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Sports in London : fun, cheap and exotic

By Marion Senant
16/06/2010

 
Summer’s almost here and we would all love to look fabulous on the beach, in our brand new bikinis in a few weeks… Unfortunately, for most of us, there’s only one way to reach our goal: exercise – a word that, for most of us, is synonymous with torture. But thankfully for all you sport-phobic Londoners out there, other countries have been coming up with fun new ways of training and we can find them all in our favourite city.
 
 

Swedercise: Swedish, fun and friendly

 
Do you remember last time you went to the gym? There was this very pretty woman who looked at you with pity when you couldn’t coordinate your arms and legs during the aerobic class. Of course, she was just behind the instructor, doing one perfect movement after another in rhythm… without even breaking a sweat!
 
Well, good news, she’s not doing Swedercise! First of all, during a Swedercise class, people gather around the instructors, there’s no need for a mirror. And second of all, people come here to train in a happy mood, not to compare their sports outfits.
 
This “let’s-all-gather-and-do –some-healthy-exercise” spirit was conceived in 1978 in Stockholm, where the Friskis & Svettis Association (F&S) was founded. It aim was to promote a form of exercise based on simple, natural movements, done with rythmic music in a group. After Sweden, this new method spread through Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It arrived in Paris a couple of years ago where it has since become the “it” workout.
 
The music is a huge part of the success of the concept: every instructor has his own, but it’s always very rhythmic. And who doesn’t like to move whilst listening to old Abba tunes or the latest club hits? Plus, movements are very simple, and after one session, everybody is able to follow, which is quite rewarding.
 
But mostly, Swedercise is affordable! F&S is a non-profit association, its instructors are voluntary and the venues where the classes take place are quite simple. In London, the Swedercise lovers gather at the Swedish Church on Mondays and Wednesdays and at Central YMCA on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It’s simple, but it helps that the association ask for a very low price: only £5 per class and if you want to subscribe for an entire season (up to 55 classes), it will only cost you £70!
 

Zumba: energetic and sensual

 
Zumba
Zumba
Remember Shakira’s video clip a couple of years ago? That was Zumba inspired! A Colombian coach (and one of Shakira’s choreographers) invented this fitness class in the 90’s and it spread all around the world in less than a decade.
 
The main aspect of this danced-based aerobic fitness class is, of course, the music. From Salsa to Samba, it uses traditional South American rhythms and mixes basic dance steps with fitness movements. Legend has it that Beto Perez, a Colombian fitness trainer, forgot the music for his class. He then improvised a gym session with the music he found in his car: Latin music. That’s how zumba was born.
 
The result is impressive and even sexy, but definitely demands a bit of training! The rhythm is intense and can easily leave you out of breath. But seeing these people enjoying themselves so much is quite addictive and stimulating. You can find classes all around London. Like for Swedercise, classes often take place in community centres, that way it can stay cheap (between £6 and £8).
 

Tai Chi and Qi Jong: the harmonious way of toning up

 
Tai Chi
Tai Chi
For those who want to mix up sport and health, Tai Chi and Qi-Jong, two Chinese practices, are the best. Their focus is on strengthening the body in a calm and relaxing way, and fits everybody. Slow and steady movements are used with a strong focus on breathing exercises. Unlike Zumba and Swedercise, it requires regular practice and it might take some time before you begin see the physical benefits, although you’ll certainly feel more centred.
 
Most of the time, you have to sign up for a 5 to 8 weeks course to begin with. Prices are a bit higher, between £55 and £69 for a beginner class, but the advantage is that, once you have done it, you can also practice by yourself at home. Some schools even offer free classes outdoors on Sundays, which is a very nice way to enjoy sunny mornings in the Park.
 
So, whether you choose the Swedish way, the Latin way or the Chinese way, there are alternatives to an expensive gym club in London if you want to exercise. And I bet that once the “bikini season” is over, you’ll still want to keep at them… just for fun!
 
 
 
Swedercise: Friskis & Svettis Association is the only one to offer those classes in London for the moment. You can find information about schedules and prices on their website: http://www.friskissvettis.co.uk/
 
Zumba: there are a lot of classes all around London, but here is a selection:
 
Tai Chi and Qi Jong: again, you can practice everywhere in London, but here are websites that should help you find your perfect class:
For the Sundays free classes in Victoria Park: http://www.alexdongtaiji.com/london/

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