5 Ways to Make a Casual Attempt at Sport in London

Take to The Thames on a summer's day

Now, last year I finally caved and joined a gym, thus ending a pretty unblemished record of inactivity (apart from cycling round London while at uni). That said, if you too are a committed conserver of kinetic energy but feel the sudden urge to exorcise some physical madness, here are 5 ideas for participating in some non-committal exercise in London:

1. Play squash

Squash is a claustrophobic, sweary version of tennis that's ideal for people who need to work through some issues in the form of physical combat. It's an excellent workout, especially as you expend a lot of energy avoiding being pelted by the tiny dog toy of a ball. There are multiple squash courts you can hire across London, and we've used the Better courts a couple of times because they've got a great online booking system. You can hire rackets at the centres too but you'll need to buy your own ball.


2. Go trampolining


There's a few places you can go and bounce around in London, and a 45 minute session will give your legs an excellent stretch. We went to Oxygen Freejumping in Acton, which is huge and provides several zones of different trampolining activities. It's best to go early or later to avoid sharing your session with too many kids (trying not to bump into those little reckless dynamos can be quite stressful), and the centre provides you with special anti-slip socks for a small extra cost.

3. Swim in Covent Garden 

There are few things more pleasant to do after work in the dog days of summer in London than to go for a swim in the outdoor pool at the Oasis Sports Centre in Covent Garden (another Better sports centre - I mean, they're fab). It's not too expensive either, so it makes a lovely treat, and if you're so inclined you can join the proper connoisseurs and go swimming there in winter too as it's heated all year round (though I must say a little chilly come October until you get acclimatised). There's an indoor pool right next to the outdoor pool too in case it's too cold, and there's also a sun terrace next to the pool if you want to top up your tan in summer while pretending to be on the Riviera. It does get very busy on sunny weekends though, and go early if you want to tan while you're swimming - because it's enclosed on all four sides, it starts to get overshadowed by around 2pm in mid-Summer.

Incidentally, many people will also try to encourage you to go swimming in one of London's many outdoor swimming ponds and lidos. Now, I'm not adverse to a little alfresco swimming, but my 2 experiences of this in London were a) duck poop central in the Serpentine and b) leg cramp central in the unheated Gospel Oak Lido. Lather yourself in goose fat before you go!

4. Go ice skating (then watch an ice hockey match)

Many a Londoner has made the mistake of thinking that due to the large number of temporary ice rinks that pop up in the capital at Christmas, the laws of supply and demand dictate that they will be excellent skaters. Most are hilariously disabused of this gross assumption pretty much instantly (apart from my partner, who, on enquiring how much it had cost to get tickets moments before taking to the ice, declared, 'Fourteen fucking quid? For fourteen fucking quid I can bloody ice skate' and took off into the distance like an arctic hare). 

That said, if you don't want to shell out to skate on a big fake frozen puddle in front of a stately home once a year, there are actually several permanent ice rinks all round the capital that are bigger and cheaper than the temporary rinks. The rink at Ally Pally is the biggest and the best, and it also hosts ice discos too, so you can watch people stack it while trying to dance to 'YMCA'.

After you've tried and failed to let go from the edge for an hour, stick around to watch some of London's pro ice hockey teams show you how it's done. Watching ice hockey in London is everything you'd hoped and dreamed it would be, and more - there's cockney commentators, trash talking, frequent punch ups and some very angry hockey grandmas who yell 'That's what you get for touching my boy!' when their grandson clobbers an opponant. I'm a London Racers fan 4 life.

5. Row your boat

What could be more English than meandering across a lake in a row boat on a summer's day? There are many places where you can hire a boat and take to the water, including in several parks, along the canals and at several stretches of riverbank along the Thames. If you're feeling even more adventurous, you can have a go at Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP'ing) or kayaking for longer trips. For my money though, there's nothing better than going for a lark in a pedalo in Regent's Park and trying your best not to crash into the forbidden bank of Duck Island
.

Feeling extra sloth-like? Settle for a quick game of pool in the Las Vegas Arcade Soho on Wardour Street or attempt to go bowling in the Elephant & Castle shopping centre (mentioned, I believe, in Dante's Inferno).

Feeling extra spritely? Go show off your rollerblading skills with the pros in Hyde Park, or check out the new Ski Fit class at Chelski - something on my 2018 to do list!

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