He says: “This is a great sport to produce upper body strength, incredible abdominal tone and a huge workout for your legs. It really does cover your whole body and you can push it to a very high level or you can take it very easy - the level of exercise is up to you!” Half day kiteboarding lessons start at £70, with a full-day starting at £110. For more details, visit here
12 Dive into scuba classes
If you are planning a summer holiday by a sun-kissed coast knowing how to scuba dive will open up a whole new world under the sea. You’ll need to get training, though, and the region has plenty of organisations offering courses in which you build your skills. You’ll be building your fitness levels too. Your muscles work harder underwater as you move against the resistance of the current and the water itself. With this, you strengthen your muscles as well as develop your flexibility and endurance. It can also help against stress as slow, deep breathing is important in optimising air consumption will promote a calm and relaxed state.
Galaxsea Divers offer courses ranging from beginner introductions to specialist skills such as wreck diving or night diving. Theory lessons are conducted at its base in Hines Road, Ipswich, while pool sessions run every Tuesday evening from 7.30pm to 9pm at Ipswich High School For Girls, in Woolverstone. For more details, call 01473 711818 or visit here
13 Drum up your fitness
The drummer for New Wave US pop pioneers Blondie, Clem Burke, was once the subject of a study that contrasted his heart rate while on the kit to a footballer throughout a 90-minute period. Both averaged a heart rate of 140 to 150 BPM. So if you’d rather hit the sticks than the pitch you can be sure you are still keeping yourself fit. A professional drummer will use his whole body to produce the beat, arms hitting the drums and feet pumping the foot pedals. One person who knows this very well is Ross Farley, who teaches drum lessons at South Street Studios, in Ipswich. He says: “Drumming is a great workout, especially mentally and for coordination! I have a number of students in their 30s to 60s who come to me for that reason, putting aside the fact that it is pretty good fun too.”
Ross, who as a drummer with bands Angry Vs Bear and Death By Lasers, has supported acts such as Florence & The Machine and The Futureheads and had his music played on BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music, offers 30-minute and one-hour lessons. He says: “Lessons are suitable for all ages and abilities, and for fans of any style of music. And importantly, they are fun. I’m firmly of the belief that learning should be an enjoyable experience, not a painful one!” For more information or to book lessons, visit here
14 Get your skates on
It’s said that Roller skating has the same cardiovascular benefits as jogging, without the strain on the joints involved in the latter. This is true if you can skate, otherwise, the constant falling over can have quite the opposite effect on your joints. Unless you lived on roller skates as a kid, it is best you get some lessons to get good enough to see those fitness benefits. Curve Motion skate rink in Lark Valley Business Park, Bury St Edmunds, offers lessons for both beginners and improvers on a Thursday afternoon during term time. Courses last 6 weeks and cost just £60 with inclusive skate hire and safety equipment. Private lessons are available on request. There are a number of sessions perfect for different ages wanting to get into skating or develop their skills.
Tom Ogden, chief marketing officer at Curve Motion, says: “Roller skating offers a complete aerobic workout involving all muscles of the body. The equivalent of jogging, skating offers calorie consumption, weight loss, leg strength development and is great for balance and coordination, which can benefit both the young and the older generation. It’s also an extremely sociable activity.”
Full information about all our lessons and sessions can be found here
15 Put some spring in your step
Has the bounce gone out of your fitness regime? Well, rebounding is a fitness craze which involves working out on trampolines. Studies have shown that just ten minutes of trampolining or rebounding burns the same number of calories as a 30-minute jog – and the one-hour sessions promise to burn up to a whopping 500 calories. Additionally, this method of exercise is far kinder to joints than running, jogging or walking.
Ipswich-based trampoline centre Flux Freestyle, in Grafton Way, has launched a programme of fitness sessions, Flux Fit, designed around their trampolines.
Frants Steynberg, who opened the facility in May 2016, says: “There are so many health benefits to trampolining. It’s a fun way to exercise that will boost cardio fitness, build muscle, strengthen limbs and burn fat. There are some fascinating studies on rebounding, including one from NASA that evidences the unparalleled benefits to the human body, including agility and balance. Flux has been really popular with older users and we have clients into their eighties who come in to enjoy a session.”
“Our trampoline fitness sessions will involve low impact aerobics and exercises aimed at strengthening and toning every part of the body. The great thing is that it doesn’t matter what age you are, or what your fitness ability is, you can join in, enjoy the class and get all the benefits without worrying about keeping up or getting an injury.”
Flux Fit classes run on Wednesday’s at 12pm to 1pm and every Tuesday and Thursday from 7pm – 8pm. You can drop in for £7.50 as session or pay £29 a month and get 12 sessions. To find out more and book online, visit here or call 01473 231426/
16 Take on every obstacle
Obstacle challenge courses have soared in popularity recently. They are inspired by the type of training you would normally only undergo in the military, but they are no longer just the domain of the elite. You are more likely to see people in fancy dress laughing their way through repeated fails at a set of monkey bars while covered head to toe in mud. Competitors often enter in teams, helping each other across the obstacles, which are often designed to require teamwork to scale, while most competitors won’t mind sacrificing their own times to offer a helping hand to others. As social, team-bonding events they’re tough to beat and you will get fit along the way – as well as very dirty. Among the mud obstacle races coming up in 2018 is East Anglia’s hugely popular Only The Brave at Elveden Estate near Thetford Sunday, March 25.
