I love all sorts of exercise but I have never managed to get into running. So why am I rushing out on a cold, dark, rainy night to catch a bus to take me to STAY Central Hotel on Cowgate to join a running club? Well until about 2pm I was enjoying a day in, drinking tea, wearing leisure wear, checking my emails…….
14:00 – I check my Healthy Edinburgh email account. It’s supposed to forward to my personal mail but some seem to slip through the crack. Sure enough there is a new message from Holyrood PR – a press release about a new fitness programme at STAY Central Hotel. The smart, upbeat hotel does not have a gym so they came up with a brilliant idea – they embraced the ‘Urban Gym’ concept and now offer outdoor fitness ‘clubs’; run by qualified fitness instructors. There are several 1 hour classes each week and include running, ‘urban fitness’ and cycling (for a small fee you can hire a bike from the hotel). The best part…. these classes are FREE!! Yes FREE – not just for the hotel guests but for locals as well. Of course, I’m intrigued. A hotel offering free outdoor fitness classes is just the thing that makes me love being in Edinburgh and most certainly helps Edinburgh’s image as a healthy city.
14:53 – I reply to the email saying ‘Thank you so much for sharing this – it really is just what ‘Healthy Edinburgh’ is all about! And, ‘I’d love to come along’ so I can write it up for my blog, when is the next class?
15:34 – I get an answer – the Running Club is TONIGHT, at 6:30pm. Cycling and Urban fitness are on the weekend, but I have friends visiting from overseas….. I’d really prefer to do the Urban fitness as I’ve never really run before – it makes me breathe funny, I’m SURE I look funny….. but I really should do one of the classes…..
16:00 – I’ve decided – I’m going!!! I call the hotel to find out more and put my name down on tonight’s list. I’m so glad I called because I was reassured that it was a fun run – perfect for beginners with intervals of running/jogging and walking.
17:00 – I have to catch my bus in 40 minutes and I just realised I have no idea what to wear!!! I guess my bright white cross-trainers that have only been used indoors for aerobic classes will get their first exposure to the elements; yoga pants, ice-breaker thermal, and my hi-vis cycling jacket completed the ensemble. A last minute decision to grab my ‘Buff’ (fleece tube that can be a scarf, a hood, a hat…) was a moment of genius because…..
17:40 – I’m sitting on the bus and it’s RAINING!!! I made the decision to go, I got all dressed up so no rain was going to stop me!! (was it????). NO! My cycling jacket didn’t have a hood but – I had my BUFF!!! In a matter of seconds and with a few twists and turns, my Buff was turned from a neck warmer into a VERY unflattering beanie – but at least my head would stay dry.
18:30 – I arrive and instantly love the cool, edgy, urban feel of the reception area. A big communal table with boxes of board games and access to drinks and snacks create a warm, social area – great for hanging out on a dark rainy night ….. But, the 8 of us who gathered for the running club are not put off by the weather and head out into the courtyard for a warm-up. Our leader, Nicola makes us all feel at ease while she gets an idea of everyone’s fitness levels.
Our run takes us through car free paths around the meadows and is a combination of running (or jogging in my case) and walking. Nicola gives us a goal to run to (end of the path, or to the bus shelter) and we can all reach our goal at our own pace, then all catch up as we take a short walk before the next run. It was a group of mixed experience but Nicola did a fantastic job of looking out for everyone – making sure those at the front didn’t get too far ahead – but could still ‘go for it’, and pacing the back (me :D) so we didn’t feel left behind. Her motivation helped me run that little bit further each time; without Nicola’s encouragement I definitely would have stopped and walked most of the way. It wasn’t easy though, most of the cardio workouts I do are low or even no impact, and as I was jogging along, listening to my heavy breathing, I realised this was probably the first time I have ever worked out WITHOUT MUSIC!!
But, it felt great to jog along, all on my own effort – just me and the road – no equipment needed and I loved seeing so many other people out on the paths as well. I also loved the social aspect of running with the group. There was time to chat when we were in our walking intervals and a bit of chat while running actually made the time pass more quickly. While chatting I found out one of the runners was also a manager at the hotel so I asked how these fit clubs came about. She told me that the hotel management is very keen on fitness and even though the hotel had no space for a gym, they still wanted to provide guests, staff (and locals) with a way to workout. If there isn’t an organised activity on, guests can still hire bikes and rollerblades – to explore the city and get a bit of a workout.
19:30 – As we make our way back towards the Cowgate, we approach a steep flight of steps that descend onto the Grassmarket. As I stop to admire the view of the Castle, I realise where I am.. THE VENNEL!! I have seen so many amazing pictures of these steps and the view from them, but didn’t know exactly where they were!!! I only had my wee camera stashed in the back pocket of my cycling jacket – in the dark and rain this is the only shot I could get. Now that I know where to find The Vennel – I will be back!! I have to pick up the pace a bit to catch up with the group but we all make it back into the courtyard for a final cool-down and stretch.
I’ll definitely go back to STAY Central for a run and to try the other activities. These are free to the public, well organised and fun – so go on and have a go!!
Or for more options to run with groups you can also check out meetup.com – groups such as the Edinburgh Healthy Socialising Group also do fun runs.