Higher Tone

Variety is the spice of life and the fuel for fitness


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Get fit in Roath Park

Roath Park in Cardiff is the ideal setting to kick-start your January fitness regime and keep you motivated all year long. This popular park retains its classic Victorian charm and attracts runners and fitness enthusiasts from all over Cardiff. The vast playing fields, pleasure gardens and stunning 2.1km running track around Roath Lake makes this park the perfect setting for outdoor based exercise classes. The Terra Nova Cafe and Penylan Community Centre also provide leisure facilities for indoor classes, especially during the winter months. I will endeavour to introduce you to a number of different and unique classes based in Roath Park which were highly recommended to me from a variety of people committed to fitness in Cardiff.


roath park

Roath Park is an idyllic setting for an exercise class or jog.

  

Outdoor Fitness Ltd

When: Monday and Wednesday at 18:15, Friday at 18: 15 for high intensity threshold training.

Where: Roath Rec playing fields, meet at the Penylan Library and Community Centre.

This challenging outdoor fitness programme combines cross-training with military training techniques and endurance work.  Every class is different, but the aim is to provide a general level of fitness which could be applied to any sport.  The ability groups are not split up, instead everyone works together so you could have an unfit 40-year-old training next to a young athlete.  The instructor will demand different numbers of repetitions from people depending on whether they have a basic, intermediate, advanced or elite level of fitness and experience.  Expect sprint intervals, military style burpees, planks, press-ups and rolling around in the dark and mud.

“This class will push you to your absolute limit and beyond.” – Catherine Morgan

Outdoor Fitness held their first classes in Roath Park in 2008 and since then the sessions have grown in popularity and expanded to other parks in Cardiff including Pontcanna playing fields, Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd and Morgan Jones  Park in Caerphilly.  The community has grown to more than 100 members and there are a number of affiliated running clubs and triathlon cycling and swimming groups.  The high intensity threshold training (HITT) session is based on the Tabata method of short, maximum intensity exercise bursts with a short recovery period.  This workout will hit your anaerobic threshold hard and provide effective cardiovascular training.  A typical class will only last between 10 to 20 minutes, but it will be some of the hardest minutes of your life.

“Outdoor fitness classes are designed to build self-esteem, confidence and also add a social aspect to your workout.  Our ethos is to have fun whilst getting fit.” – Jeff Webb Managing Director of Outdoor Fitness

Exercising outdoors adds variety and energy to your workout and it has been proved to boost levels of endorphins and serotonin during and after exercise.  It can be extremely invigorating and place you in an almost euphoric state.  The Roath Park Outdoor Fitness classes attract a high standard of people, but the instructors make sure to cater for all fitness ability levels and the first class is free.

Fit 4 Two and Buggy Fit 

When: Monday and Friday at 10:00 for Buggyfit, Saturday 9:30 for Fit Chicks Bootcamp

Where: Meet at the children’s play area by Roath Park Lake

Website: http://www.fit4two.org.uk/index.html

buggy fit

A buggyfit class in action next to Roath Park Lake

“I don’t know why anyone would want to train inside.  Roath Park is the perfect location.” – Clare Wheeler, Founder of Fit 4 Two

The Buggy Fit class is a total body workout, combining cardio with resistance band exercises, core training and a specific focus on pelvic floor muscles.  It is ideal for new mothers who want to get back into shape and still spend time with their child as the babies are brought along for the ride.  The Saturday morning bootcamp is a more challenging session which includes boxing, kettlebells and lots of abs work.  Roath Park is the ideal setting because the gradient is varied and there are a number of little hills and benches for stretching.  There are so many different routes in the surrounding area, so you could never get bored.

These classes are designed for women who want to focus on their fitness before, during and especially after pregnancy.  Fit 4 Two has been incredibly popular, with the average attendance at 15 to 25 per class, sometimes reaching as high as 35.    New mothers are encouraged to wait at least 6 weeks after a normal delivery and 10-12 weeks after a Caesarean section before they start to exercise, but this completely depends on the individual.  It is best to build your fitness level back up slowly and steadily after giving birth and not rush into a demanding routine.

“I am passionate about helping new mums get back into shape and encouraging them to feel better about themselves.” – Clare Wheeler

Bootcamp Pilates

When: Everyday except Sunday, see timetable:

http://balance-fitness.weebly.com/timetable.html

Where: Terra Nova Cafe next to Roath Park Lake

Balance1

The Terra Nova Cafe is a beautiful venue for a pilates bootcamp class

This unique class combines tough kettlebells strength and endurance training with the flexibility and toning elements of Pilates.  The founder of Balance Fitness, Michael Jones, describes the session as combining the Eastern and Western principles in a mind and body pursuit.  The high number of repetitions associated with kettlebells training really improves endurance and cardiovascular fitness levels.  Michael Jones decided to integrate kettlebells with pilates to combine two different ideologies and demonstrate how different disciplines can compliment eachother.

