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Whether you want to swim, run, punch or star jump your way to fitness, we’ve got the low down on where to get fit in the fresh air…
Smur-fit has a loyal following in Oxon and Bucks thanks to its fun classes geared for a variety of fitness levels. In Sarah’s own words, she is not a size 8, she doesn’t eat salads all day, and she doesn’t avoid social activities, but she’s a fabulously fun and energetic fitness instructor who has countless marathons to her name. The classes are at Watlington Recreation Ground and include kettlebells, circuits, bootcamp and even ‘senior circuits’ – whatever the weather (see soggy pic above!). Book online, paying £6.50 for one class, up to £40 for a month unlimited.
Parkfit sessions at Stonor Park run every Wednesday at 9.15am in the gardens and deer park of the gorgeous country pile. They’re run by Texan dynamo, Cat Batson, a Level 3 PT and UK Athletics Coach. The aim is to improve cardiovascular health and strength with body weight exercises (and have a lot of fun in gorgeous surroundings). Classes cost £15 per session and need to be booked in advance, plus a questionnaire is required before your first session (bring your own mat). Parking is free and there are steam-cleaned toilets on site and a coffee vendor, for that pre or post class boost and natter with your workout buddies.
You won’t find a dumbbell at Fitness at The Farm near Abingdon – think more tyres, ropes, axes and mallets – all of the equipment is either natural or made from materials found on the farm. And it’s used with great imagination and fun. There are classes six days a week, from circuits with a bit of HIIT, to Box Fit for cardio and strength training, to vinyasa flow style yoga under the shelter of a tipi. Classes cost £30 for five or unlimited membership costs £50 per month.
Peak Fitness in Thame is an outdoor gym with an epic range of fitness classes from HIIT to Muscle Factory to Fight Club and our favourite, Superwoman. The classes are outdoors but with a covered roof and artificial grass floor so you get fresh air, but without the mud and rain.
If a gentle jog round the park is your bag, look away now. The cult fitness group that is BMF – Be Military Fit with Bear Grylls – is not your thing. The high energy classes include the original military workout, but there’s also now Crossrun (a dynamic run-based workout) and Active (which focuses on strength and posture). Local options include classes in Oxford, Henley and High Wycombe. The aim is cardio fitness and strength training with the balance of the two depending on the class you choose. A trial week costs £7 for unlimited access, then it’s £65 per month, with a discount for signing up for a year in advance.
Tilsley Park has a range of exercise classes including kettlebells, circuits and HIIT on weekday evenings (plus one on Weds morning) and Saturdays mornings. The classes are for all abilities and are available to members or as pay-as-you-go. They can be booked up to seven days ahead – so there’s really no getting out of it. Oh, and they’re offering pay-as-you-go customers 50% off all exercise classes throughout October. Dammit, now you really have to give it a go.
Stuart Lewington’s Immortal Fitness takes motivation up a level, with its high energy workouts and membership approach. The outdoor exercise activities are varied, from flipping enormous tractor tyres to passing weighted balls around a circle, and there’s plenty of team work and high jinx along the way. The membership package includes nutrition advice and diet plan, PT sessions and access to the group bootcamps for £99 for four weeks. Bootcamp sessions are held in Marlow, Peppard and Finchampstead three days a week at various times.
If you’re a bit of a fair weather fit bunny, Jen Skym’s Jeneration Fitness workouts might be just the ticket, with both online and Oxford-based outdoor classes on offer. She runs HIIT and pre/post natal on Thursday mornings in Headington (and online Tues & Fri). They cost £8 per class drop-in but if you want to be sure of a place and save money (and rule out last-minute shirking), you can book ahead online.
Parkruns (for those who’ve had their head in the sand and their trainers in the garage for the past few years) are free non-competitive 5k running and walking events at 729 locations around the country on a Saturday morning. There are also 2km junior parkruns for kids aged four to 14 on Sunday mornings. Events in Oxfordshire include Witney, Chipping Norton, Banbury, Bicester, Oxford, Abingdon and Grove. Register beforehand, then just turn up. Your time is recorded so you can get competitive (with yourself…)
There are also various organisations to help you find running groups and clubs in your area from the jog-and-gossip to the teeny tiny vests and shorts sprint brigade. RunTogether lists running groups within a radius of your postcode and includes established running clubs like the Didcot Runners, Oxford City, Buckingham & Stowe RC, Hook Norton Harriers, Marlow Striders and more – they’re all across Bucks and Oxon.
Hinksey Heated Outdoor Pool in Oxford is a good place to start if you’re new to outdoor swimming during the colder months. There’s also group exercise classes and a cafe on site for a warming cuppa afterwards. You can pay per swim (£8) or get membership.
If you’re further east, Wycombe Rye Lido in Wycombe is a good bet. It’s newly renovated and very much open for business, from 6.30am every morning for a bracing dip.
Chesham Open Air Pool in Chesham is, likewise, open all year from 6am weekdays and 8am weekends. You can choose your lane – slow, medium, or fast, plus there’s a gym and tennis court for the non swimmers. Buy a membership or swim as you go, for £6 a session. These are all good to know as other lidos, such as the Chipping Norton Lido, are now closed until spring.
OK, so it’s officially in Berkshire, but Thames Lido in Reading is so very pretty so we felt it deserved inclusion. The 25m pool, heated to 26 degrees all year round, is part of a very plush package of spa facilities and restaurant and tapas bar. You need to book the meal, treatment and swim packages well in advance.
If a lido is a bit too tame, head to one of the counties’ many swimming lakes. Queenford Lakes, near Berinsfield is still open (currently hovering at 15 degrees in the water). Check out the Facebook page for the latest swim time sessions. You need to register for a chipped wristband and sessions are limited to early morning and late evenings (there are a lot of other watersports taking place on the lake) so do have a proper read of the website rather than just heading down.
Denham Waterski Club in Denham, Bucks is still offering morning swims 7.45am-9.45am weekdays and 8.15am-9.45am weekends. The 20-acre lake just outside of Gerrards Cross is home to plenty of watersports (clue’s in the name), but open water swimming is popular here. You’ll have to book a slot with a wristband.
Willen Lake, in Milton Keynes offers so many activities (it’s practically a mini Center Parcs) that you might not have known open water swimming was even an option. The team here are currently operating sessions on Sat and Sun mornings and Tues and Thurs evenings. You need a wristband and to book ahead at Love Open Water.
Bicester Performance Lake, Bicester is a purpose-built 200m performance lake that is designed to help both amateur and experienced swimmers get to grips with the open water experience. It’s part of Bicester Hotel & Spa and while guests have free access, visitors can access the lake on a pay-as-you-go basis from £7 a session. Open subject to daylight hours between 6:30-7pm.
Taplow Lakeside, Taplow, Bucks is open for swimming Tues and Thurs evenings and Sat and Sun mornings. Like with so many of the other swimming lakes, will need a National Open Water Coaching Association (Nowca) membership to swim (membership is £12 a year including the wristband) and then single swims are £6.50. No children under 8 allowed and 8 to 12-year-olds will need to be accompanied by an adult. Marlow Open Water Swim, is now closed until spring 2022..