The gyms are closed, but the bakeries are open, and those little blue delivery bikes are buzzing around the city dropping off their parcels of (fattening) comfort food. But if, like me, you are not quite ready to roll over and hibernate in front of Netflix, here are five things you can do to stay fit and healthy in Athens during the lockdown.
By Christopher Nicholas
1. Go jogging in Athenenian History
Put on your running shoes and go for a jog in the National Gardens, the best ‘park’ of Athens, directly behind the Parliament in Syntagma Square. The sun is still shining and palm trees line your track, and once you work up a sweat you will forget that winter is upon you. Pedion Tou Aeres is another big park in central Athens, and smaller, but quite unique is Akadamias Platanos, where you can take a jog through the ancient ruins of Plato’s Academy (where else in the world ?!). Finally, a satisfying route is to be found on Dionyssiou Aeropagitou pedestrian road that connects with Apostolou Pavlou St, starting from Acropolis metro and ending all the way down to Thisseio. For more inspiring runs around the city, check out Great Runs and search for suggestions in Athens.
2. Flex Venice Beach style at Technopolis Gym Park
If working out in the sunshine is your thing, then you will love this outdoor gym. Tucked away in the corner Technopolis (the old gasworks factory of Athens, recognisable by its tall brick tower that’s lit by red lights at night) arts and leisure park in Gazi, this is my favourite place to exercise. There is strict social distancing, and entrance is limited to 3 people, so this is a safe and comfortable place to train. The “calisthenic” gym machines and bars, use your body mass as resistance, so if you are used to lifting heavier weights in the gym, this might not hit the spot at first. But slow down the motion and aim for higher reps, and you will soon start to feel the burn in all the right places!
3. Get on your Podylato!
Ok, so I would not recommend this during normal times, but as Athens is grinding to a virtual halt, there’s never been a better time to discover the city by bicycle. To be fair, and Covid aside, the city of Athens is steadily making significant progress in greening the city centre. Panepistimiou Street, one of the major arteries running from Syntagma to Omonia Square, now has a dedicated cycle lane, for example. Mysteriously, many bicycle shops remain open, but you can also find a bargain on , while is a good place to shop for second-hand bikes. Another option is to rent a bike from Funkybikes. In these tourist downtimes, you can pick up a very affordable weekly deal.
Do be careful, however, because unlike some other European cities, biking is not so commonplace and car drivers do not always have the instinct to look out for their two-wheeled compatriots. And make sure your lights go on as the sun goes down. To help you plan your cycle route around town log on to Bike Map.
4. Walk around Old Athens at dusk
Simple but there you have it – just take a nice, long walk. Start at Thission station, and wander up the cobbled streets towards the foot of the Acropolis, carry on past the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, before curling back into the Plaka and the maze of charming streets, taking in the beautifully lit Roman Agora and Hadrian’s library, before entering the eerily quiet passageways of the flea market, ending up at Monastiraki station.
A brisk walk is proven to build stamina, burn excess calories, and make your heart healthier. The ideal is to walk about 5km an hour to get the physical health benefits, and you can use the free Active 10 App to check your speed. But even a gentler stroll, under the moon, in the shadow of this iconic ancient hill will be deeply soothing for the soul, and good for your mental health.
5. Workout at home and travel the world
You don’t need to waste hundreds of euros on a running machine that will gather dust as soon as lockdown is over – a yoga mat and a couple of resistance bands are all you need. If you need some inspiration, many gyms run online courses for their clients. But then again, why visit the same old gym? The beauty of working out on Zoom is you can tour the world as you pursue your fitness goals.
Try Yoga on the banks of Lake Orta in Northern Italy (), or Pilates in Sydney (@movewithnicole), or jet off to New York and join a ballet class with Sarah Jessica Parker (search for New York City Ballet workout on Youtube). I like Alex Crockford (@alexcrockford), fitness model turned coach on social; he will help you work up a sweat and maintain muscle mass. Evolve do some great high energy sessions. For something closer to home, Maria and Alikis of Twinsfit (@twinsfit.gr), have taken their pilates, yoga, and TRX training out of the studio and into your living room with Zoom. Or tune in to Charlie’s (founder of GaziCrossFit) “Quarantine workout core crusher” on Instagram (@charliemakkos). Street Workout Athens, have come off the streets, and are offering a wide range of classes, from Combat and Bootcamp to Spinning and Pilates on Zoom.
Whatever you decide to do, try and do a little every day; just 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day will have significant health benefits. We would love to hear what you are doing to stay fit and healthy during lockdown. Stay safe, stay healthy, and try to say no to these lovely Greek cheese pies!
*All images by Christopher Nicholas © (Copyright)