After a long summer of lazy lie-ins and languid, schedule-free days, it’s hard enough to wrench our minds back into gear … let alone our bodies. Which, for many of us, have grown just a little too fond of an easy ride (and probably way too much krassi) over the holidays!
Happily, September is the new January. It’s the time of year when we’re much more likely to stick to new resolutions and goals. Especially here in Athens. The weather is great and there’s still enough light in the mornings and early evenings to energise us into action.
There are so many superb outdoor fitness options on offer across the capital these days – from free yoga and pilates sessions to well-equipped workout stations – that you need never step foot inside a stuffy gym again (or at least until January)!
Take advantage of September’s perfect conditions to start down a rejuvenating new wellness path. To get the (fitness) ball rolling, we propose some of Athens’ most inspiring open-air options for working up a sweat … plus we share our best tips on banishing that post-holiday stupor and exercising again after a long break. No excuses!
Outdoor Fitness at Stavros Niarchos
SNFCC has truly earned itself a gold star for being an exemplary community citizen. Since opening last year, the state-of-the-art cultural hub has been looking out for us body, mind and soul with its roll-out of free civic-minded activities and events. Throughout September, you can choose from the following morning or evening exercise options in one of their fantastic outdoor spaces (and if you’ve never dabbled with holistic practices such as yoga or pilates before, it’s a really great opportunity to test them out, whatever your fitness level):
Yoga helps coordinate physical movement and mental processes through gentle practice involving breathing, asana postures, and relaxation. Participants gain peace of mind, self-control and concentration, and develop positive thinking. To attend, wear comfortable clothing and bring your own yoga mat as well as a small blanket to cover up during relaxation.
Times: Mondays and Fridays at 7.00-8.30pm; Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8.00am-9.30am. Location: Panoramic Steps.
Improve your flexibility, strength, posture, elasticity and balance at these energizing outdoor Pilates sessions that are suitable for men and women of all ages and levels. Practice takes place on a mat, using props, such as rings, resistance bands and balls. Like yoga, Pilates exercises also help to improve mood, reduce fatigue symptoms and eliminate stress. To attend, bring your own mat.
Times: Monday September 7, 21 and 28 at 8.00am-9.00am; Wednesdays at 8.00am-9am, 7.00-8.00pm and 8.00pm-9.00pm; Thursdays at 7.00-8.00pm and 8.00pm-9.00pm; and Fridays at 8.00pm-9.00pm. Location: The Great Lawn.
FITNESS & WELLNESS
For more cardio-minded types, you can access experienced fitness instructors daily, each morning and evening, at the SNFCC’s outdoor gym (between 7.30am-9.30am and 6.30pm-9.30pm) who can offer advice and training recommendations and provide a personal fitness evaluation. You can sign up for a personalised program including aerobic exercise, muscle enhancement, flexibility exercises and rehabilitation.
Location : The Running Track.
Visit www.snfcc.org for more information on all of these events.
There’s simply nothing like an early morning swim under blue skies to really put the spring into the rest of your day. Especially when surrounded by open sea and luxury boats. The 50x25m outdoor ANOG pool on the Glyfada seafront has long been a favourite for lovers of aqua-exercise. Swimming laps not only burns calories, but also provides a full-body workout and improves both your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength – with no impact shock to your body. (Where do you think so many injured athletes go? The pool!). If you swim regularly, you can expect to see progress within a month. For beginners, see if you can work towards swimming for 30 minutes continuously. The ANOG pool is open to the public six-days of the week (except Sunday), year-round (except August). As with most public aquatic facilities in Greece, you’ll need to present an up-to-date health letter from a cardiologist and dermatologist (or your GP). Entry price is €4 a visit or €40 for a month’s pool use.
Times: Monday-Friday from 9.30am-2.30pm; Saturday from 11.00am-1.00pm. Phone 210.894.4913 or visit www.anog.gr for more information.
OUTDOOR DIY GYMS
Brightly-coloured metal formations have become a welcome addition to Athens’ urban landscape. Outdoor exercise stations have sprouted in municipalities across the city, revitalizing many previously rundown parks and civic spaces. You can now find outdoor gyms everywhere from seaside promenades to next door to children’s play parks and cemeteries! In fact, there are so many places in Greece now where you can benefit from a spontaneous or planned free workout, that there’s even a website dedicated to them: www.gympark.gr
It helps if you’re a self-motivated type and at certain times, you might have to give the hairy eyeball to the groups of teens who love larking around on the equipment, but these outdoor stations are great for mobilizing those who don’t feel comfortable in the fishbowl environment of an image-conscious workout class.
If it’s motivation you lack, the dynamic duo behind Street Workout, Aggeliki and Tonia, have created a lively community of open-air exercise lovers, who participate in regular outdoor workouts run by qualified trainers who’ll keep you on your toes and stop you from getting bored with your routine (they also do life-coaching along with a whole raft of more tailored physical activities, motivational tournaments and games). For €10, you can join in one of their 60-minute small-group workouts (for groups of up to 12) at either of their two Street Workout bases:
Downtown – Fokianos Sports Park, Leoforos Vasilissis Olgas 1 (opposite Panathenaic Stadium) is equipped with facilities such as weightlifting racks, TRX handles, pushup bars, dip stations, medicine balls, BOSU, heavy ropes, a Pilates studio (Reformer, Wunda chair) in a peaceful setting surrounded by trees and greenery.
