The Rio Olympics are nearly over, and it is time to reflect and be inspired by the world class athletes on show, especially after such a strong showing from Team GB.
The government report ‘Inspiring A Generation’ after the London Olympics concluded “it appears that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games had an impact on motivating some people and groups to get more involved in sports”, and it’s likely these Olympic games will have the same effect.
Getting sporty needn’t have a world-class price tag, either. We asked triathlete and leisure expert Rose Newton for her top tips. “There are plenty of fun sports and activities for the whole family that are absolutely free,” she enthuses, and it begins with getting on your bike.
Tour de Olympics
While you might not feel up to riding Bradley Wiggins’s gruelling Box Hill Olympic circuit, there are plenty of safe cycle routes you and your family can get out on. The National Cycle Network passes through every major town in the UK, along quiet roads and streets, traffic-free woodland tracks, canal towpaths and disused railway lines. Most people live within a couple of miles of the network. You can search for your nearest route and plan a fun, healthy bike ride that even the littlest member of your family can enjoy.
Fast becoming a national institution, Parkruns are free, weekly, timed runs held at 9am on Saturdays all over the UK, and around the world. Rose says: “All you have to do is register online for a barcode, print it off and take it with you on the day. You can run or walk with family, baby in the pushchair and the dog!” With an average run time of 27 minutes, a Parkrun is a sociable and manageable way to build up regular exercise.
You may have noticed gym machines springing up in your local park, in which case, go and make use of them. Many councils, in an anti-couch-potato drive, supply outdoor gyms that are free to use, available 24/7 and often conveniently situated near the playgrounds in parks. No more excuses about not having money for the gym.
Plan an assault course for your kids
Creating an assault course around the local playground gives your kids a great workout and is good for building up stamina and balance. Watch out for little children, though. “Start at the swings, then over the climbing frame, then down the slide, then across the monkey bars. Time it or race with a friend,” Rose suggests. You could also hide some mini-eggs to include a treasure hunt.
Learn to samba
There has been loads about Brazil on the telly, so why not embrace the music, colours and carnival vibe, and learn the sassy Brazilian national street dance, the samba? Samba is great for cardiovascular health, weight loss and putting a smile on your face. Study a YouTube tutorial, master the basic steps, and sway away to the Latin beat.
Try a leisure freebie
Being a gym member is pricey and research shows that we waste £480 million a year on unused memberships, so lots of leisure centres offer a free one- to three-day ‘try before you buy’ pass. Rose says, “Quite a few centres will offer this and then try and sign you up afterwards, but there’s no obligation.”
Heptathlon in the park
Recreate the thrill of Olympic track and field events by organising your very own mini Olympic heptathlon. Assemble a crowd of family and friends in a field or local park. You’ll need very little equipment apart from a decent long tape measure, bamboo cane for a javelin, a cricket ball for shot put and rope for two people to hold (high jump). Measure out 100 and 200 metres for running races (probably best to leave out hurdles) and send everyone running twice around the perimeter to represent the 800 metres.
Pet show jumping (yes, really)
Not many of us are lucky enough to own a horse, but you could recreate the excitement of the Olympic equestrian ring in your own back garden. Set up a course of home-made jumps, ramps, pop-up tubes and hoops for the family dog (or even your chicken) to practise their agility. Expect the cat to be unimpressed.