“My classes are designed to help people workout more intelligently” – Michael Jones

The Terra Nova Cafe is an idyllic and tranquil setting for an exercise class with a beautiful view over Roath Park Lake.  The bootcamp class was brought to a close with a number of toning and balancing Pilates moves, designed to test core strength and flexibility.  Michael Jones is looking to add more of a social and community element to the classes both at the Terra Nova Cafe and The Discovery Pub as group classes can have a real sense of camaraderie.  He has 12 years of experience in personal training and fitness instruction in Cardiff and was incredibly helpful with technique throughout the session.

The Terra Nova Cafe is also home to a Yoga for wellbeing class.

Nordic Walking 

When: Everyday except Sunday, see timetable:

http://balance-fitness.weebly.com/timetable.html

Where: Meet at the Terra Nova Cafe in Roath Park or St Isans Road
roath
Nordic walking is a form of high-intesnity walking with specially designed poles.  The concept and technique were developed as a form of off-season ski-training activity.  This sport really helps to build upper body strength and improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Balance Fitness offers a number of Nordic walking classes and founder Michael Jones is hoping to build more of a community and social feel around the activity.

“Nordic walking is such a great group sport. I’m really trying to build a community around the classes in Roath Park.” – Michael Jones

Penylan Library and Community Centre

This community centre can be found at the end of the Roath Rec playing field and it offers classes ranging from Zumba to spinning.  A full list of all the exercise classes can be found here:

http://apps2.cardiff.gov.uk/leisureactivities/new_brochure_online.php?lang=ENG&brochure_id=75

Fancy a run?

Roath Park is the perfect location for a 5km run as the terrain is fairly flat and there is a track around the playing fields, through the gardens and around Roath Park Lake.  The route is fairly popular and you will have the chance to take in some stunning scenery.

Here is a map of a suggested route:



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Interview with yoga instructor, Joanna Jakubowska

Joanna discusses the healing power of yoga and tantric meditation in Thailand over herbal tea at Chapter Arts Centre. 

Joanna at Chapter Arts Centre

Where abouts in Cardiff do you teach yoga?

I teach classes here at Chapter Arts Centre and also at Laguna Health Club in Park Plaza Hotel.  At Chapter the class is mainly focused on the Hatha Yoga style, whereas at Laguna I teach various classes such as Kundalini, Sivananda and Hatha Yoga.  I have lots of different sessions at Laguna, so I can cater for a more diverse range of ability levels.  Hatha yoga uses bodily postures (asanas) and breath exercises (pranayama) with a goal of bringing about a healthy body and peaceful mind.  Kundalini yoga is about awakening kundalini energy and connecting the individual with the divine consciousness.  Kundalini involves more simple postures, but they are repeated many times in order to awaken the Kundalini energy in the spine.  I also teach various Kundalini mantras, such as ‘Sa Ta Na Ma’ and also other mantras from hindu and buddhist traditions.

What is your yoga philosophy?

Yoga operates on three different levels: physical, spiritual and mental.  The body part is important because it is essential that you satisfy your basic needs first before you look at other levels of development.  If you have a headache, then you will find meditation and concentration extremely difficult.  You need to feel comfortable and healthy in order to have a productive session.  For me, yoga is all about love and kindness.  If you have everything, but no one to share it with, then what is the point? You need first to have a full understanding of yourself, and then you can share what you have learnt.

How did you first get into yoga?

For me, yoga was the key to recovery from a serious injury.  I was a semi-professional 100m runner at Poznan University, but I broke the ligaments in both of my knees because of intensive training.  I was told that I should not do any exercise at all, but instead I bought yoga books and started to teach myself.  Yoga worked absolute miracles with my legs and it really helped to restore my energy and balance.  I was eventually able to get back into running because I wanted to prove to myself that injuries would not stop me.  Now, yoga is more about fitness and fun, not struggling and fighting.

Where did you train to become a yoga instructor?

I did a Yoga Point course in Nashik, India and it was completely different to what I was expecting.  The day started with singing at 4:30 in the morning.  This introduced us to all the different types of mantras.  I was sceptical of this at the beginning, but once I realised why we were doing it, I began to understand how important it is.  We would do at least five hours of physical practice a day and there were also lectures about yoga philosophy and the more physiological aspects.  All the 40 or so students would volunteer at the local college doing whatever they needed.  I usually love walking barefoot, but I couldn’t there because the whole area was infested with cobras.

The yoga school in Nashik, India

Have you been on many yoga retreats?

