Keeping fit in Cambridge

Arianna Rabin discusses ways to keep fit in Cambridge which don’t involve rowing at the crack of dawn

Arianna Rabin

Yoga is a calmer way in which to keep fitLeah Wild

 Wide eyed and fresh faced, one of the first things I did in Cambridge was approach the Boat Club stand at my college fresher’s fair, and eagerly declare to the women’s captain that I’d done a little bit of rowing in school and would love to start up again – but it would be chill if I only did it casually, right?

Ah. How naive I was. There began the never-ending love-hate relationship I’ve had with the boat club for the rest of my time here. Last year, I managed to extricate myself from W1 in Lent term in an attempt to explore other fitness options, only to be sucked back in for Easter bumps.

But this year, my final year, I have finally put my foot down. Yes, I am pleased to say I have not been to the boat house at all this year. Well maybe once. Yeah okay, twice. Alright fine! So I’ve done a bit of holiday rowing – but the point is I haven’t joined a boat, and I have suddenly found myself having to actually put some thought into what to do to keep fit… Suddenly my fitness is no longer a question of how many training sessions I can get out of this week, but rather having to motivate myself to do something in the first place!

"Yes, I am pleased to say I have not been to the boat house at all this year. Well maybe once. Yeah okay, twice. Alright fine! So I’ve done a bit of holiday rowing"

Of course, at home, I’m used to this; on my gap year I realized I was gaining more weight than I wanted to be, and decided to do something about it. A friend and I started doing the NHS Couch to 5K podcast together, and I’ve got to say, if you’re a complete newbie to exercise, I would really recommend it. I hated running before that podcast, but it really does successfully ease you into being able to run a whole 5k in 30minutes over the course of just a few weeks. Doing it with a friend was super helpful too; I had to be motivated to go on a run if I knew my mate was already at the park impatiently waiting for me!

But running isn’t for everyone; it can be a bit monotonous, and it’s quite easy to get a knee or back injury if you fail to run with good technique. Studies have also shown that exercise is best for you when it not only works out your body, but also your mind, so to speak; things like martial arts, dancing, anything requiring skill, and actually thinking about what you’re doing, are better for you in the long run (no pun intended) than more repetitive exercises like running, cycling, or swimming laps.

Here in Cambridge we’re surrounded by so many opportunities to try out many niche sports for super cheap prices. I’ve tried out a few in my time here. One ballroom dancing class was more than enough to tell me that, while very fun and an excellent way to meet people since you get to chat to your partner a bit, it’s not for someone like me who has no sense of rhythm or timing!

Similarly, while I really enjoyed yoga, I definitely didn’t feel like I’d done a huge workout after a session. I’d recommend yoga, pilates, or tai chi for anyone who likes to work out more gently, holding long term poses to build muscle and leanness without even realizing – but I personally prefer really pushing myself during a short period, challenging yourself to the point where you’re completely gross and red faced and dripping sweat, and then crashing out gasping immediately afterwards.


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I’ve recently restarted kickboxing after a very long break from the last time I tried it, and I’ve found it to be so much more fun than I remembered! It’s obviously not for everyone – yes, you do actually hit people – but I’ve found the combination of a hard work out, lots of stretching, and having to actively focus on what you’re doing, the skill of trying to correct your movements, is right up my street.

There’s so many more types of keeping fit I want to give a shot: pole dancing, Zumba, other martial arts like karate or kung fu… Whatever you decide to do, your best shot of sticking with keeping fit is making it sociable: join a club, and don’t be afraid of paying for a whole term – the fact that you’ve spent the money will make you think you’d better not waste this session you don’t really feel like going to! The time is ripe to do so: new year, new you; new term, new you!