London: Shape up! Free and cheap gyms, fitness classes, group runs and more

Posted in: London Outdoors


Running London Finsbury Park
Running in Finsbury Park. The park hosts free group runs on Saturday mornings. Photo: KaiChanVong

So, the first month of 2013 is already speeding away, which begs the question – how are those resolutions going? It’s tough to keep to a fitness routine at the best of times but when traveling abroad it requires a monumental effort. Whether you’re tucking into the best pastries in Paris, enjoying a few pints of Guinness in Dublin or savoring a tasty fish and chips in London, travels in Europe can certainly add to your waistline.

So to counteract the overindulgence, here are a few pointers on where to get fit in London. Oh, and by the way, all these options are free or dirt cheap, so don’t even try and tell me you don’t have the money to work out…

British Military Fitness

A British Military Fitness instructor (and his dog) in Hyde Park are ready to show you some tough love. Photo: The Wolf

Free gyms

London has seen an increasing number of “adult playgrounds” opening up in parks over the last few years. These outdoor gyms allow you to do everything from cardio to suspension training without paying a penny.

We’ve got The Great Outdoor Gym Company and Open Gym to thank for running a huge number of outdoor gyms in some of London’s most central parks, making it practically impossible to come up with an excuse not to stop for a workout as you wander between museums. You can find your nearest gym by visiting the links above.

Fitness classes, military-style

If you’re looking for tough love, then British Military Fitness is a good place to whip you fitness levels into shape. Run by current and former members of the armed forces, these classes are notoriously tough but always good fun. You can try a class for free at any of the many London park locations, which include Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, Clapham Common, Finsbury Park and Canary Wharf.

Free group runs every Saturday morning

If running on your own doesn’t appeal to you, why not join an organized group? Park Run is a free 5 km timed run held on Saturdays at 9 a.m. in 39 parks across Greater London.

Locations include Finsbury Park, Richmond Park, Highbury Fields, Dulwich Park and Mile End Park. You just need to register online beforehand so the organizers know how many people are coming and then get ready to run! Afterwards the group grabs a celebratory coffee nearby so there’s a nice sociable element to it as well.

Tennis for free

You can suss out where to play tennis without spending up by checking out Tennis for Free. This great charity not only lists details of all the UK’s free tennis courts, but also offers free equipment loans and coaching for all ages and levels.

Not all of the courts profiled on the site need to be booked in advance, so you can just turn up without prior notice. With options like this, there really is no excuse not to start preparing for Wimbledon!

Cheap gyms in London

If the gym is your thing and you can’t face an outdoor workout in the icy winter months, there are several very affordable options in London that don’t require signing long contracts.

Pay As u Gym: Perhaps the most flexible option is Pay As U Gym. The idea is a bit like topping up a mobile phone and you use the money in your online gym account to pay for a one-day gym or swim pass at hundreds of participating health centers. You can choose from really central locations like Covent Garden and Islington, to Bethnal Green and Clapham. The benefit is that the day rate at that particular gym will either be cheaper than anywhere else or only on offer via Pay As U Gym. While there is no flat rate across all gyms, it’s a great option for people who visit London regularly and want to access gyms in different locations.

The Gym: Leading the more conventional budget gym scene is The Gym. With over 30 gyms across the country and nine different centers in London, it’s a fairly accessible option, and all the gyms are open 24/7. The most central London location is Waterloo and day passes cost £5. If you’re looking for something slightly longer term you can pay a £20 joining fee and then £19.99 per month.

Pure Gym: Although slightly less central, with gyms in Oval, Greenwich and Wandsworth, Pure Gym does offer day passes for £5.99, three-day passes for £12.99 and seven-day passes for £24.99, which must be used on consecutive days.

easyGym: And finally, as if planes and hotels weren’t enough, Stelios and the team has opened EasyGym. There are currently four locations across the UK, with just one London gym in Wood Green. Not the most central area, but a well-kitted out health center where thankfully the orange paint has been kept to a minimum. Day passes are available for a flat rate of just £5, giving access to a class and all the gym facilities.

Also in our guide

If you’re currently planning a trip to London, be sure to swing by our budget guide to London, which includes cheap hotel recommendations and lots of budget tips. Fitness ideas aside, we have plenty of strategies to share to help you keep the pounds off your travel budget, as well.

About the author

Nina Derham

About the author: Nina is a freelance travel writer who will leave no stone unturned in her quest to discover the very best on offer in a destination. She recently relocated to London after spending over four years in Madrid and is currently enjoying rediscovering her home town.

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