Wednesday, 19 September 2012

jogging along nicely

THERE is no doubt the Olympics, and now the Paralympics, have had a positive effect on the nation.

Inspiring and energising, the Games have encouraged people to take more of an interest in sporting activities.

Indeed, if my kids are anything to go by London 2012, and Team GB’s success in the medals table, have been responsible for inspiring many youngsters to pester their parents to sign them up for lessons in swimming, gymnastics, football, tennis and horseriding among others.

But for adults who want a piece of the action there are possibilities to get involved too - even for those who like me haven’t seen the inside of a gym for longer than we care to remember and the only running we do is for a bus.

Indeed the closest I’ve got to wearing trainers in the last eight years is the fashion kind, not the ones I used to go running in before I had kids....

So coupled with a long-held desire to get back into shape and buoyed by the enthusiasm the Olympics has generated, I found myself on Wandsworth Common a couple of weeks ago to give my body an utter pounding – or as the instructor would have me say, a total workout.

As I am clearly never going to have the physique or fitness levels of the likes of Jessica Ennis nor can I ever have a hope of getting an Olympic medal I did wonder what I had let myself in for when I saw trainer James Osborn bringing out the “equipment”. This included kettle bells of various weights, two enormous tractor tyres and harnesses.

I felt even more like a fish out of water when I saw the seven others who were there to be put through their paces. All had clearly done this before and were up for the challenge. I meanwhile, was quaking in my brand new trainers.

The session was run by James who along with business partner Steve Mellor set up their company Freedom2Train 13 months ago.

The two are fully qualified personal fitness trainers and initially offered one-to-one training sessions. However, earlier this year they decided to branch out and offer specially designed outdoor-based high intensity work outs to small groups.

And what they don’t know about training your bodies into peak physical perfection frankly isn’t worth knowing.

The hour-long classes are designed to help people lose weight, tone muscles, become stronger and get super fit. All fitness levels are catered for and as a newbie one of the key pieces of advice was that I was to take it at my own pace and to take rest breaks when I needed to.

So successful have their classes been they are normally booked up well in advance.

After all the introductions were out of the way James got things rolling by taking us on a gentle jog around the Common before getting us to do a series of lunges, squats, stretches, kicks, jumps and sprints to warm up.

I managed this OK but it was clearly the physical calm before the storm as after we had all warmed up nicely we were divided into two groups for the main session.

This involved a set of lifting and flipping over tractor tyres - much harder than it looked and I am ashamed to say made me look and feel like a weakling - swinging and lifting kettle bells, slamming special 5kg slam balls into the ground and sprinting - or in my case trying to sprint - while strapped in a harness and being pulled back by a team member.

All were done in short bursts of about two minutes each with two minute rest breaks after each set and had me utterly exhausted.

James explained the aim is to get the whole body working.

He said: "There are so many benefits to exercise and giving the whole body a complete work out especially if it's done in the open air.

"We wanted to offer something that was a bit different, challenging and dynamic that exercised all muscles but was also fun.

"It's quite addictive and the vast majority of people who have come along for a taster session have signed up for more."

To my utter amazement I found myself getting into the sets although trying to lift the tractor tyre off the ground and flip it over defeated me despite my best efforts.

I even managed to master the art of slamming the ball and crouching down in time to catch it and as the session wore on I found I had more energy than I thought.

Being in the open air too was great and much more refreshing than pounding the treadmill at a gym looking at the wall.

But what was most brilliant was the constant encouragement from James who was an inspiration in the way he kept me going when what I was tempted to do was collapse in a heap on the grass.

Before too long we were ready to warm down with a series of press ups on the tyres, stretches, lunges and sit ups.

Although it was seriously hard work and I could barely walk afterwards, I survived, felt energised and felt a real sense of achievement. So much so I have signed up for more!

Visit www.freedom2train for training session times and prices.


A PLAY which is often referred to as Shakespeare's lost play is currently enjoying a short run at the Rose Theatre in Park Street.

Cardenio has been attributed to Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton and John Fletcher since an anonymous manuscript was submitted to the censor in 1611. Debate has abounded since but there is still no clear definitive proof of who actually did write it.

Whoever penned the words, it is without doubt a fascinating and disturbing play that deals with love, lust, obsession, amorality, suspicion and ultimately revenge and has many of the hallmarks of the three playwrights.

The current production, by the Aporia Theatre Collective is set in feudal Japan with the cast dressed as Samurai warriors or wearing kimonos.

