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Lean streets; AVRIL CADDEN finds a unique new outdoor exercise class that keeps momentum alive.


If you've lost your enthusiasm for the gym or are plodding instead of pounding the streets, it's time to get off the treadmill and join the Rat Race.

The Urban Rat Race is a new outdoor fitness class. Like a small rodent, you rediscover city streets in a new, exciting way.

I joined a class in Edinburgh, led by trainer Gary Vallance.

They to next". My classmates were a broad mix, from extreme fitness fanatics to people just wanting to get into shape.

face a now research, most may The warm-up involved stretching and limbering up and any feelings of embarrassment at jumping around in public were quickly dispelled as I balanced on other people's YOU knees doing triceps dips. I felt quite virtuous as I adopted a plank position on a bollard outside a Grassmarket pub as the bemused smokers looked on.

The class is like doing outdoor circuit training with lots of space, scope and fresh air. It feels very stop/start and spontaneous and can be as challenging as you want.

I was on the Market Raider route, a circular trail of 1.8 miles starting from the Castle.

I ran down stairs, up stairs, along narrow, twisting wynds, across Princes Street, hung off railings, did press-ups and tricep dips on bollards and benches, burpees along Rose Street, used the bike stands in courtyards for pull-ups, scuttled backwards and forwards, did bunny hops and crawled underneath my classmates' legs like a giant rodent.

You pay more attention to your surroundings and realise there are endless possibilities for exercising - we just need to open our eyes and be creative.

Gary said: "We wanted a session that people will want to come to but we also wanted to highlight the opportunities of exercise. It doesn't have to be confined to an indoor gym, a park or even just on the weekend. People can start thinking about their daily journeys and whether they can do a little bit of exercise within that."

The whole Rat Race concept was born in Edinburgh by Jim Mee of Detail Events who has expanded the Rat Race Urban Adventure Series throughout the world.

The Urban Gym has come off the back of events such as the popular annual Edinburgh Rat Race, (established in 2004) to be held on July 17 and 18 this year. Enter this event and you could be biking, running, abseiling and kayaking through Edinburgh all weekend - or opt for the Saturday night two-and-a-half hour Mean Streets session.

The Urban Gym is something everyone of all levels can do on a weekly basis. It's also easy to see how you get hooked - after one class I'm pondering July's Rat Race.

If you did the Market Raider route every week you might get bored but each city has more than one route. You could go to your meeting point and end up anywhere. There could be a different instructor and classmates - and different weather.

Gary said: "Variation is the key. There is no question of the effectiveness of going to a gym or to a boot camp session in a park but it is always the same place.

"We wanted lots of different routes and our instructors are rotated. They are aged from 19-50, with a even male/female split. You might get Dave with a background in adventure sports or Sally with experience in dance and circus acts."

In addition to the surroundings are the obvious health benefits. You can burn 550-1000 calories per session, improve core stability, joint strength, increase your aerobic capacity, stamina and recovery speed. Gary said: "People aren't going to come back if there is no change to their fitness, health or physique. It's not technical, we don't use jargon. We focus on simple things which are easy to explain."

The Urban Gym also runs in London, Cardiff, Bristol and Nottingham, with plans to expand to other cities.

Gary added: "We intend to bring it to Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and all over."

You can try out the Urban Gym for a fiver and if you sign up there are various options. pounds 65 gets you 10 sessions to use whenever you want. Even if you find yourself in any of the other locations you can join a class while you're there.

I also liked the idea you can book four weeks for pounds 45. Organise your diary, pack in as many classes as you can and use the Urban Gym as an intense four- week training programme. You could attend eight classes, ideal if you are in training or have a wedding dress or bikini to fit into.

Gary said: "You can try as many classes as you want in these four weeks. It is ideal if you're training or want to tone up.

"One client wanted into a smaller dress for a wedding and after the four weeks she noticed a huge difference. If you did nothing else but these sessions you'd have to be doing something really wrong with your diet not to see a marked difference."

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Join the Rat Race Pulling power: Avril and her Urban Rat Race classmates find a new use for bike stands.

Kneesy does it: Railings make a handy leaning post as the team are put through their warm up.

On the run: Instructor Gary puts the class through its paces with a jog around the streets of Edinburgh.

In Edinburgh the Urban Gym has classes on a Monday and Wednesday night, at 6pm and 7.15pm. Classes last one hour.

For more information see: For information on Rat Race Adventure events see:


IM-PRESS-IVE& Instructor Gary shows Avril some basic moves in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 9, 2010
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