South – Sports Center Vouliagmeni, Αgiou Georgiou 2. Training sessions in a nature-oriented environment usually begin at 9am.
Telephone +30 6937130974/+30 6972402562 or visit www.streetworkoutathens.gr for more information on booking and packages.
Athens may be famed for being a concrete jungle, but we’re surrounded by sea and mountains (all harbouring magnificent fauna and flora and even the odd archeological marvel!). Walking through nature has to be one of the most pleasant ways to get fit. With all that fresh air, stunning scenery and feel-good endorphins, you barely register that it’s exercise at all! Here are three of our favourite Athens hikes to get you started:
Hymettus (Ymittos or Imittos)
Less than a quarter of an hour’s drive from downtown Athens, await the walkable delights of Mount Hymettus, a pine-clad elevation famous for its thyme-scented honey, impressive caves, historic monasteries and many marked footpaths. During your ascent, you’ll be rewarded with a stellar view: the port of Piraeus on one side; the Athens airport on the other.
The mountain bulge of Parnitha, located 35km from the city centre, to the north of Athens, is Hiker’s Heaven. One of Attica’s most popular alpine destinations, Parnitha offers up a vast network of tracks and paths within its National Park (catering for many altitudes, ages and abilities); rich flora and fauna; and majestic views. You’ll admire Mount Aegaleo to the south, Penteli to the southeast, and dizzying sea views from the various summits.
You can wander for hours amid the beautiful and relaxing landscape of fir and pine forests – and if you’re lucky, even encounter a few deer.
Above beautiful Lake Vouliagmeni exists one of the Athens Riviera’s most popular walking tracks – the lovely eucalyptus-covered peninsula of Faskomilia Hill stretching between Vouliagmeni and Varkiza and providing refreshing sea breezes and constant panoramic views of the Attica coastline and Saronic Gulf. Loyal fans range from post-prandial Sunday strollers; to daily dog walkers and local joggers. Park near the Vouliagmeni Suites Hotel to find your way onto the beginning of the 10 kilometres of meandering tracks leading from the lake to Faskomilia Hill.
Some Helpful Hiking sites:
www.eosathinon.gr (Hellenic Alpine Club of Athens)
Getting your pedal power on while enjoying a beautiful view and a breeze in your hair is an exhilarating way to get fit and atone for those summer excesses.
Athens offers some superb coastal routes for cyclists. One of the most popular is the 13.km ride from the Peace and Friendship (SEF) Stadium in Pireaus out to bustling Glyfada on the Athens Riviera. You can park your car at Karaiskaki Stadium Parking or catch the train to SEF Stadium (Ilektrikos – green line) and if you don’t feel up to the return journey, you can always catch a tram back from Glyfada.
For less experienced cyclists, start in Glyfada, and continue your two-wheeled journey by the sea for as long as you feel like, heading for Kavouri, Vouliagmeni or Varkiza. On this stretch, you’ll be spoilt for choice for lovely seafront cafes and restaurants to break up your ride at.
Alternatively, if you want more of a challenge, catch a tram with your bike to Floisvos marina and cycle the 37km along the seafront from Floisvos to beautiful Eden beach in Anavyssos – another great spot to reward yourself with a swim and coffee. Don’t own a bike? You can join one of the brilliant organized bike tours in Athens put on by private operators such as www.solebike.eu . Or make use of the expanding bike rental scheme, Athens Easy Bike, which operates in downtown Athens from Technopolis in Gazi and also has new stations in Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni, with more in the pipeline. Residents or visitors to Athens can loan out an electronically-controlled bicycle for up to 3 hours by using a pre-paid card system. The first 20 minutes are free, and every half hour afterwards costs 50c. To find out more, visit:
INSIDER’S TOP TIPS FOR GETTING OVER THE SUMMER SLUMP
If finding motivation is a real problem, begin with something easy. For example, instead of a Zumba class, head outdoors for a light jog or brisk walk. Just get moving. After you get a well-being boost from that, it will be far easier to return to healthier habits.
If a full-on workout seems too daunting just yet, then commit to 5-10 minutes of daily exercise. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. And after those first 5 minutes, you may well surprise yourself by how much you want to keep going.
Make a Date with Exercise
Clear your schedule and make a specific time at least three times a week to exercise. You’re less likely to find an excuse to get out of it!
That Post-Exercise High
The worst thing about exercise is psyching yourself up beforehand. Refocus instead on how good you’re going to feel afterwards. Barring any injuries, have you ever actually regretted working out?
Getting up earlier after your body has grown used to lie-ins is tough, no question. So pack your gym bag or yoga outfit the night before and put it next to your bed where you’ll see it first thing. Or if you’re more of an evening exerciser, place your bag next to your desk at work. It will be much harder to bail out.
It’s much harder to pull out of an exercise intention if you have someone else to answer to. So enlist a friend, colleague or relative to participate in your workout routine. You’ll have more fun that way too.
Mix it Up
Varying your exercise options instead of sticking to the same thing every week will definitely enhance your fitness journey.
Sign up for an Event
There are literally dozens of annual outdoor sporting events held in Athens every month: from the more profile ones like the Athens Authentic Marathon and the Spetsathlon in Spetses, to charity races and moonlight runs around the Acropolis. Commit yourself and some like-minded friends to an achievable future goal such as a 5km run, 10km walk or 2.5km swim at one of these events – and watch your motivation to exercise soar!
(check out sites like http://www.runningreece.com/en/calendar for information on forthcoming events).
Insider Weekly, September 6, 2017.