Cardenio, in love with Luscinda, is banished by the tyrannical King Fernando who wants her for himself. Despite his protestations of love she wants nothing to do with him and flees to be with Cardenio.

The King tries all the evil tricks in the book to win her love but to no avail and with each dastardly idea that goes wrong and her rejection, he descends further into madness.

Meanwhile, in a sub plot, Anselmo wants to test the fidelity of his wife Camilla but she ends up falling in love and being seduced by Lotario, the man sent to test her.

The play is bloody and by the end the stage is littered with bodies.

The setting is amazing, with the actors on a small staged area overlooking some of the excavated remains of this Elizabethan theatre which is picked out with blue lights.

The young cast are impressive particularly Ryan Burkwood as the King who displays a jittery nervousness and tyrannical anger while simultaneously getting more mad by the second.

It is a great production and for a play not often performed, catch it while you can.

Cardenio is on at the Rose Theatre, Park Street until Saturday, September 29. Tickets cost £12. Call the box office on 020 7261 9565.

Walking tour with a twist

As those who know me well will testify, I love a good mystery and exploring new places. So when an invitation came through to solve a crime while on a walking tour of the "Sins of Southwark" I didn't hesitate to sign up.

The Hidden Wonder mysteries are not your average run of the mill walking tours. Oh no. These are much more interesting and exciting. Instead they are a three-hour walk around a given area with the outline of a story, a set of questions and a map.

The idea is simple. Each hunt focuses on a mystery that the hunters must unravel by solving puzzles along the route which takes in pubs, churches, theatres, galleries, museums and hidden gardens.

To crack the case, the hunters need to answer the questions by finding clues which can be found along the way. These can be anything from inscriptions on monuments, street names or a sign on a building and many are extremely cryptic.

What adds to the fun is that you will also learn about the hidden history, culture and secrets of the places you are exploring.

As befits any good adventure, you'll need to use your brain as well as your feet. But if you have a desire to explore and an inquisitive mind, then Hidden Wonders mysteries are made for you.

The brains behind it all is Robert Collett who came up with the idea with two friends because he wanted to find out more about London and its history.

Each tour has taken them months of painstaking research spent pounding the streets and alleyways, and hours pouring over books in libraries, to create the mystery which needs to be solved.

There are currently four tours to choose from each focusing on specific areas of the city and all of which are suitable for any age.

I chose the Sins of Southwark, partly because it's close to home, but also because of its literary theme as it features three of my favourite authors, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens - who all have links to the area.

I roped my friend and fellow literary fan Adele to come with me and we met Robert and the other people who were taking part at the George Inn off Borough High Street.

We divided ourselves into teams and were each given instructions, a map and set of questions before heading off.

The crime we had to solve was a death involving just three people. The mystery took us down Borough High Street, Southwark Street and Bankside, along the river, down numerous back streets, through gardens, Borough Market and even a graveyard, past churches and two theatres and up to the Tate before heading back to the pub.

Along the way we found out more about the three authors and the playhouses, pubs and prostitutes that once made these streets the playground of London.

It was fascinating stuff and along the way we stumbled on places and buildings we had either walked passed and never really seen before or simply didn't know they existed.

In one pub, which I confess to have frequented a considerable number of times, I was astonished to see a picture relating to some fascinating facts about Dickens but which I had previously walked passed and ignored.

At Borough Market, another place I love to visit, I discovered the table of rents board which was another blindingly obvious but nonetheless - to me - a previously invisible fixture of the market which I had never properly acknowledged before.

Being a competitive sort I was desperate to get all the clues correct and thus find out the truth about how the person in our story had died.

Some of the clues were relatively easy but some were extremely tricky and Adele and I spent ages at a few locations furiously scratching our heads trying to work out the fiendishly devious ones.

Once we had discovered all the clues, we stopped at the Tate for a quick cuppa and to give us a chance to work out who had done what and who had died.

It wasn't as easy as it seemed though and there was a fair bit of exercising the grey cells to work it out.

Once we thought we had cracked it we hot footed it back to the pub where we met the other teams to see who had got it right.

Unfortunately Adele and I hadn't - mainly due to putting the wrong answer down to one of the clues. But despite this schoolgirl error, which we kicked ourselves over, it was a great way to spend three hours on a Saturday morning.

The genius of it is the inventiveness of it. It was extremely interesting, clever and fun and although we didn't get the answers 100 per cent spot on, we had a huge amount of fun doing it and we learned a great deal more about this fascinating city. And at a tenner each, great value for money.

I'm now off to book a place at the others!