Everyone Active – The Castle Centre

I’ve been enjoying making use of the recently reopened Castle Centre in Elephant and Castle, run by Everyone Active. It’s not my closest leisure centre, but is the nearest Everyone Active venue. My bike ride there takes me alongside leafy Peckham Rye and I ride through Burgess Park to the recently redesigned Elephant and Castle roundabout. This whole area seems to be undergoing a huge level of redevelopment, with flats popping up all over the place and an enticing-looking ‘Elephant Park’ being constructed. These changes are gradually bringing in chains such as Pret a Manger – just by The Castle – and the area feels very different!

Castle entrance

Castle entrance

The Castle is easy to spot as you cross the busy road, with its bright neon sign and contemporary style. The foyer is big and welcoming, with desks straight ahead, to join, book classes or pay your entry fee. A quick wander through the automatic gates and you enter an open area, with seating and a small soft-play area for younger children. From here, you can see the swimming pool and, upstairs, the gym and studios. Navigating the centre is easy, with big, clear signage and I found the changing areas clean and well-stocked with lockers (which take a returnable £1 coin).

Changing area

Changing area

So far, I have used the swimming pool, which I have always been lucky enough to find quiet, so didn’t have any problems negotiating a space for myself. I was very pleased to see a pool-side sauna and steam room, which are quite small, but new and clean and they get nice and hot, perfect after a swim or training session (I *love* a sauna!). There are plenty of showers, with two next to the pool, with adjustable settings, so you can get it really cold post-sauna, one of these showers has a seat and is accessible. There are also showers outside the changing rooms and private cubicles in the ladies changing area (I assume this is the same in the men’s) – the good thing about these is the shower adjustment, you can get it to the right temperature and switch it off when you’re ready, none of that having to press the button every few seconds!

As well as the pool, I have also used the gym. This is really well equipped, with two areas, both with the same cardio machines, so no need to queue. There are treadmills, stationary bikes, Nordic ski machines, rowers and step machines. There is also a great range of resistance training machines, with fixed weights and a really good free-weights area. In the free-weights area there are also kettle bells and weighted bags, a TRX and various other things I’ve never seen before! I decided I should book an induction, to make sure I made good use of everything and didn’t miss out! This was a group induction, so we were shown around the whole gym, looking at all of the equipment to see how it works (it’s all very simple and there is always a fitness instructor on hand to help if you need it). After the induction, I got stuck in, warming up on the rower and heading over to the free-weights. I didn’t find it intimidating and saw that there were actually more women than men in this space.

I am yet to try any classes, because they don’t really fit in with my schedule; it would be good to have more classes in the daytime, I’m sure they would be popular.

Studio

Studio

If you want to try The Castle, the opening hours are Monday–Friday: 06:30 – 22:00, Saturday: 07:00–18:00 and Sunday: 07:00–22:00. Check the prices here and the timetables here.

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Adventures in Open-Water Swimming, Part 1: Charlton Lido

During my slightly panic-stricken pool swim at my first triathlon a few weeks ago, I thought to myself: ‘Well, my idea of participating in an open-water triathlon was a bit ambitious!’ and put it right to the back of my mind. Of course, once I’d regained my nerve, climbed out of the pool and flown my way through the other two disciplines, smiling throughout, I had forgotten all about my pool-fear and was looking to the next event, open-water or not. Realistically though, I think I need to be feeling super-confident before I dip my toes, wet-suit clad, into a lake/pond/the sea, so have decided to embark on a series of open-water adventures over the next few months, taking on a different (hopefully) venue each week. To ease myself into this malarkey with at least some level of enjoyment, I will take ‘open-water’ to mean ‘without a roof’, so this will include the lidos of London.

We’re lucky in London, with many lidos having been either lovingly cared for or lovingly restored and, from where I live in South East London, I’m just a bus or bike-ride away from two. This morning I put a moistened finger in the air, felt the warm sun on my skin and decided to bus it over to Charlton Lido. I have been to Charlton Lido before, but that was last summer and was in the company of small children during the school holidays: it was busy, bustling and noisy, a very different experience to my calm and quiet swim today. Since my last visit, there has also been some extensive building work, and there is now an excellent gym, indoor changing facilities and even a lovely sun terrace and cafe to warm up in after your swim. I would recommend registering online so you can book in advance: this saves you money and – I’m guessing – time during busy periods. I paid just £4 for my lovely 50m pool-with-a-sky swim today 🙂 The new changing facilities are great, clean and unfussy, with the option of a pool-side cubicle if you prefer. There are lockers alongside the pool (these take 20p, which is not returned, so make sure you’ve got everything you need before closing), but I would say more lockers might be welcome as it gets busier.

The Pool

The Pool

(this photo makes it look a bit grey, but it was gloriously sunny!)

