With triathlons on the up across the capital and the country, Ian Hsieh talks to Capital Tri and Tri London – two of the city’s top triathlon clubs – to discover the best spots to swim, cycle and run your way to fitness.
Feel the cool breeze on your face as you glide through open water. Watch the world zip by in a blur on your bike. See the sun slowly bathe the park in golden light as you run. There’s no doubting it: training outside is one of the most satisfying ways to connect with yourself and with nature. Tri London’s press officer Ian Barnard believes this is why triathlons are so appealing: “Doing exercise outdoors is what triathlons are all about.” As it just so happens, North and East London boast some of the best spots to get out there and do your thing.
For Chris Skinner, founder of Capital Tri, outdoor swimming doesn’t get better than the West Reservoir at Woodberry Down. A vast expanse of calm, open water surrounded by swathes of leafy trees, it is served by the architecturally audacious West Reservoir Centre sports facility – an unrivalled place to swim outdoors in the heart of London. “It’s perfect for swimming,” says Skinner, “a stunning oasis that surprises all newcomers. I get butterflies every time I prepare to jump off the pontoon!” There’s also the café, offering post-swim food and drink with a view. Head a few miles southeast, and you’ll come across London Fields Lido. Originally built in the 1930s, the heated, Olympic-sized outdoor pool reopened in 2006.
It’s been a few years since Sir Chris Hoy and Team GB took to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s velodrome, exhibiting an impressive display of British domination in track cycling – now it’s your turn to take to the track. The Stratford site of all those Olympic gold medal wins has been transformed into Lee Valley VeloPark – a place where anyone can now get a slice of that Olympic experience. Featuring a one-mile, floodlit road circuit (as well as facilities for track, mountain and BMX cycling), it’s a bikes-only affair, meaning there are no cars or buses to battle with. Which also means it’s the perfect worry-free training ground for triathletes.
If a beautiful countryside ride is more your thing, both Barnard and Skinner recommend a jaunt to Epping Forest. The 11-mile cycle to High Beach is perfect; nearly an Olympic-length distance there and back from Woodberry Down. “Cycling into Essex on a Sunday morning and hitting leafy lanes lined by meadows,” says Barnard, before pausing. “That’s hard to beat.”
As for running, the options are endless. “We’re spoilt for choice,” enthuses Skinner. “There are so many lovely parks and towpaths.” From laps of London Fields before or after a session at the lido, to Clissold, Victoria and Finsbury parks, there’s a wide range of green spaces suitable for any runner’s needs. There’s also the picturesque towpath following the Regent’s Canal from Angel – passing through Haggerston, London Fields, Victoria Park and further – that offers flat terrain with views of canal boats chugging by (and plenty of opportunities for a cup of tea or coffee).
“I guess South-West London has its assets,” admits Skinner, when asked whether his patch of London is the best to train in. “But it’s not proper London, is it? This is!”
Join a club for advice and camaraderie
Train with friends; triathlons are experiences best shared
Build your miles gently
Remember that training requires proper rest and good nutrition
Don’t worry too much about kit – train hard with basic gear
Mix up your training and incorporate single and multiple-discipline sessions
Incorporate strength work into your training for explosiveness and speed
Monitor your progress regularly for assurance and confidence boosts
Enter a doable event that leaves enough time for you to prepare properly