Where to Run (and Exercise) in London
Taking one’s fitness regimen on the road is a must for many travelers, and London, with its parks and attractions, certainly seems just the place to take off on a five- or 10-mile run while enjoying views of, say, the Houses of Parliament or St. Paul’s Cathedral.
That’s the beauty of running for fitness, isn’t it? Anywhere, anytime. In London, though, it turns out it’s not quite that easy.
Imagine Times Square on a weekend night with its milling throngs. Now transport all those people to London’s narrow sidewalks (some only four feet wide), and try running through that.
A runner jogs along the South Bank, across from the Houses of Parliament, safe from the city’s traffic and crowded sidewalks.
And the pedestrians have nothing on the overall traffic pattern: terrifying double-decker buses, which, at 36-plus feet long, 8-plus feet wide and 14-plus feet tall, have no margin of error; streams of bicyclists; intense and unfamiliar left-hand traffic; short blocks and long lights.
Forget focusing on your cadence and stride length. The focus needs to be on survival, with the help of what became my mantra on a recent trip: Look to the right, look to the right, look to the right.
Here are a few tips for running, and some suggestions for indoor exercise options if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Scenic Jogging: Where and When
One of the most scenic runs is along the Thames, especially along the South Bank. But you’ll have to be an early riser, said Alex Butler, a Washington, D.C., marathoner who travels to London frequently.
“When I run along the Thames, I try to be back by 8 a.m.,” said Mr. Butler, adding that many of the runners he sees in the South Bank at that hour are locals who commute by jogging, carrying backpacks with office gear and clothing. “It’s important to be out early before the tourists arrive,” he said.
Indeed, the South Bank and Southwark are home to many a tourist attraction — the London Eye, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe. Queen’s Walk (the uninterrupted-by-traffic-lights promenade right next to the river and Mr. Butler’s preferred running path) offers some of the most majestic views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben to the west as well as the Tower of London and Tower Bridge to the east. So get there early.
If early morning doesn’t work for you, parks are your best bet just about anytime (but some parks close in the evening).
I was staying in the King’s Cross area, so I had to figure out how to get to Regent’s Park, the closest park of decent size. As it turns out, one way there offers a nice run itself. The Regent’s Canal towpath is traffic-free (except for bikes), almost 10 miles long and an excellent way to experience London off the beaten tourist path.
There is a “but.” It’s not always easy to follow the path, which in one spot (Islington) disappears into a tunnel requiring the out-of-town runner to navigate the streets until the path picks up a mile down the road. Of course, I got lost.
It turned out, though, that getting lost was a happy mistake, as I found the excellent Yogahaven (more on that later) and the highly informative London Canal Museum. Did you know that in 1890s London, there were 300,000 horses, some of which helped deliver giant blocks of ice for refrigeration and ice cream -making?
Regent’s Park, which is full of jog-friendly paths surrounded by greenery and gardens, has a perimeter just short of three miles. The surface is asphalt. If you want to add a little more distance and steep elevation, continue into Primrose Hill Park to the north of Regent’s Park. In fact, Primrose Hill at 250-plus feet above sea level offers a panoramic view of London, and a plaque with a lovely William Blake quote: “I have conversed with the spiritual Sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”
Another good place to run: expansive Hyde Park, which is adjacent to Kensington Gardens to the west, and Green Park and St. James to the east. You’re certain to encounter a fair number of tourists given the park’s proximity to Buckingham Palace. Still, it’s big enough to avoid zigzag running and “sorrys,” and you can string together more than seven miles without repeating stretches.
Rainy Weather Options
If the weather is poor, there are many ace indoor options, such asYogahaven (yogahaven.co.uk) in Islington, where drop-in classes cost £16, or $23.30 at $1.50 to the pound. There I happened upon an amazing hotyoga class with Adam Husler who teaches all over London.
“Four out of five people who live or work in central London have probably taken a yoga class of some form,” Mr. Husler said. In addition to Yogahaven, he points to Indaba (indabayoga.com; £12 to £16 per drop-in class) and triyoga (triyoga.co.uk; four London locations offer several dozen classes daily of Pilates and yoga; £16 per drop-in class) as being among the biggest studios in the city and the ones most likely to have international guest teachers.
At Indaba — a four-floor studio in Marylebone that offers at least a dozen classes a day of different styles and levels — I attended a 90-minute Yogasana — Experienced class at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday. It was packed with at least 50 mostly 20-something dancer-types who made difficult arm-balancing positions look as accessible as a child’s pose. One of the most memorable parts of the experience was when the wiry, dreadlocked instructor, Stewart Gilchrist, played the Clash’s “London Calling” right before closing meditation.
Indaba是位于马里波恩的一间瑜伽工作室，总共四层，每天至少提供12节不同类型和难度的瑜伽课。一个星期四的上午10点30分，我参加了一节90分钟的Yogasana高级班课程。教室里有至少50位20多岁的学员，他们颇有舞者风范，把难度极大的手臂平衡姿势做得似乎易如反掌。这次体验的最难忘部分是，精瘦结实、梳着长发绺的教练斯图尔特·吉尔克里斯特(Stewart Gilchrist)，在冥想结束前播放了冲撞乐队(Clash)的“伦敦呼唤”(London Calling)。
If spin classes are your exercise of choice, the big dogs in town are Psycle and Boom Cycle — with two center-city locations each. I tried a 45-minute Boom Cycle class (boomcycle.co.uk; drop-in £16 per ride). With its emphasis on music and choreography over effort and athleticism, the bubbly instructor felt more like a cheerleader than a coach. Nevertheless, the dark, sweaty room was packed and the minutes flew by.
如果你的运动项目是动感单车，可以考虑去Psycle或是Boom Cycle，它们在市中心都各开了两家店。我在Boom Cycle（boomcycle.co.uk；临时上一节课的价格是16英镑）上了一节45分钟的动感单车课。这里更重视音乐和编舞，而不是力量和耐力，热情奔放的教练感觉更像是拉拉队长，而不是教练。灯光昏暗、热火朝天的健身教室里人满为患，时间过得飞快。
Its competitor, Psycle (psyclelondon.com; £20 per drop-in class), features 45- to 90-minute sessions, and is also known for its music-driven classes.
Or you can just forget about the yoga and cycling and take an early morning run — rain or no rain — along the misty Thames.