Charlton Lido is heated, but don’t expect it to feel like an indoor pool…ease yourself in gently, take a few deep breaths and keep moving! Once I’d followed those rules, I found myself doing something I don’t normally do: lying on my back, wiggling my hands and feet and sighing, I couldn’t resist looking up at the sky from the water, bliss! As you can see from the photo, there were lanes, but I decided to just swim outside the lane as it was quiet enough, and off I headed, pulling myself into the 50m expanse. This always feels slightly daunting, but I’m sure it makes for faster swimming, not turning every 25m. Something that added to my sense of joy at the experience was the sunlight pouring through the surface and creating beautiful shadows on the bottom of the pool. I was mesmerised by the ripples, the blurred shadows of other swimmers, the dancing bunting and the little concentric circles created by droplets from my finger tips. Not wanting this feeling to end, I pushed a little further until I had swum a mile.

Climbing out, I found that as soon as you exit the water, you need to jump into a hot shower or quickly wrap yourself in a towel before heading up to the cafe for a bit of post-swim warmth and refuel…

Toasted

Toasted

As I gathered my things and headed to the bus stop, I noticed that the pool had become busier, with bikini-clad young things sprawling out on beach towels, topping up their tans. On a hot day this really is Charlton-by Sea.

 

Project Fitartist

It’s back-to-school time. I feel blue. It’s been a fantastic summer, with long, fun days spent building miniature boats to sail down the river, picking blackberries for jams and crumbles, playing in sandpits, splashing in the sea on our North Devon camping adventure and riding our bikes to wherever we please. I like the freedom of not being tied to a school timetable, and it’s fun starting a day not knowing what lies ahead. This morning Hector hid what I think was excitement at going back to school as he whizzed along on his bike in his uniform, he caught up with friends in the playground and lined up with his new teacher, blowing kisses as he went (this all makes me happy, knowing that he has the confidence to go in without getting upset, a long way from when he started out!). I then caught up with other parents on a slow stroll home, back into the same old routine.

I knew that fitting in any kind of structured exercise would be challenging over the summer holiday, so I decided not get stressed about it, and just did what I could. I did have a couple of weeks at the beginning where I didn’t run at all, then Hector was booked in for a week of intensive swimming: half an hour each morning. I would drop him off at the pool-side then run to the gym upstairs, run fast on the treadmill for twenty minutes then back down to get into my swimming costume and spend a bit of time in the pool with Hector after his lesson. Our holiday was spent along the South Coast Path where I managed three runs during the week. I say runs, but it was more of a climb, then a pause to take in the stunning view, another climb then another view, perfect.

Now I am able to fit in some structure again, what shall I do? To get me straight back into it, I booked myself in to the RPM class at the gym this morning, I’ve no idea. It’s a spin-type class I guess, I’m imagining pumping music, high action, sweating, calorie-burning. We’ll see. I have also registered for a local 10k on October 13th, so I have about five weeks to get 10k fit again. I would really like to run it comfortably and enjoy it, so will aim to fit in some longer runs in the next few weeks. Any ideas? Any challenges? Any races I should aim for? I’m open to suggestions!

Getting involved

The past week has been all about the Paralympic Games. On Wednesday I got on my mountain bike and Hector got on his Isla Bike and off we headed to Deptford to track down the Paralympic Torch Relay. This journey is a new thing, Hector has usually ridden in the child seat on the back of Edward’s bike, but is now confident enough to cycle the four or so miles there and back, what a joy! Though my old mountain bike has been dependable, I do now yearn for something a bit more lady-like, something I can cruise around town on in a skirt and not have to get changed into hot jeans whenever I want to pop to the shops, something like this would do the trick. Thanks. So, we arrived in Deptford for a pre-torch swim, and while we were in the pool it started to rain, boo. Lunch was eaten at the wonderful ‘Train Cafe’, otherwise known as The Deptford Project, and we did our usual read-every-book-in-the-childrens’-section at the library. Gradually the library got busier and busier and the rain came down heavier and heavier and news came in that the torch was running two hours late. Oh my. Thank goodness for the numerous friends and neighbours we bumped into, who kept us entertained and gave us the energy to stick it out until the sun came out and around the bend came the Paralympic Torch.

The torch team arrives

Deptford Lounge looking golden and lovely

It was a challenge convincing Hector he should get on his – now wet – bike and cycle home when it was soon-to-be dinner time and the rain was coming down, but he did it. True grit.

And over to the incredible Olympic Park for some  more true grit on Friday. We were lucky enough to see both the Olympic Beach Volleyball and the Modern Pentathlon due to generous friends with spare tickets, but our family day out to the Olympic Stadium for the Paralympic athletics had been booked long ago. I don’t think I have smiled this  much in a very long time. The atmosphere was fantastic all the way there, with even the guard on the DLR taking our photo as we sat up front, Hector ‘being the driver’. Crowds poured out of Stratford Station with Gamesmakers high-fiving all the way and little glimpses of the stadia prompting ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ all round.

We’re in!

It was a truly inspiring day, with a combination of track and field events and the general buzz of the stadium to entertain us. My highlight at this point was seeing Shelly Woods in action, especially after I had the opportunity to meet and run with her a few months ago, but we certainly weren’t the only ones backing Shelly – she even commented in an interview that the crowd was amazing, the best support she had ever received. In addition to this, I think one of Hector’s highlights was seeing Mandeville close up, the real Mandeville.

