THIS week, I discovered Edinburgh has a place called Granny’s Green Steps. Who knew? There is also, of course, Playfair Steps. And Castle Wynd Steps. And Jacob’s Ladder.
I climbed them all, running. Sometimes more than once; sometimes jumping up, two at a time, followed by a squat; or lunging three at a time. Who needs a gym when you have Edinburgh’s many, many steps?
That, of course, is the theory behind Rat Race’s Urban Gym. We have all the equipment we need to keep fit at our trainertips – benches, bollards, stairs – with the added benefit of the fresh air and (quite literally) breathtaking scenery. The treadmill and weights suddenly begin to look very dull when you’re doing 20 press-ups – one foot balanced on a bollard, one in the air – outside St Giles’ Cathedral. Classes take place in cities all over the UK – the Edinburgh one is run by Chris Allan, an energetic, charismatic, fully qualified personal trainer. They’re circuit-based and multi-ability so, for instance, the fitter group will complete sprints up and down a hill then drop for ten press-ups while the less fit group catches up, and they’re a fun, sociable bunch. You don’t need any special equipment or clothing either; just a pair of trainers, says Allan, and a can-do attitude.
We start in Castle Terrace with a dynamic warm-up then it’s straight into some steps before we hit a row of benches for tricep dips and push-ups. It’s fast and frenetic, with little time to draw breath before we move on to more steps, then run down the Mound, cut through the National Galleries of Scotland and lunge back up Playfair Steps.We run under North Bridge, along Market Street, and then up Jacob’s Ladder – ambitiously, two steps at a time to begin with, then slowing down to an eventual stumble, arriving on Regent Road wheezing, legs wobbling, gasping for breath.
The route varies every time, so you never know what to expect, except that you’ll be pushed to your fitness limits. Every so often Allan will get a little glint in his eye and set an individual challenge: timing one of us to sprint to the top of Jacob’s Ladder (it’s further than you think) and another to race him up the hill at New Street. Now and again we stop and drop to the ground for ten push-ups (gloves are optional as grubby pavements are an occupational hazard) before we’re off again.
The whole thing taps into the trend for increasingly adventurous workouts. For many, the traditional gym session is rapidly losing its appeal and, in its place, people want to exercise with a goal in sight. With this in mind, Rat Race has introduced a membership scheme, the premium version of which provides twice-weekly Urban Gym sessions as well as entry to all the Rat Race adventure events throughout the country. This includes the two biggies (The Wall – a 65-mile ultra marathon between Carlisle and Newcastle – and Coast to Coast – crossing Scotland by bike, foot and boat over a 100-mile course) as well as Survival of the Fittest, an urban obstacle course around Edinburgh on 21 October. Urban Gym can get you in shape for all of them. So, still think the treadmill looks interesting?
Try Urban Gym for free by signing up at www.ratrace.com/training.aspx. Membership costs from £29 a month, plus a £30 joining fee (www.ratrace.com/members.aspx).
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west