Where to play sport in London
Our guide to sports to try in London is fit for purpose, even when the weather isn’t
Hamstead Heath Pools
London Aquatics Centre
As the Olympics swing around again, we look to the Queen Elizabeth Park where Zaha Hadid, the late great architect, was the genius behind the aquatic centre’s standout curves. The pool is surprisingly accessible and easy to join. It's part of the Olympic legacy to make a medallist's workout affordable to all.
Across all of London on Saturdays, there's a simple fitness formula: 1) Pitch up at the park, 2) Run a 5k route, 3) Get chip timed 4) Go next week and try and beat your time. Londoner’s runners can be seen filtering in a steady stream through Dulwich, Greenwich, Hamstead Heath, Richmond Park and more. The Park Run project's a well-oiled machine with many participants. Just this once, follow the crowd.
Maybe this is one yoga article too many. Or maybe you can see very cool benefits of going into eagle whilst perched on the top floor. You’ll be able to balance better with a further horizon to focus on than just the mirror at the end of the gym. You might even find it- buzzword alert- inspirational. The very tall Walkie Talkie building has yoga in its indoor 'sky garden'- filled with tropical trees- and it's on every day except Monday. Not tall enough? The Shard also has a spot of yoga with yogasphere.
Anyone for tennis? Watching it is pure British summer fun: Murray's a record-breaker at Queens and our Wimbledon champion. Tennis on centre court is gladiatorial but starting the sport doesn't have to be scary. With free courts around the capital it's easy to pitch up for a knockabout. To avoid saggy nets and scraggy surfaces try Clapham Common's courts, which are recently refurbished and have a very reasonably hourly rate.
Bouldering is a far freer form of climbing where there is no belaying partner, no ropes or trussing up in harnesses because you climb to a much lower height above a padded floor. All you need is a dusting of chalk on your palms. The very justified fear of falling, even onto a foam mat, gets your adrenaline pumping. Warm up properly and move gracefully, keeping close to the wall like your inner lizard. Grasping the next handhold on an overhang is a serious rush. Vauxwall has the best pun and a great selection of walls under the rumbling railway arches to get started on.
Stand Up Paddleboard
The fibreglass board is easier to balance on than you think. With paddle in hand, canoe-style, this sport can be done by anyone. Stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) is easy to start and improves your core like pilates. Moving quiet and slow, you’ll be able to see things others miss. Once you've mastered it the next thing to try is paddleboard yoga- but you’ll look more relaxed just swanning around on London's canals. Get more information from SUP 360.
Flip Out Wandsworth
Just a hop, flip and a jump away for central London, the capital’s largest indoor trampoline facility has everything your inner stunt man needs. Flip Out Wandsworth opened this year for snowboarders and trampoline enthusiasts and has a foam pit for snowboard tricks, indoor parkour and wall-to-wall trampolines.
It’s been done for years in Hyde park- bring a bit of Venice Beach to your work out, short shorts optional. Various hires and clubs skate around the area. London Friday Night Skate and Sunday Stroll gives you a bit of a tour.
A great glute work out and not as naff as you think when you consider it’s indoor partner is…
Roller derby is a US import and currently it's one just for girls. Aggressive, fast, a bit niche. Girls race around a circuit and points are scored for catching up- but be warned, sharp elbows, helmets and knee pads are all essential kit- this is a violent competitive sport. See the London Roller Girls for frightening inspiration.