New ways to exercise in Durham during Lockdown 2.0


We’re several weeks in now, the work is piling up and the weather is taking a turn for the worse. I know for me, the long nights and cold weather (not to mention sitting at a desk all day) is making me eat more and more.

One of the things I love about Durham is the sport. But without regular training and game days, my week has lost its structure. I can’t even escape to the gym for a bit of protected time.

Now I’m always within reach of food and emails and it’s looking more and more difficult to escape and give my mind and body the exercise that normally keeps me happy (and sane!). So, if you, like me, are sick of online exercise videos, here are some suggestions for easy and free ways to exercise in and around Durham.

Getting outside around Durham doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes but set aside some time for these routes. They’re great for running and walking and I can guarantee you haven’t been on all of them.

Go down by the river – past the Sands, swap streets for gorgeous autumnal beech trees. Or retry the peninsula: don’t underestimate the beauty of the river, even in the centre of town. Plus, the prolific numbers of steps make great fitness opportunities – jog up Hatfield steps, or try some hill sprints on Windy Gap.

Flass Vale – right in the viaduct, Flass Vale is a woodland with plenty of paths to get lost in and is only a stone’s throw away for many of us.

“Steeplechase” – based on the old sport of racing horses from one village’s church to another, why not use some of Durham’s plentiful churches as a route plan. Maybe you could race your housemates to ‘collect’ them all.

Lanchester route just north of Neville’s Cross is the perfect place to truly escape the Durham bubble

Ok, so maybe you, like me, can’t run. I’ve been working on my cycling skills, and the flat, easy paths of the Lanchester route just north of Neville’s Cross is the perfect place to truly escape the Durham bubble on a route that is easy to navigate and very beautiful. It’s a favourite of mine for walking and cycling, and it’s a hidden gem.

These routes are great when it’s not tipping it down, so if you can’t escape in daylight or want to maximise a bit of spare time in your room, then I have some indoor suggestions for you too.

Bodyweight training is your friend. No equipment, no rules. Just you. I have a patch of wall that I do handstands against. Great for core and shoulder strength, and something I always wanted to be able to do as a kid.

You can do all your classic sit-ups, press-ups and squats, and incorporate some short core exercises to keep your technique en pointe. I do squats whilst I clean my teeth, just four minutes a day, but it takes off the pressure of a ‘session’.

Under the current restrictions you can exercise outside with one other person, so make the most of it and get yourself a training buddy! Alternatively, utilise the world of apps to track your progress with apps such as Strava, training together, but apart.

If you’re working on ball skills, the old toilet-roll challenge still has some merit. Or perhaps a tin of beans, or a tennis ball. Just mess around with handling and catching obscure objects to keep your eye in. Trust me, a few mins a day of throwing rolled-up socks at a wall is more cathartic than it sounds.

You can exercise outside with one other person, so make the most of it and get yourself a training buddy

I’ve set myself some goals. Made them measurable, and achievable, and stuck them where I’ll see them everyday. Whether it’s 100 press-ups a day, or be able to do just one sit up, writing it down makes it real and achievable.

Lastly, I know I’ve had enough of them, but if you haven’t, exercise videos online are a great way to get motivated. Having some lycra-clad trainer shouting 80s motivational phrases at you certainly helps to escape reality for a while and feel “Ace!”.

Ultimately, what you do, and the level you do it to, doesn’t matter. We live in a beautiful city, within driving distance of a walk on the beach, or the moors of the North Pennines. All you have to do is step out of your door – never underestimate the power of smiling at a stranger and saying “good morning”.

In times like these, it’s the little things that make us feel a little more human.

Image: Martin Tidbury via Flickr

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