Looking for a way to get into shape, but stuck on how to make time in your schedule? How about mixing your commute with a work-out. Here are a few alternative suggestions you might not have thought about.
Run home with other commuters
Nine time Olympic track cycling champion Victoria Pendleton advocates running as the best all-over body work-out, perhaps, she admits, "even more-so than cycling". Spearheading Fitness First's Home Run scheme, the athlete told us the programme allows you to make your way home with guided runs from select Fitness First locations, currently available from Bank to Clapham Junction, Tottenham Court Road to Highbury, Liverpool Street to Stratford and Canary Wharf to Waterloo. You get a free t-shirt, there's a bag-carrying service and, good news for those weary of pricey gym memberships, you don't have to be a Fitness First member — just sign up on the day for a six-week block of classes for £15. The programme is set to expand, so if not in your area yet... watch this space. Each route operates twice a week, and is free to all Fitness First members.
'Canuting' via a kayak or canoe
With more than 100km of scenic waterways across London, there are a surprising number of water routes you can travel along to work. Kayaking (using a double-sided paddle) and canoeing (using a single-sided paddle) are two ways to navigate around the bucolic canals — all you need are a few lessons, the right kit and (for many waterways) a license. First, take a few starter lessons with Go Canoeing or Kayaking London. Second, know what boats are right for you. For those wanting something simple and lightweight, check out Sit-On-Top kayaks made of moulded plastic with added air inside, creating extra buoyancy, or inflatable canoes such as Sevylor Adventure Plus. Finally, get a water license. If you're a member of British Canoeing, you get one free of charge. For a sampling of 'canuting', as The Guardian's Peter Kimpton calls it, check out his video taken on an eight-mile journey from Hackney to King's Cross.
Think canuting sounds crazy? How about commuting in both the canals and the Thames via a paddle board. Active 360's Paul Hyman insists a few lessons is enough to get you on a board — whether hot or cold, rain or shine. A regular commuter himself (from Chiswick to Putney on the Thames or from Paddington to Ladbroke Grove on the canals), he likens the pace to a steady jog. "But beware of the wind and the tides," warns Hyman. "You can often be pulled along three times faster, so make sure to check the forecast and tide tables." One solution is buying an inflatable air board and split paddles that can be condensed into a ruck sack, something Hyman says is just as good as the more expensive boards, and gives you the option to paddle into work and return home on public transport. For added safety precautions, he reminds all to wear a buoyant suit and either a waist leash, or an ankle or knee leash for the more experienced. A bit curious? You can rent a board for up to a week at Paddington Basin. If you like it (which Hyman insists you will), your expenditure counts towards the purchase of your own board and paddle.
Annalisa Pelizzola wanted to diversify both her fitness regimen and her commute to work. After signing up for a series of street skating classes with inline skating specialist Mark Davies, she now commutes from Belsize Park to Oxford Circus in 25 minutes, roughly the same time it takes her to cycle. "I like to be active and fit, and I don't like taking the tube," says Pelizzola. "But it must be said — it takes quite a bit of skill as crowded streets, manholes and other obstructions can cause you to fall." Davies agrees, and urges all his skaters to wear full protection, including helmets and pads, and to skate slowly with eyes wide open. The skating guru also insists this form of transportation is one of the best ways to free your body and soul: "I like to think of skating as a state of mind, plus you get the added bonus of burning trillions of calories." For beginners, he suggests buying a supportive freestyle skate such as Seba, K2 or Powerblade, which can be found at Slick Willies on Gloucester Rd. or Club Blueroom on Edgware Rd.
Influenced by the groov'n waves in Cornwall, commuter Chris Besseling decided to keep up his surfing skills by skateboarding to work. Using a Penny Board that has large, soft wheels in an effort to smooth the ride on uneven surfaces, he commutes via Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and Regents Park, giving him 30-40 minutes of exercise each way — something he says is far more relaxing than cycling and much faster than riding the C2 bus. "Most of all, it's good fun — and if you've got spare time, you can get expressive in your skating styles," adds Besseling. "So far so good — I've yet to fall flat on my face."
Skateboarding with an electric twist
If plain 'ole skateboarding sounds risky and fatiguing, then get your hands on an electric skateboard — a movement that Skate Electric's Nick Hedley Druce is spearheading for those wanting something hip, and a bit less active. Seen around Los Angeles, Cape Town and Australia's Bondi Beach, the electric skateboard is motored by a rechargeable hand-held device that allows you to adjust your speed. While easier than riding an average skateboard, the ride still provides core strengthening and a lower body work-out. Druce also points out, like any other form of skating, it's important to follow safety measures such as wearing a helmet and knee and wrist pads. Still not sure? See Nick in action on the London streets.
We thought kick scooters were for kids; that is, until we walked over London's bridges in the morning peak hours. While not a new phenomenon, it nonetheless remains a mainstay among city commuters traveling between trains and the office. These days, the contraptions come in a range of sizes — from practical fold-ups like Xootr or the design-conscious hybrids from Swifty. Regular riders advise standing tall and relaxed to help remove pressure on your knee joints, alternating your front leg so both sides of your body get a work-out and to try and get a scooter with a hand brake. In case of wiping out, hand sliders, knee and wrist pads and helmets should be worn. Check out Slick Willies and the online store London Kickbike Company for supplies.
With more than 2,000 bikes recently added to the cycle hire scheme, rental usage is soaring. According to the cycle hire's general manager Nick Aldworth, sales from March to June had an overall 30% increase from the same period in 2013. The scheme costs £2 for unlimited use over 24 hours, although you need to change bikes within half an hour to avoid additional charges. The 23kg bicycle, known as 'the 4x4 of London bikes', focuses on safety above speed thanks to its puncture-resistant tyres, flashing red lights and durable aluminium frame. Be on the look-out for upcoming changes: 2015 will bring a new sponsor on board, with potential proposals like payment via Oyster card. In the meantime, sort out a membership online, and away you go.
Images sourced from respective companies and individuals.