Pilates in the Park

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I have this thing where I don’t really like to workout inside. That’s why I go running; it’s a great way to exercise and, at the same time, make sure that the dog gets a good outing (being a Border Collie, he has a lot of energy to burn off!). What’s more, running doesn’t cost me a penny. I’ve been known to run on a treadmill, but I find it dull – all I can think about while trundling along in my imaginary hamster ball is how much nicer it would be to breath the fresh air into my lungs and enjoy the surroundings (I’m lucky enough to live five minutes from the beach, and another five from the countryside) as I run headlong into the wind.

This is kind of why I gave up swimming (though I’m actually planning to go back to the pool as it’s so good for toning and cardio in one – if only I could afford a home with a heated outdoor pool), because I was inside, paying to exercise when I could have just gone for a run. Similarly, I tend to use a Pilates DVD at home (yes, I’ve even taken my iPad and mat into the garden) rather than attend a class. So, when I discovered ParkLives was doing a Pilates class, I signed up immediately.

Let me explain the ParkLives initiative. It’s a programme of FREE activities that are open to everyone and though the focus isn’t entirely on fitness, it’s a great way to get fit without paying a penny. Perfect if you want to try something different, or if exercise is completely new to you. The ParkLives idea is about enjoying the outdoors and boosting physical, mental and social wellbeing through a range of activities, from Zumba and tennis to Tai Chi and dog-walking. Hundreds of sessions are available, led by trained local coaches and volunteers and – sorry, I have to say this again – they are entirely free of charge! When ParkLives invited me to join in the fun and share the news, I immediately accepted and chose to join in the Pilates class, which I went along to on Monday night in Dawson Park.

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I arrived in the park with around six other ladies of varying ability and age. We settled into a quiet corner, creating a semi circle of colourful activewear and controlled movements, the warm sun beating down upon us and a light breeze cooling us down. Our instructor, Ailsa, introduced herself and proceeded to lead us through each movement, exercise and position clearly, without any pressure to go beyond our own ability. Sadly, I had to slip away early, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was very sad to go. Pilates is a wonderful way to create strength in the body and mind, and though it’s hard work it’s not strenuous. It’s one of those fitness regimes that takes dedication, but which is so enjoyable that it never becomes a chore.

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Find out more about ParkLives.

See the ParkLives programme of activities and parks – just enter your location to find out what’s on near you.

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Images: Kris Miller

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