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Photo by Max Bentley
Arte de Yoga
Arte de Yoga workout on the beach
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Courtesy Beach Fit
Beach Fit Barcelona
Fed up of the same, monotonous workout in the gym or simply want a fresh challenge to your exercise routine? Me too, sometimes. As a regular football player and someone who goes to the gym two or three times a week, I know how tedious it can be to stick to the same training regime. So I tried out a couple of Barcelona’s outdoor fitness activities to see how they compare to my regular gym sessions, and it’s fair to say that changing my regime in this way gave me an equally stimulating workout and, perhaps more importantly, was also really enjoyable.
ARTE DE YOGA
Claudia Steinhauser is a trained expert in teaching yoga, having studied the spiritual art for more than seven years in India, Thailand, Italy and Spain. Her hour-long outdoor classes, which take place on Mar Bella beach and in Parc Ciutadella, are designed to give you an enjoyable and relaxing workout whilst surrounded by some of the beautiful landscapes that Barcelona has to offer. Rather than sweating it out in a stuffy studio, Claudia believes that it is better to observe the elements when exercising as it is the perfect way to relax and understand yoga. “You can listen to the sound of waves or birds in the trees,” she says, “smelling the saltwater, smelling the leaves or flowers, feeling the sand or grass underneath you, breathe in fresh air and let the sunlight warm you and embrace you.”
I’d never practised yoga before, so one recent Friday morning I went along to try out what is one of the most globally-performed spiritual workouts and I can tell you that my muscles were tested to the limit.
Having studied yoga methods in various countries, Claudia’s exercises are diverse and challenging, from simple stretches to more complex postures and routines. She conducts her sessions with professionalism and encouragement, motivating you to push yourself that little bit further if you can and enabling you to feel every part of your body work before feeling relaxed and invigorated.
The sessions begin with a number of standing poses and core exercises to provide a straight line to shaping your body before a series of arm balances, backbends and inversions open up your chest and spine, which help with circulation and body awareness. Restorative poses warm down your body at the end of the class, helping you to feel physically relaxed and providing you with mental clarity.
While testing your upper body strength and flexibility, yoga is a brilliant way to build up stamina whilst keeping body fat low and regulating your breathing. It also allows you to isolate yourself from everyday stresses in a healthy and affordable way. “Yoga is freedom,” says Claudia. “Freedom from any dogma, freedom to belong to any class, any profession, any category or pressures of society. Freedom means peace, but in order to achieve this you have to let go and give up, you have to accept yourself as you are.”
Whilst yoga may not put you through exactly the same workout as the gym, it certainly helps to mentally and physically relax the body and mind, helped in no small part by the positive and friendly atmosphere that classes such as Claudia’s offer. I would strongly recommend it to people who wish to immerse themselves in the fitness world without the pains and strains of vigorous cardiovascular exercise and with a more mentally relaxed approach.
BEACH FIT BARCELONA
Beach Fit is one of the latest fitness crazes to hit Barcelona: it’s an hour-long workout that takes place in the open-air gym that is Barceloneta beach. With both early morning and evening classes on offer, I headed down to see for myself what all the fuss is about.
The group was set up just over a year ago by Mark Castley and Andy Roberts, who wanted to create an alternative workout to the repetitive gym routine by using the beach as a fresh setting. In an interview with sports therapy company Madform, Andy claimed that “the best thing about doing it in Barcelona is being on the beach. It is very physical but we tailor it to suit different fitness levels so each person gets a good workout without feeling out of their depth, and the experience of being out in the open by the sea means that once people come along they get hooked.”
The group uses a bib system: orange for those who have done little or no physical exercise, yellow for those who tend to work out on the odd occasion and green for those who participate in regular sports activity.
The class begins with a five-minute warm-up to ensure that all muscles are ready to work and to avoid injury, before moving onto a series of cardiovascular and plyometric exercises, intended to tone up the lower body and increase endurance. Using the natural terrain of the beach, Beach Fit makes use of the slopes, benches, stairways and climbing frames to vary your workout and push your body to the limit.
“It is widely accepted that an important element of training is to keep shocking the body,” Andy Roberts told me, “keeping it guessing, so that it doesn’t stagnate into a routine and stop developing... Each session is different, which keeps it fun, interesting and stimulating and also means that you will be continually challenged both mentally and physically.”
A much-needed water break followed the initial exercises before we embarked on a 20-minute series of core strength and upper body exercises. This is no simple stroll on the beach and I felt myself aching at the thought of performing 20 more burpees and press-ups but the encouragement of Andy and his fellow instructors, along with other friendly exercisers urged me to continue. Andy feels that building up inner strength is a vital part of the workout and he has taken inspiration from military boot camps in the UK for the classes he runs.
The class finally ends with a 15 minute optional warm-down, which I strongly recommend in light of my aching limbs the day after. Stretching after exercise helps your muscles to recover quicker, avoiding any damage. I could not believe the progress that I had achieved in only one session; if you were to go regularly, I think Beach Fit could almost function like having a personal trainer, but for a fraction of the cost that a private trainer can charge.
Beach Fit also runs three-day boot camps four times a year in Tarragona whilst social events are hosted to help you interact with fellow fitness enthusiasts. You can try out a first session free of charge, and discover whether the Beach Fit regime is for you.
ANOTHER OPTION: Barcelona Hiking and Outdoors Group
Ever wanted to explore Catalunya’s hidden trails and best hiking routes but didn’t want to do it alone? Well, one idea is to join the Barcelona Hiking and Outdoors Group, which organises excursions to some of the best spots in the countryside.
Since its foundation in October 2007, over 1,500 outdoor enthusiasts have participated in events arranged by the group’s English-speaking organisers including rock climbing, hiking, trail running, canyoning and winter sports.
While it’s a great way to stay in shape, it also gives you wonderful opportunities to travel around Catalunya and make new friends at the same time. Who knows, it could be the start of a new and exciting hobby.
Arte de Yoga—www.artedeyoga.com Timetable available on website, hour sessions cost €5. Beach sessions take place in front of the Bicing 190 stand; Avinguda Litoral 72 by Mar Bella beach.
Beach Fit Barcelona—www.facebook.com/beachfitbcn. Classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 7am, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8pm. €6 per session or €40 for unlimited classes in one month. Meeting point outside Buenas Migas café on Barceloneta beach (Plaça del Mar 1).
Barcelona Hiking and Outdoors Group—www.barcelonahikinggroup.com