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Center Parcs A Great Place To Get Fit
A Brief Overview
What Is Center Parcs?
Center Parcs is an all weather vacation destination in England. There are five Parcs in total, each set in around 400 acres of landscaped forest. The Parcs are largely traffic free, which appeals to families, but also makes them great places for walking, running and cycling. They are dotted about throughout the country and although the facilities in each are broadly similar, each site has slight differences.
The five sites are: Longleat Forest, Sherwood Forest, Elvedon Forest, Woburn Forest and Whinfell. Of all the Parcs, Longleat is my personal favourite, so I feel it merits a paragraph or two of it's own.
Longleat Center Parcs
Longleat has the reputation of being a hilly site. The sports complex and lake lie at the base of a steep sided valley, reached by a series of flights of steps and walkways.
If you're looking to improve your fitness, this can be used to advantage. You can have a great, free workout by walking or jogging up and down the walkways or steps, maybe including a jog around the lake between each rep.
On a crisp winter's evening, the valley twinkles with lights from the lodges, and the handful of trees that are lit with changing coloured lights, which appeals to my child within.
I particularly like the village centre at Longleat. The shops, cafés and eateries are all under cover of the glass dome and range around pools, filled with Koi Carp. Between workouts you can enjoy a drink in the warm, continental atmosphere and spend some relaxing time fish-watching, even if it's snowing outside.
Location and Accommodation
Whichever village yoy choose, probably the first thing most people consider is the type of accommodation they need for their vacation. Common considerations are the size and type of place. Do you need a tree house? An apartment? A lodge? How many rooms are required? Do you need an outdoor woodland shower? A hot tub? A dog friendly space?
All of these are possible, but there is one other important consideration and that is the location. With the Parcs spread out over 400 acres it's important to decide where you would like to be. Center Parcs provide good maps on their website, so I'd advise studying these first.
As we're frequent fliers, we try to book a lodge fairly close to the sports complex. In this way, we can walk to classes within ten minutes. However, this means we're a 40 minute walk from other facilities, such as the village centre or the swimming paradise. This isn't a problem for us, as it just adds to the mileage walked, or jogged in the day!
However, all of the Parcs have road trains to take you from one place to the next if you don't want the hike.
Improve Your Fitness
We've been to Center Parcs many times over the years. Firstly when the children were young, we did the family holiday. Now, we visit as a way of giving our fitness training a boost.
Even the keenest fitness addict loses motivation from time to time, but the facilities in the Center Parcs villages make it almost impossible to be lazy.
We have two main aims on our fitness vacations. Firstly, we keep up with our usual exercise regime, but we do much more of it. And it's great being able to spend time enjoying your favourite exercise without having to squeeze it in between work/food/sleep.
Secondly we try a few new things, whether that's a fresh sport or a class we've never done before. This helps boost motivation and stops fitness becoming monotonous. It also makes the body work harder and in a different way, so improving overall fitness.
On our last vacation we tried Bollywood Dance aerobics, or Just Jhoom!
A Flashmob Just Jhoom in Guildford
Bollywood Dance Aerobics. Just Jhoom!
Just Jhoom, which means just dance is the brainchild of classical Indian dancer Shalini Bhalla, who put together elements from classical Indian dance, Bollywood moves, mindfulness and yoga to create a brilliant dancercise class.
We were a bit wary at first, but the teacher was superb and the music really got you moving. The hour just flew by and we felt we had a good workout. I have to say, we were the oldest in the room, but Just Jhoom is for all ages, and we acquitted ourselves well.
I would have loved to follow up with more classes at home, but sadly there isn't one locally. I've bought the DVD, but for classes, I will have to be satisfied with saving Bollywood for our regular fitness breaks.
Indoor Swimming Paradise
Unlike other activities, the indoor swimming paradise is free, so you can intersperse weight bearing fitness with swimming, or just ease off aching muscles with a float around in warm water.
The complex has a wave pool, children's area, flumes, jacuzzis and the network of water slides called the rapids. But my favourite part of the Swimming Paradise is the super heated outdoor pool. There's nothing nicer than floating in warm bubbles, lit with coloured lights when you're surrounded by snow.
One thing that comes as a big surprise that no one warns you about is the temperature drop between the outdoor pool and the rapids. That first leap over the barrier between the two comes as a breathtaking shock!
REMEMBER TO PACK SWIMMING TOWELS!
Indoor Activities At Center Parcs
Badminton, table tennis
Ten pin bowling
Outdoor Activities At Center Parcs
Zip wires and aerial courses
Tips To Get The Best From Your Center Parcs Vacation
To get the best from your stay, book ahead. That way you're sure of being able to do the things you really want to.
We start browsing activities at the time we book our break, but don't go mad. It's a good idea to schedule some rest days. We tend to book one activity every other day. That way, you don't feel your holiday is running to a timetable, your muscles and joints can recover and you have days where you can spend time chilling out, walking, or floating in the pool.
As all activities outside of the swimming complex have to be paid for, restricting yourself to doing something every other day also keeps costs down. Center Parcs is sometimes thought of as being expensive, but, in my experience, classes and activities are no more costly than those in general life.
Booking ahead means that you don't have to queue up to see if you're activity is available, you can just go right ahead and join in. Also, pre booking spreads the cost, you could be paying for your activity three or four pay cheques ahead of your break.
Once again, we find booking ahead essential. There's a good range of restaurants at CP, such as Café Rouge, Rajinder Pradesh, Hucks, The Pancake House, La Strada, and usually a Gastro pub.
Again, we do our 'book something every other day' plan, and on the alternate days we cook. Not only does this keep the costs down, but also keeps the waistline down too! We try not to undo all the good we've done with the fitness!
When making restaurant reservations you pay £5.00 per person, and this is taken off your bill when you eat, just make sure the restaurant gives you a ticket when you arrive. It's great to get to the end of the meal and then take money off, and we don't find the food too expensive. For example, our recent meal at Café Rouge came to £50 for two, with a bottle of wine, but as we'd pre- booked we only handed over £40.
Eating and drinking in the warm, surrounded by subtropical trees, watching the fish - lovely!
Too lazy to cook? You can order a take away. Again, we book ahead. Each apartment has a menu, and phoning by 3pm ensures you can have first pick of the delivery slots.
There's a choice between Chinese, Indian food and pizza. If you can't decide which you want, you can mix and match. In our experience the food is good and always arrives on time and goes great with a film, a bottle of wine and a log fire.
CP has a great spa, Aqua Sana, so you can ease off those tired muscles, but I would say that booking ahead is absolutely essential, because you'll be in competition with the groups of friends and pre-wedding groups who take short breaks at Center Parcs, purely to use the Spa.
There are steam rooms, salt baths, herbal steams, plunge pools, a swimming pool, sauna, beauty treatments, facials, massages, and an additional restaurant, so plenty to choose from!
Grocery Shopping At Center Parcs
There's a well stocked supermarket at CP, called, imaginatively, the Parc Market. It carries pretty much everything you need and is on a par with Waitrose, or Booth,s, (for our friends up North), and the prices are no more expensive.
However, it's a good idea to take some basic supplies with you, although, you can order a welcome pack of groceries, and/or logs to be waiting for you on your arrival.
Basic Items To Take With You
Tea, coffee, milk
Eggs, bacon, tomatoes
Bread, cheese, butter
Dish cloth, teatowel, toilet paper
Once you've done all your fitness, and eaten your fill, then maybe it's time to treat yourself to some new sports kit, or swimwear, or clothes, or or a watch, or maybe even a gift for the neighbours to say 'thank for looking after the house!'
There are plenty of shops to choose from, so you can go home fitter, leaner and looking good.