Higher Tone

Variety is the spice of life and the fuel for fitness


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:


Where: Terra Nova Cafe next to Roath Park Lake


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:


Where: Meet at the Terra Nova Cafe in Roath Park or St Isans Road
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:


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:



Boot Camp: British Military Fitness Style

It took a lot of strength to drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday morning, fully aware that I was headed for the hell of a military workout.  The torrential rain did not help matters.  I toyed with the idea that the class might be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, but on arrival it soon became apparent that this couldn’t be further from the case.

In fact the primary aim of the class seemed to be to get us all as muddy as possible.  After sprinting around various trees in the waterlogged Llandaff Fields, our combat-clad instructor shouted that when he yelled 1, we all had to drop to the floor and roll over.  I responded to this with a snort of disdain, but of course failure to comply soon proved foolish.  Our trainer, Solly Afsar, had an impressive assortment of forfeits, which he was only too happy to deal out.  Within minutes I soon resembled Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin.  Attempting to do press-ups in the pouring rain whilst covered head to toe in mud, with mascara dripping steadily down my face, will definitely go down as a low point.

I very much resembled Private Benjamin after the first 10 minutes

Military Mantra: “Break them down and build them back up”

I was broken.  Then things suddenly started to look up.  The sun made a brief appearance and we stopped rolling around in the mud.  My clothes were fortunately not completely ruined because we had been given different coloured bibs before starting the class depending on ability levels.  I was given a blue bib because it was my first time, but the intermediates were wearing red and the dedicated, advanced group were sporting green vests.

This was the state of my outfit post boot camp. The mud dripped through even though I was wearing a bib.

The boot camp class created an incredible team atmosphere because everyone worked together and motivated each other.  Despite being new, I was made to feel part of the group within minutes.  After the class finished I felt elated, hyper and ridiculously energetic.  The post-workout endorphins rush was at a whole new level and I was on a high for the whole day.  Whether this was down to the group dynamic, the outdoor setting or the general feeling of relief that I had survived the class, the feeling was overwhelming.

The team-work exercises really motivate you

Military workouts are based on three fundamentals of training: cardio, strength and agility.  They are all about bare essentials and using your own body weight as resistance.  By stringing together exercises like push-ups, squats, sit-ups and planks with no break in-between, your body will turn into an efficient machine.  Boot camp classes aim to give your body a full workout, so the exercises target multiple muscles, rather than isolating one group at a time.

Challenge Yourself

The classes are designed to improve speed, agility, strength and stamina.  The beginners blue group is more focused on personal goals, whereas the red and green groups can get much more competitive.  The advanced groups are really pushed to their limit and beyond with gruelling circuits and sprint races.

Killer Exercise: The burpee

This is a classic military movement and it works because it targets so many muscle groups.

A marine demonstrating a burpee

1) Start in a standing position

2) Drop down into the squat position with your hands on the floor

3) Extend your feet back quickly to assume the front plank position

4) Bounce back into the squat position

5) Jump back to the standing position

Repeat for 10 (beginner) 25 (intermediate) and advanced keep going for as many as you can

The best element of a BMF class lies in the fun you can have with the other people in your group.  Rather than slogging it out in the gym for hours with minimal results, these sessions will revitalise you and you will see a noticeable improvement within a few weeks.

In Cardiff, BMF hold various morning and evening sessions at Heath Park and Pontcanna Fields.  Groups vary in size, but there can be over 30 people per class, a testament to the popularity of this fitness craze.

BMF Cardiff instructors Solly Asfar (left), Andy Morgan (middle) and participant Arwel Jones (right)

The instructor for the blue group was 18-year-old Solly Asfar (pictured on the left).  Although he has not done any military service yet, he attends military preparation college.  He said: “If you attend regular classes, keep a healthy diet and get enough sleep, you will start to see your fitness improve very quickly.”

Andy Morgan, 24 (pictured middle) was the trainer for the intermediate and advanced groups.  Andy spent 2 years with the RAF Reserves at Mod Saint Athan and has been an instructor with British Military Fitness since June 2010. He aims to join the Royal Marines as an Officer in the near future.

Arwel Jones (pictured on the right) has been coming to the BMF in Cardiff several times a week for three years.  He said “I’m in the advanced green group which is pretty tough but I love it.  The classes really allow you to push yourself to your absolute limit”.

Rate the Class:

1) Atmosphere and Fun: 8/10

The outdoor setting (despite the rain) combined with the motivation from the military instructors and the whole group gave a great buzz.

2) Sweat and Pain: 7/10

The exercises were tough, but because I was in the blue group, I was not pushed to my limit.

3) Calorie Burn: I would estimate about 400-500 per hour

4) Toning Potential 7/10

The combination of planks, squats, press ups, crunches and tricep dips targeted lots of muscle groups.

5) Morning After Muscle Ache: 8.5/10

I was hobbling around like an old lady the next day.  No pain, no gain!