The Real Mandeville

It’s been great having the Olympic/Paralympic buzz back in London, and the excitement at the number of medals and amazing performances our Team GB athletes have been putting in is at an all time high, something I noticed on Friday was that you get more records and PBs for your money, every race or event seemed to offer up a Paralympic Record or World Record, so it’s not surprising that the crowd were jumping for joy.

In the stadium

On Sunday I think we will head out to see the wheelchair marathon and then enjoy the closing ceremony. Then it’s back to school 😦 ‘Inspire a generation, inspire a generation…’ I must keep this in my mind when the ticker tape flutters away.

Hot heads

What joy to have some sunshine again! I headed up, up, up to the top of Blythe Hill this morning though pushed on instead of my usual sneaky stop at the top to ‘enjoy the breathtaking view’. I was distracted by two men shouting at each other, it seemed one was a cyclist and one a dog-walker so I guess maybe the dog had gone in front of the bike, but really, I don’t think it warranted the kind of language that was being thrown across the grass! On I went into Ladywell Fields, looking briefly down river to see if I could spot the kingfisher. Feeling strong, I carried on to the gym, where I stepped hard uphill then pushed my muscles to their limits on the weights machines. One move I am particularly digging is a pulling action where you turn your upper body and really get deep into those lateral abdominal muscles, rock hard they are! Once more I was distracted by hot-headed men, posturing over some petty disagreement. These guys need to cool down, find some focus and remember why they are doing what they do.

Today’s inspiration for me has been looking at Olympic hopefuls in action. Next week at Hector’s school they are having a day to celebrate the London Olympics and he can go dressed as an athlete from past or present. As much as I would love to get him a bushy moustache, a little afro wig and a vest with ‘Daley’ across his chest, I think I will show him some videos of today’s athletes and see what he comes up with. Here is elite athlete Christian Malcolm getting ready for action:

 

Christian is supported by Mizuno, who will be opening the Mizuno Performance Centre in London during the Olympic games where, from July 24-August 12, you will be able to watch live sporting events, try out the Mizuno brand, compete against your friends and get yourself fitted out in the perfect running shoe for your style of running.

Distance: 3.04 miles

Time: 33 minutes 28 seconds

Average Pace: 11.01

Best Pace: 7.15

Calories: 328

Stepper: 20 minutes

Weights: 40 minutes

Looking up

As opposed to looking down – it seems people are flagging and there is a sense of downness about the place, well I am going to buck this trend by looking up. The good news is over on thereisasixpackunderhere, where Susan is getting even closer to her six-pack self in her excellent Juneathon 6km+ challenge, it really is working! Some upward gazing took place on this morning’s run as I managed to go in a big old circle around Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, exceeding all previous meanderings. When eventually I located an exit (it really isn’t that big you know), I headed up the hill of Hilly Fields as covered in last night’s Parkrun meet-up. I think the course is going to be a good one, though the off-path sections could prove very muddy in wetter weather. When we walked the route last night I was surprised how boring I am in my Hilly Fields runs, never having been up one or two of the paths we took, so I was surprised this morning when I found myself following a woman along the grass, taking pretty much the same route as we had worked out. I would never think of going that way! After a couple of loops I headed home to collect my gym stuff then did some of that there stepper thingy and some heavy weights (not really heavy, just heavy for me, though I have discovered I have incredibly strong inner thighs – I keep having to add more and more weight to satisfy their clenching needs).

Does anybody need any nuts cracking?

Distance: 3.31 miles

Time: 37 minutes 04 seconds

Average Pace: 11.12

Best Pace: 8.15

Calories: 421

(I seem to have slowed down over the past few days, but then I am ill. Cough, cough)

Stepper: 20 minutes

Weights: 45 minutes

Blurry running

Will it ever stop? I legged it behind Hector on his bike ride to school and couldn’t see a thing by the time we got there: a combination of letterbox glasses, sweat, rain and condensation. Nice. So this was the pattern of my run: head down, run a bit, look up, realise I can’t see, pause, wipe glasses, put them back on, realise they’re all smeary, wipe them again, carry on and so on. I headed into Ladywell and Brockley Cemeteries, always an interesting detour but not one I am familiar enough with not to get lost amongst the headstones and undergrowth. I must have looked a funny sight going up paths, realising I couldn’t get out, coming back, pausing to do the glasses thing, changing direction…When I eventually made my way out at the other side, I went up towards Hilly Fields, wanting to do a mini-recce ahead of tomorrow’s Parkrun meeting there. I must say, I am feeling a whole lot better today, far less achy and more energised than I have felt all week, even the nasty hill didn’t defeat me.

After my run I popped home to collect a drink/towel etc and headed over to the gym. Some time was spent stepping up an imaginary hill, lifting weights and suppressing that lip-curling thing that happens when you try and do something taxing to your body. I took my camera to capture just what the rain is doing to our river right now.

River Ravensbourne rushing by

We normally do stone-throwing from in front of this platform!

Distance: 3.29 miles

Time: 36 minutes 22 seconds

Average Pace: 11.03

Best Pace: 5.43

Calories: 399

20 minutes on the stepper and about an hour of weights.