Outdoor workouts to see you through every season.
East Anglia is packed with exciting activities to do year-round – winter included! From UFO trails and gentle rambles to adrenaline-pumping kitesurfing and competitive rowing, here’s your guide to the region’s best outdoor winter exercises.
Written by Phoebe Taylor
Outdoor workouts in Essex
Try stand up paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a whole-body workout that’s becoming increasingly popular in the East of England. Learn the basics or rent equipment at Mersea Island Watersports. Once you’ve built up your confidence (and balance), Essex has a surprising number of pretty waterways to explore.
The channels and creeks around Mersea Island are an obvious first choice, but after that you could glide down the River Stour to Flatford Mill, or paddle past bird- and wildlife-filled Two Tree Island. You could even challenge yourself with SUP yoga classes at WetnDry Boardsports, Rayleigh.
Hit the beaches
With more than 350 miles of shoreline on offer, it’s no surprise that Essex is home to some excellent beaches, and they’re not just good for long walks. Switch up your exercise routine with a run along the waterline. Running on sand decreases the impact on your joints, which is always a bonus. You could explore places like Walton-on-the-Naze, where WWII remnants dot the shore. Pop into the art gallery on Martello Beach. Try jogging past the candy-coloured bathing huts on West Mersea Beach too.
Group Workouts in Cambridge
Row your boat
Rowing isn’t just for Cambridge Blues; oar-mad Cambridge city is one of the best places to try this exhilarating sport. Clubs along the River Cam cater to all abilities, from semi-pro scullers to complete beginners.
If rowing in a team isn’t your cup of tea, the Cam offers plenty of opportunity for solo recreation even in winter. Punt through town, a surprisingly effective arm workout, or kayak along the much quieter Grantchester Meadows stretch, where you can even take a dip if you’re feeling brave.
Outdoor gyms and fitness in Hertfordshire
Get sweaty in an outdoor gym
Are you missing gym workouts? You could find a replacement in your local park. In Hertfordshire, you’ll spot outdoor gym equipment in Abbots Langley, Borehamwood, Elstree, Harpenden, Hitchin, Potters Bar, St Albans, Stevenage and Watford. While this doesn’t necessarily cover everything (weightlifters are likely to be disappointed), it can add a touch of variety to your workout routine. It comes with the bonus of fresh air and vitamin D.
Explore on foot
Hertfordshire is home to several scenic running trails, like the Grand Union Canal’s serene towpath. Take a look at a map and try to spot likely contenders – you might find a new favourite route right on your doorstep.
If running isn’t quite your style, go rambling through the county’s numerous heritage trails. You could take in Roman walls and an impressive cathedral in St Albans, stroll past listed buildings in pretty Wheathampstead, or take in scenic views from the Chiltern Hills.
Canoeing in Bedfordshire
Canoe along the Great Ouse
During summer, there are several options to rent a canoe or kayak in Bedford city centre. While these tend to close for the winter season, paddling through this historic market town into woodland and countryside is just as charming in colder months. If you have a vessel of your own, it’s worth making the trip.
If you don’t have your own boat, you can still get on the water. Head to Priory Sailing Club, a calm lake where you can hire gear and take lessons.
Outdoor sports in Norfolk
Embrace pedal power
Norfolk is threaded with breezy bike rides. If you’re looking for adventure, head to Thetford Forest (mountain bike recommended) to explore trails through sprawling pine forest and heathland. Bonus: you’ll often see more wildlife on a bike than on foot, such as the forest’s shaggy wild ponies.
Blow any cobwebs away by taking a ride along the Norfolk Coast Cycleway. Break up your journey with a boat ride to see seal pups at Blakeney Point, and a pub stop along the route for a steaming hot bowl of fresh local mussels.
Walks and sports in Suffolk
Follow the UFO trail
Do you believe in aliens? Get out and about by following this trail through Rendlesham Forest to learn more about the alleged sightings which took place here in 1980. Little ones (and not-quite-so-little ones) will also love the forest’s giant play area, kitted out with gear including an obstacle course, zip line and tube slide.
If the thought of plunging into icy ocean fills you with excitement rather than dread, head to the Suffolk coast’s prime surfing locations to catch a wave or two. You’ll soon warm up wearing a wetsuit!
Lowestoft has plenty of gear rental shops where you can kit yourself out, plus a smooth sandy beach in case of any mishaps like crashing into the shore. Stay the night to catch a glimpse of the UK’s earliest sunrise.