September 23rd is National Fitness day. It’s particularly important this year because local authorities have seen a huge drop in physical activity amongst children in recent months, due to the coronavirus lockdown (and we suspect this is also the case for grown-ups working from home). That’s why Active Oxfordshire have launched their Active 60 campaign to support families in getting active for 60 minutes every day. We’re unofficially joining in by celebrating the surprising variety of opportunities around the county to get moving...
Eyes on the prize
Improving your fitness levels is well-publicised as an important aspect of physical and mental health, but it can be difficult to get motivated to start. Fortunately there are many organisations offering an extra incentive to make the prospect more appealing!
In recognition of National Fitness Day, the gym is opening up classes and facilities to try for free, for one day only. The programme has been designed to accommodate people of all ages and abilities, with indoor, outdoor and online options available.
Families in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington can access free and heavily reduced sporting opportunities, by signing up for a free FAST (Families Active Sporting Together) card. The card unlocks discounts at leisure centres in the Cherwell district, on activities including kayaking, table tennis and clip’n’climb.
Designed by a current Oxford University student, Stepshop is a new app which offers discounts at local shops based on how much you walk. It counts your steps (without using GPS, so it won’t eat your phone’s battery) then converts them into points to earn the discounts - so you can look after yourself and your bank balance in one fell swoop. Sign up to their newsletter to be the first to hear when the app launches.
It doesn’t have to be a chore!
If you’re put off by memories of old-school PE sessions, why not try something more adventurous? Your sense of achievement from learning something new, plus the added bonus of meeting new people, may well mean you don’t even notice your heart rate increasing! Despite its distance from the sea, Oxfordshire has a lively boating and watersports scene, for example - check out Oxford Sail Training for lessons in sailing, windsurfing and more. Or pretend you’re training to be a knight, and try horse riding! Pony Pursuits offer affordable riding (from £3 for a taster) in Shotover, Wood Farm and Risinghurst. Or head to Rebound Revolution in Bicester, to enjoy the simple (yet surprisingly good-for-you) joy of bouncing on trampolines...
Proving that sport and creativity can go hand-in-hand, Dancin' Oxford provide opportunities to express yourself with a boogie. Their Fam Jam sessions are just £1 per family for kids aged up to 11 and their grown-ups, and their festivals every Spring, Summer and Autumn inspire people to try dance, through classes and captivating performances. The next festival is a virtual one, going live in October.
If you’ve been looking for opportunities to help in the community, Goodgym offers a great way to combine this with improving your fitness, through tasks such as running to deliver prescriptions to people who are housebound or self-isolating, litter picks and tree planting.
All the gear…
There are dozens of facilities around the county where you can find a form of exercise to suit you - they’re all listed here.
For all the second hand sporting equipment you could need, your first port of call should be our Sport sale page. Currently, it features flippers, ski boots and ice skates, amongst the hundreds of golf balls - proving our point about the endless variety of activities out there to try!
If you need something specific, Oxfordshire has a good choice of specialist sports shops. Trysports in Bicester has a comprehensive range of equipment, and is something of a destination for Oxfordshire’s hockey players, since they have a ‘practice pad’ for judging hockey sticks before you buy them. There’s a great range to be found at Blue Blood Sports in the Covered Market - they have a range of equipment for all kinds of sports, as well as supplying personalised kit for teams. If you’re planning to hike, walk, camp or fish any time soon, Go Outdoors on Abingdon Road has you covered.
You will find sports groups and venues to be friendly and welcoming, but there are some places that have gone the extra mile to ensure everyone can be included.
OXSRAD is a fantastic and unusual resource. It describes itself as a "welcoming place where all abilities come together to enjoy sports and recreation". OXSRAD stands for Oxford & District Sports and Recreation Association for the Disabled, and is open and welcoming to all. It has a full gym and classes for a range of abilities and fitnesses, has a sensory room and a spa bath with disabled shower and hoist. Almost all the gym equipment is adapted so people in wheelchairs can get the most out of sessions.
Similarly, Every Body Studio on St Clements was created with inclusivity at its heart, so all staff undergo diversity and inclusion training. The studio hosts sessions in yoga, pilates and barre, with a focus on body positivity. Currently, they are also offering concession prices for NHS workers.
Cycling has enjoyed a lockdown-induced comeback, and Wheels For All do fabulous work to make the sport more inclusive. Every Friday, they host a group of people age 16+ with a variety of needs, for an affordable, fun session. There is a wide range of bikes available during the session including a wheelchair transporter, several tricycles, a quad, side by sides, a tandem, hand cycles, e-bike and several 2 wheel bikes.
For people who are self-isolating or shielding at the moment, online classes have boomed since the lockdown. While sports groups are exempt from the ‘rule of six’ for meeting in person, many classes and practices remain available online, so you can enjoy Zumba, yoga and other fitness activities from the safety of home. Just head to our virtual events column!