Peter Francis Column - Limerick heroes to get you fit this winter

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Peter Francis tackles the issue of keeping fit throughout the winter and recommends a number of local groups that might help.

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Peter Francis tackles the issue of keeping fit throughout the winter and recommends a number of local groups that might help.

The evenings are beat.A familiar statement at this time of year and a useful excuse for our decline in physical activity. Many of us make great use of the long summer evenings to get out for a walk, swim, run or cycle. As evenings get shorter, mornings darker and weather colder there are more barriers to exercise and we tend to feel less inclined. Our decline in athleticism is compounded by a Christmas of indulgence and is followed by record highs in January gym memberships. At least 70% of those memberships are gathering dust by March.

Last week we gave you an insight into eliminating barriers to exercise and facilitating behaviour change. This week we look at the options available to you in order to bridge the gap between the coming winter and next spring.

Group Dynamic

It is always easier to train in a group than alone as it adds a social dimension to exercise. Winter provides a great opportunity to join a class and try something new. Many people perceive exercise classes to be sweaty halls full of aerobics steps and co-ordinated footwork. These days this is not the case. Local group K-BAM fitness offer a wide variety of alternative exercise classes, the main aim being a total body workout.

Two in particular have caught the attention of lunch-time and evening exercisers. Row-fit is a 45 minute group work-out on rowing machines. The aim is to challenge the upper and lower body while maintaining excellent posture, useful for those seated at desks for long hours. The beauty of this class is that it allows us to work the whole body as hard as we choose without the impact on our joints. Their second most popular class “Box-Fit” was formed on the back of the Irish Olympic boxing success. It combines traditional boxing circuit training with boxing gloves and pads for everyone to work out the stress of a hard day’s work. These sessions take place at UL Boathouse/St Michaels Rowing Club and Seanchaoill Sports Complex. The guys at K-Bam inform me that the first row-fit or box-fit session is free with a copy of this article. For more information visit or

Water to Weightless

Last week I detailed the process of my recent learning to swim. A combination of patience and persistence leading to a powerful form of weekly exercise. Pool based activities are massively undervalued in Ireland. They provide a fantastic starting point for those wanting to get in shape whilst sheltering us from the elements. If like many of us you are carrying some excess weight there is a much higher risk of early injury during a new exercise program. In the deep end of the pool our body-weight is supported by the water allowing us to exercise without over stressing joints.

Water is 12 times as dense as air and adds a resistance element to what is normally seen as a purely cardiovascular exercise. This leads to an average calorie burn of 12 calories per minute of front crawl and 6 calories per minute of breaststroke. Karen at the Strand Hotel Limerick has developed a winter swim program with an emphasis on beginners. This facility provides the perfect opportunity to adopt a new activity in a relaxed environment. A complimentary session in the state of the art hydrotherapy pool is on hand to help you recover from the rigours of the new regime. For more information visit

Weekend Warriors

Of course amongst the darkness we must attempt to gain some exposure to day light in order to maintain our vitamin D levels vital for mood and bone health. A sporting and leisure activity which focuses heavily on the weekend is cycling. Saturday and Sunday morning is when you can see large bunches of cyclists of all shapes and sizes out an about. The Limerick Cycling club train on Saturday mornings at 9am from Arthurs Key and the Limerick Triathlon Club train on Sunday mornings at 10am from the Parkway shopping centre.

October is a month when both groups are open to beginners and have special cycle routes for new members to find their feet. Your main requirement is a road bike (formerly known as a “racer”) and a helmet. It is perhaps advisable to be able to cycle comfortably for an hour prior to joining these groups. For more information visit or

Perhaps you’d like to build up your overall fitness in the great outdoors.

Hill walking provides a vigorous form of exercise for all ages. Long walks through mountains and forests are of course good for our heart and lungs but the addition of inclines and steep climbs maintains that all important muscle mass and function as we age. The Limerick Climbing Club has an up to date fully functioning web-site with details of weekly walks and monthly climbs. For more information visit

The benefit of any of the above is that you meet people and develop an exercise network - ie people who are willing to join you for different exercise on different days. I hope that last week’s behaviour change article and this week’s selection of options provide for an active winter

>>> To contact Peter Francis, visit or email

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