Last winter I went to Koh Phangan in Southern Thailand for a tantric yoga retreat.  The Full Moon party made the island infamous, but we didn’t get involved.  Instead we would meditate for up to ten hours everyday.  Tantric yoga is based on chakra energy and controlling sexual energy.  The tantric doctrine teaches that energy should be absorbed, rather than lost, so men are not supposed to have an orgasm.  There are many similarities with Chinese Taoism beliefs.

Koh Phagnan makes an idyllic setting for a yoga retreat

Where did you start teaching?

I started teaching at the ACT Centre where I ran six to eight week courses, rather than drop-in sessions.  This was easier for me, because I got to know everyone really well and I could design the classes according to ability.  Drop in sessions are more difficult because you cannot make a definite plan for the class.  I started at Chapter in February this year.  I teach one on one yoga sessions at the Cardiff Buddhist Centre.  I also practice aromatherapy, reflexology and reiki in Pontcanna.

Do you think there is a strong yoga community in Cardiff?

Cardiff Buddhist Centre has a great atmosphere, so potentially there.  Cardiff really needs one person to gather all the smaller group and studios together and create a tight-knit and supportive community.


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Interview with the founder of Yoga Fever, Catherine Kelleher

Catherine Kelleher shares her desire to promote the benefits of yoga to keen sportspeople and to connect more deeply with the Cardiff yoga community.

 “Yoga Fever does not just refer to the fact that we practice hot yoga. ‘Fever’ also represents the intense passion we feel for yoga as a discipline and a way of bringing together the Cardiff community.”

Catherine Kelleher

When and why did you first set up Yoga Fever?

I took voluntary redundancy from my job about three or four years ago and after realising that there was nowhere in Wales to practise hot yoga, I decided to set up Cardiff’s very first hot yoga studio.  I first started to regularly practise yoga in 1997 with Yogacharini Kalavathi Devi in Pontypridd.  When I made the decision to set up Yoga Fever, I completed the ‘Hot Yoga Teacher Training Program’ through the YogaHaven training school based in the UK. This involved an exceptional standard of teaching from Allie Hill and Toni Roberts.

We hired a dojo in Pontcanna three or four years ago and Yoga Fever quickly started to grow from there.  The addition of yoga instructor, Ellie La-Trobe-Bateman, was integral to the Yoga Fever team, especially when we moved to the Windsor Place studio.  We were able to provide many different workshops and build a strong yoga community hub from Windsor Place because it was so central.  It was also a great advertising campaign and essential for developing the awareness and visibility of yoga in Cardiff because so many people used to walk past every day.

Why has Yoga Fever moved from Windsor Place to a new studio at Richards Place in Splott?

Unfortunately the studio in Windsor Place was very expensive to run and it was not a viable option to stay there.  Our new studio is much smaller, as we can only hold up to 14 students in each class.  I prefer teaching in smaller groups to ensure that each student receives some attention.  It should be a good thing for Yoga Fever to move away from the city centre.  This is because there was such a big mix of different people wanting to try hot yoga that less regulars could come every week like they had in Pontcanna.  Although Windsor Place was a very successful experiment to make hot yoga more visible, we were not able to create a real depth of community.  I am hopeful that the new studio in Splott will enable us to encourage a tight-knit community of sporty yoga lovers who will connect and meet up both within and outside of Yoga Fever.

Hot yoga helps balance, concentration and flexibility

Do you think there is a strong yoga community in Cardiff?

Yes, definitely.  We realise that there is a yoga instructor and style for everyone, as people connect to different methods of teaching.  The many diverse yoga companies in Cardiff do not compete with one another.  Instead we all endeavour to recommend the best instructor for the particular individual.  We all cross-pollinate ideas and help each other out.

What does the future hold for Yoga Fever?

Ideally, I would like to set up several smaller studios around Cardiff.  It is always a possibility to move back to Pontcanna and develop another studio there.  At the moment I want to see how everything goes at the new studio in Splott and then take it from there.

What are the main benefits of hot yoga?

Hot yoga is very different from classic yoga because the classes tend to attract very fit, healthy and competitive people who want to push themselves really hard.  It has opened the door to many more people who would never normally have tried yoga, such as triathletes and rugby players.  The main benefits for sportspeople are increased flexibility, strength and injury prevention.  Practicing hot yoga will definitely increase your flexibility and range of motion. It will also relieve muscle tension.  Hot yoga also teaches you to be in an intense situation and to manage the session through coping strategies and breath control.

Andy Murray says hot yoga helps his concentration

Andy Murray credits hot yoga for his improved attention span in five set tennis matches.  David Beckham also speaks highly of the discipline required to deliver and work hard in a high-pressure environment.