The event raises funds for East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Participants can choose between a six or 10-mile mud run with up to 35 obstacles. A combined effort of running, crawling, climbing and scrambling will all be required to cross the finish line. For more information, visit here
17 Be a barre belle
Ballet may seem an effortless display of gossamer grace on stage, but there is a huge amount of physical grind involved. Adding some plies and pirouettes to your workout will strengthen your core and lower body. Learning a ballet routine is like a pilates and an endurance training session combined with breath control. which is key throughout the moves. No wonder then that ballet fitness is one of the most fashionable ways to get in shape at the moment
If you fancy a workout that will keep you on your toes, you could try Cygnets Ballet, a small and friendly dance school in Bury St Edmunds which has been providing quality dance instruction in the Suffolk and Essex area for more than 10 years. Studio Principal Nataliya Lebedyeva brings over 30 years of experience from Russian ballet, and is keen to share her skills with students of all ages and abilities. Adult classes with the emphasis on fun and fitness run every Saturday afternoon at Bury St Edmunds.
For more information, call 07769 803308 or visit here
18 Canine classes
Think Fitbits and smartwatches are the must-have fitness accessory? So last year. What you really need to make your workouts on trend in 2018 is a dog. There’s doga, which is yoga for you and your dog. Don’t fancy doing the downward facing dog…with your dog, how about agility classes? Fantastic exercise for you and your dog, a great chance for owner and pet to bond and a fun challenge. If the pair of you show promise there’s even scope to do it competitively. A good place to start is the state-of-the-art Ipswich Veterinary Centre, in Donald Mackintosh Way, Ipswich, which has a fully-equipped agility paddock on site. It offers a range of classes for beginners to those wishing to compete. For more information, email
If dog agility may be too much for you or your aging pooch, just getting out on regular walks together will be beneficial. A recent study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge found that owning or walking a dog was one of the most effective ways to beat the usual decline in later-life activity. Dog owners were sedentary for 30 minutes less per day on average.
19 Fitness on tap
You don’t have to be pre-adolescent to unleash your inner hoofer. Think of Lionel Blair and Bruce Forsyth tapping away in their dotage. It’s strengthening for feet, ankles and thighs and great for building balance. Marina Bill, from the Norwich School of Dance, says: “Our tap classes are an energising light exercise which are suitable for everyone no matter how young or old and regardless of experience. Dancing is very therapeutic. It is easy to lose yourself in the music and just enjoy moving!”
Classes at the school in White Lodge Business Estate, Hall Road, operate on a pay as you go basis and your first trial session is free. Of course, the best thing about tap dancing is making the taps and the centre even sells tap shoes on site so you can look and sound the part.
For more information, call 07971289840 or visit the Norwich School of Dance Facebook page.
20 Support your body
Calisthenics is exercising using your own bodyweight to build muscle. If for you, bodyweight exercises end at push-ups, pull-ups and planks, a quick YouTube journey will show you how much more there is to it. The word comes from the Greek words kallos (beauty) and sthenos (strength) and incredibly ripped practitioners such as the Barstarzz crew have an almost balletic grace to their feats of strength. The ultimate calisthenics move is the Human Flag in which you grab onto a vertical surface such as a pole with two hands and then use your upper body and abdominal strength to ‘levitate’ in a horizontal position with your legs together. It looks almost humanly impossible, but, the guys from the School of Calisthenics believe in teaching people to “redefine their impossible”. The school is running two classes in Ipswich this month at EXF Fitness, in Grundisburgh. There is a two-hour beginners’ workshop on January 20 from 12.30pm and an intermediate workshop from 3pm. David Jackson from the school says: “We’ll be teaching everything from the basics in the beginners’ class in the morning to seemingly impossible things in the afternoon class like human flags!
“We cover push up and pull up variations as well as handstand balancing skills all the way through progressions for human flags and back levers.”
To book a pace on either course (£59 for the beginners’, £69 for the intermediate) visit here and to see the school’s instructors making human flags look easy go to their YouTube site.
21 Slope off with snowboarding sessions
Some people just like to hole up and hibernate during the winter months, but there are exciting ways to keep fit that embrace all the winter weather has to throw at you. How about trying snowboarding? You don’t need to go far to give it a try and you don’t even need snow. The Suffolk Ski Centre has taster sessions to see if the sport is for you on its dry slope in Bourne Hill, Wherstead. All your equipment is provided and after a safety brief, you get 45 minutes on the slopes. These £25 sessions take place in cold, wind, rain, ice and even snow. If you love it – and as well as being a thrill to do it, it works all the major muscle groups and can burn up to 450 calories per hour – then you can work on your skills with three two-hour sessions or learn-in-a-day courses.
For more information, call 01473 602347 or visit here

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