REVIEW: The Castle Centre – Everyone Active

The good people at Everyone Active have recently taken over the running of several local authority leisure centres in London, including The Castle Centre, Marshal Street Leisure Centre, Seymour Sports Centre and Porchester Centre & Spa. We’re pretty fond of their mission: to encourage more people to participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five times a week, and were totally delighted when they asked us to come and check out their newly renovated centres and their facilities.

The Castle Centre is handily located a 10min cycle from my office and on my way home, so I had literally no excuse not to go for a snoop around, and by jingo am I glad I did. I hadn’t been to The Castle Centre before the renovation, but I have no doubt that it has entirely transformed since reopening – the way it is designed means it is full of light and absorbs a huge number of people without it feeling overcrowded, which is handy if you are heading in during the post-work crush.

As you approach the centre, the thing that strikes you immediately is the super-cool, fluorescent sign that sits, human-height, in the floor-to-ceiling window on the first floor, above the front door. It’s the first glimpse of the vibe I think they’re going for in their gym. It’s erring towards a Gym-boxy sort of funkiness, but without being enormously overpriced and full of meatheads. Head up to the first floor and you’ll find the brilliantly kitted out gym – all the cardio and free weights you could ask for an resistance machines for everything, including muscles I didn’t even know I had. My only criticism of the resistance machines is that they aren’t truly weighted, rather you set the resistance by pushing a button that taughtens the cable which you have to push or pull against – so how are you supposed to know how much you’re lifting? Equally though, everything is well maintained and pristinely clean and tidy.

This leisure centre is truly inclusive and appealing to everyone, as evidenced by the packed, shriek-filled swimming pool during family friendly swimming times. This also makes for a chilled out gym – there’s people of all different shapes, sizes, levels of fitness and sporting interests. Sure, there are occasionally a couple of blokes gurning in the mirror whilst lifting with questionable form, but there’s nothing of the uber-lad about this place. I felt just as comfortable swinging a kettle about on a mat as I would have done in the privacy of my own bedroom.

As well as a fab gym, there is a good-sized spinning studio, thought the number and selection of spinning classes is a tad limited currently, with only two pre-work sessions a week currently. Being so close to the City, it seems a shame they don’t take advantage of the current wellbeing trend and offer more lunchtime sessions. Next door to the cycling studio is the large general studio where they have piles of equipment including boxing gloves,pads and bags; assorted dumbells, kettlebells and medicine balls; mats; steps and exercise balls. It’s a fitness class fan’s sweetshop. Which leads me to my main criticism of the Centre.

On seeing the plethora of kettlebells in the studio, I was intrigued. I love a good kettlebelling, me. So, on my way out I stopped at the reception desk to ask for their guidance on what classes I could book in order to use them. Unfortunately, I was met with a look of beffudlement. In fact, when I probed them on the Group Exercise more broadly, they weren’t able to give me much detail on any of the classes and couldn’t tell me what any of them entailed, other than that a step is used in Step. This was a problem I found when attending the Body Conditioning class, which you can read about here – though it has to be said, the class itself was enjoyable. In an attempt to be all things to all people, I think Everyone Active has written some seriously generic copy in their class descriptions, which is pretty unhelpful.

In all, I think the facilities at the Castle Centre easily rival the likes of Virgin Active and LA Fitness but the classes and their availability have got a bit of a way to go. If you live or work in that neck of the woods, give it a whirl.

 

A winter workout rut? Not here!

It’s flipping freezing. It’s also flipping dark. No one wants to go out, beds are comfy and warm, the heating is on and I’m not going to lie, I’m far more tempted by beef bourguignon, potatoes and a glass of red wine (lol, bottle) than I am dragging myself around Tooting Common for a tempo run. But I get out and do it anyway (most of the time)

So here are some tips on how to stay active when it’s less than desirable outside. Some of these are practical and some are safety-related. Some relate to running, some are general exercise.

Stay safe

Even more relevant now following the sad news from Aldershot this week, which really made me think. It could have been any of us. Running outside in the dark = potential dangers, even if you’re on the pavement and think you’re safe. Don’t take risks down unlit alleyways in dodgy estates, don’t wear your headphones, watch out for things laying in wait to trip you up and stick to places where there are more lights and people. I know this isn’t always the case – but your tripping over danger/dodgy person danger ratio will probably flex depending on where you live, so adjust accordingly. Wear high viz, run towards oncoming traffic if you have no pavement option – basically don’t take risks. Unfortunately, some things are out of our control, but make sure that you change the things you can.

Time it right

Pick your poison. Are you a morning or an evening exerciser? I tend to find at this point in the year, it’s much harder to go out again in the evening once it’s dark so I tend to pick the mornings. This means I’ve set my heating to come on earlier and I don’t often leave the house when it’s light, but it is worth it knowing that I can get home and crash after a long day.

To combat this – I do try and run at lunchtime. Or gym at 3pm (it’s super quiet!). Luckily, I work somewhere where this is possible. More sleep, more light, more motivation – and a safer run in the daytime.

Make it social

Pick a team sport. My current thing is Monday night netball – and when I complain  about the cold with other people, it’s more bearable. If you aren’t a team sport person, pick a workout buddy or sign up for a class that you can’t cancel. Also, a 2 mile run to netball is a good warmup AND means you add another run to the week.

 

Prepare prepare prepare

This is the case for any time of day, any time of year – get everything ready so you have no excuses. Lay out all your clothes. Make your lunch. Get all your layers ready. Always have a raincoat in your bag for when it starts raining and you’ve got to cycle home…also take spare socks. I also go to work in my running stuff (again, #perks) so it forces me to feel like I wore it for a purpose.

Prepare for after

Don’t go swimming and then come out and catch pneumonia. Have enough layers for before and after (i.e. don’t stay in sweaty kit too long), grab a hot drink, make your boyfriend run a bath for you in preparation…

Food is key – I HATE going out to buy food if I’ve already been for a run and have come back. Make life easy for yourself – come back, eat dinner, shower, bed. WIN.

Dress for the weather

Layers, gloves, hats, scarves, everything. Being under or overdressed can make a significant different to your enjoyment, and I would always err on the over-dressed side. You can always take layers off, you can’t add them when you’re 10km from home!

Keep it simple

Sometimes it’s harder to train in the cold. It takes longer to warm up, it’s icy, you are mentally checked out and back home in bed already…so don’t push it every time, don’t stress if you miss one workout and don’t take risks just to fit it in. A warm up becomes more and more important when your body temperature is going to be lower – don’t skip it and risk an injury.

Enjoy it!

There is something exceptionally exciting about running outside in the cold, running in the snow, feeling the cold air filling your lungs. The scenery can be great at this time of year – think crisp frosts, autumn leaves and clear sunny wintery skies. (Or rain, dark, cold and miserable, but lets not focus on that). Then you are free to snuggle up in something cosy for the rest of the day and truly feel you deserved it!

Anything we’ve missed?

Who said South London isn't pretty? #run #running #tooting #morning #redsky

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