A Fit Trip to Heppenheim

Ok, so let’s make this clear – I don’t go on holiday just to work out as much as I do at home. I feel like that would defeat the point somewhat. However, if there are chances to try out some new things as I visit my friends G & J and stuff my face with pretzels and Süsse Frühstück at Muse Chocolat (one of the FINEST breakfasts you will ever find), then obviously I’m going to try them out.

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Not the Süsse Frühstück, but the waffles from Muse Chocolat. Yes, we went there twice in three days. Don’t judge me.

For those of you who don’t know, Heppenheim is a small town near Heidelberg, which is a University city twinned with Cambridge. Heppenheim is also overlooked by Starkenburg Castle, which is a fun hike up the 295-metre-high Schlossberg Hill if you’re so inclined (we weren’t on this trip, but we’ve done it before and it’s a gorgeous walk). Heppenheim is also the birth town of Sebastian Vettel for the F1 fans among you.

My friends G & J moved to Heppenheim a couple of years ago, and they’ve been discovering the fitness opportunities it has to offer ever since. The newest addition to the town is the Venice Beach gym, which opened last year and is only a 5 minute walk from their house (the lucky blighters). This new gym is frankly gorgeous – it’s a huge open plan space with massive windows that offer views of the hilly landscape, a glass studio for classes off to one side, a women’s only gym space and the most opulent changing rooms you’ve ever seen. J and I did a total body workout class which included weight based exercises and an aerobic routine using a step. It was super easy to follow, and the instructor was the ideal balance of tough but pushing you with a smile on her face so you can’t really hate her.

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Yes, that’s a chandelier in the changing room.

At the other end of the age spectrum, something that has been going in Heppenheim for some time – since 1931 to be exact – is the glorious open air swimming pool. This is the sort of thing that I would kill for round here if only we had the weather to justify it. The set up has a 50-metre swimming pool, a non-swimmers’ pool with slide, teaching pool with a 25-metre slide and a paddling pool for children, and it opened for the first time for the season the weekend we visited. Admittedly getting in to the pool for the first time was like doing the ice bucket challenge all over again (hello 2014!) but once we were in it was just awesome. It’s made me want to think about trying some more outdoor swimming this summer, but whichever venue I make the effort to get to, it won’t quite be the same as a 6 or 7 minute drive around the corner.

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Not as warm as it might look…

Regular readers of this blog will know that for the last year I’ve been falling in love with bouldering, and G & J have not one but THREE bouldering centres within a half hour drive. Their favourite one is actually the closest, and that is Studio Bloc in Pfungstadt. This place is HUGE – around 3 or 4 times the size of Rainbow Rocket in Cambridge, and it is an absolute climber’s dream. This place is serious – it even has its own shop within the centre where you can get all of the climbing gear you need (including expert advice on your shoes) and all of the necessary accessories. We spent a happy 90 minutes here, and we still didn’t come anywhere near to trying all of the routes we were capable of. Sadly my hand gave out after one particularly ambitious reach tore a callus off my hand (TMI?) but I cannot wait to go back there next time I’m visiting.

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Well hai there…

We were only there for three days, and there were other things I would have liked to try including the Neckarau parkrun near Mannheim (a 30 minute drive away) and a visit to Heidelberg to take the 315 steps up to the Castle, something we’ve not done for a few years.

If you’re considering a trip to Germany I’d thoroughly recommend basing yourself in this area and visiting Heppenheim for the day. It’s well connected by train, has some great places to eat (we visited Back und Brauhaus in nearby Lorsch) and let’s face it – you’re not going to get bored! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to message G & J and see when they’re next up for some overly energetic visitors…

The Addictive Pain of Spinning

When I was about 22 years old, I don’t think anyone would have described me as fit. I was a member of my local LA Fitness, but that usually involved maybe 30 minutes on a cross trainer once a week and the occasional Body Pump class to the strains of Car Wash (the Christina Aguilera version. This was 2004 after all).

But then one day, my gym buddy suggested we try a spin class. I was young and optimistic back then, so I said “Sure! What’s the worst that could happen?” It looked like quite good fun with the disco style lighting and easy on the eye instructor, plus it was just cycling right? At this point in my life I was getting the park and ride bus to work and probably hadn’t been on a bike for a good 6 years but you know what they say about learning to ride a bike…

Oh how wrong I was.

About 3 minutes into the class I knew I was in trouble. The instructor was like some kind of hyperactive giant toddler with rage issues who liked to go up to individuals in the class and scream at them in a faux American accent to “PUSH! PUSH!” like the worst birthing partner ever. The music was insanely loud but maybe it was trying to drown out the sound of my sobs. At about the 10 minute mark I was desperately trying to find a way to sneak out of the class unnoticed, but I knew that my legs were not going to support any attempts to extract myself from the devil machinery. I was stuck with it. And I hated every last miserable second of it. When I finally stumbled from the bike, sore in parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed, I vowed to NEVER spin again.

This vow held firm for 13 years (yes I’m 35 – you may gasp if you’re so inclined) until I joined Elyte Fitness to find new ways to stay active during my very stubborn bout of tendonitis. My husband basically made me promise that I would do some form of cardio, as I think he was genuinely concerned that I might eat his soul if I didn’t do something to replace running. So I reluctantly turned up for one of Elyte’s incredibly popular spin classes, and again I hated every last miserable second of it.

I’m hooked.

Now let me explain. This isn’t a self-flagellation kind of deal. It’s just that an insanely tough spin session has the ability to give me the same high I get from a good run. Yes it hurts. Yes you’ll be sweatier than any human has any right to be. Yes you would throw your water bottle at the instructor whenever they tell you to add a gear on if only you had enough strength to lift the bloody thing. It hurts. A lot. But man alive has it kept me fit.

When I started running again I was genuinely concerned that my 5k times would have taken a huge battering. But somehow I’ve managed to come back just over the 21 minute mark, only ever so slightly slower than I’d been before. I’m gobsmacked.

Plus spin at Elyte is nothing like my experience from the early noughties. All of the instructors at Elyte (of which there are many, which means you get a lot of variety in teaching styles which keeps things interesting) are so very good at what they do. There’s no insane shouting that makes you feel like a fitness failure. Instead there’s encouragement to push yourself as you follow the Spivi interactive software they use in the studio. This adds a competitive edge as you cycle through simulations of snowy or sunny landscapes and try to edge out your classmates. It’s a welcome distraction from the pain in your legs. Plus if you’re really lucky, this will all be done to the soothing sounds of a Disney soundtrack…

Now I just have to deal with the fact that every time I go to a class my husband says “but I thought you hated spin?”

I do. It’s just that I love to hate it.