David Beckham also enjoys getting hot and sweaty

In my opinion, where balance is concerned, you either ‘use it or lose it’.  Once we pass the age of 40 our ability to balance rapidly decreases, so regularly practicing yoga will help you to maintain a healthy ability to balance and keep light on your feet.  The new range of postures and sequences will also challenge your brain and test your co-ordination.

Does hot yoga help you to lose weight?

This is a widespread myth as you probably only burn 200 calories per class, but you do end up losing about 2 litres of water, so make sure you stay hydrated.  What hot yoga does do is help your body to find a new equilibrium and put a stop to naughty cravings.  Hot yoga is not aerobic exercise, but it will make your want to lead a healthier lifestyle concerning food and sleeping patterns.

Would you recommend the 30 days yoga challenge? (This is where you do hot yoga every day for 30 days)

A lot of competitive personalities try hot yoga, so what I actually do is try to talk people down in class so that they don’t overstretch or push themselves too hard.  Everyone should take yoga at their own comfortable pace.  All I can advise is that people take care of themselves, have fun and relax.

Thank you very much Catherine Kelleher and good luck with the classes, which start at the new studio in Splott tonight.


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Yoga Fever

Venue: Windsor Place, Cardiff

Student Price: £8 for 1.5 hours

I had the pleasure and privilege of taking part in the last ever Sunday hot yoga class at the original Yoga Fever studio at Windsor Place in Cardiff.  It was an emotional farewell because Yoga Fever has now been forced to move to a smaller and more intimate studio in Splott due to increasing running costs.

If I can give one piece of advise this entire year, then it would be for everyone to sign up immediately to try a hot yoga class.  Before experiencing Yoga Fever I had never even attempted regular yoga, so it was with trepidation that I first entered the studio.  In the past, I foolishly disregarded yoga and Pilates, thinking that they would not constitute a proper workout.  How wrong I was.  I have never felt so completely satisfied, relaxed and aware of my body before.  Hot Yoga is also definitely not just for girls, as the benefits of stress relief, injury prevention and balance are equally relevant for men.

What is Hot Yoga?

It is taught in a heated studio (Yoga Fever is heated to approximately 38 degrees).  The lights are also slightly dimmed to create a more calming atmosphere.  Hot yoga tends to incorporate a flowing, vinyasa style of practice, which encompasses a series of linked movements.  Most people think that all hot yoga is Bikram, but this is not the case.  There are other styles, such as Power Vinyasa and Moksha Yoga.  Yoga also teaches control of breath, or Pranayama, as one can control the rhythms of pranic energy to achieve a healthy body and mind.

Practical Information:

Q: What should I wear?

A: Anything you don’t mind getting completely soaked.  I would recommend leggings or shorts and a t-shirt or vest in a breathable fabric.

Q: What should I bring with me?

A: A water bottle, mat (if you have one), towel and an open-mind

Q: Should I eat or drink before a class?

A: It is recommended that you try not to eat for 2 hours before a class.  Drink steadily throughout the day, as you will get the most from hot yoga if you are fully hydrated.

Hot Yoga: The Experience

The sweating starts almost immediately and does not stop throughout the one and a half hours of intensley physical movement and stretching.  The slow but constant drip of sweat from around 35 highly focused individuals is a surprisingly soothing sound.  The music is calming and does not distract your mental focus and concentration.  A skilled instructor slowly introduces the class to a range of movements with subtle variations according to individual ability levels.  The class teaches awareness and control of breathing, as this can improve performance and reduce anxiety and stress.  This was certainly the case with me, as I left the hot yoga class feeling completely inspired and relaxed.  The reflection period during the last five minutes of class was especially useful, as it really makes you think about the effect that the class has had on your body.

Rate the Class:

1)   Atmosphere and Fun: 7/10

The atmosphere of the studio is calming despite the intense heat.  The best part of the class is the incredible feeling during the reflection and relaxation section when you consider the workout that you have just given your body.

2)   Sweat and Pain: 9/10

The score is so high for this class purely because I have never sweat so much before in my entire life.  Just think about all the toxins that are leaving your body.

3)   Calorie Burn: This will be around 600-700 for an hour of hot yoga

4)   Toning Potential: 8/10

The balancing positions in this class mean that your core muscles are being tested to their absolute limit.  This class is a must for anyone looking to tighten and tone.

5)   Morning After Muscle Ache: 4/10

I really didn’t feel much pain the day after.  This is probably a testament to the expertise of the instructor in leading us safely and steadily through the exercises with plenty to time to stretch.

Hot Yoga Instructor, Catherine Kelleher, commented on the move, saying:

“We’ve been at Windsor Place just over a year and unfortunately, running costs have been escalating. It is just not a financially viable option to stay.”

“We are moving to a smaller, more intimate studio on Broadway, Splott. Whilst we were very sad to leave Windsor Place, I’m feeling very excited about Splott and I know we’ll be happy there.”