Join the club
By Holly Williams
Often when in the gym, headphones blaring, I find myself wishing they'd just get rid of the machines, turn the lights off, and we could all dance around instead. Clearly, I'm not the only one: that's pretty much what Dance Dance Party Party is. Loud music, a dark room with a few disco lights, an hour of freestyle boogie-ing, and a bit of stretching. And it's women-only, helping keep the atmosphere uncompetitive and easy-going; their slogan is 'No Boys. No Booze. No Judgment. (Legwarmers Optional)'.
Originating in the US, there are now several groups in the UK; I visited the one in east London's Dalston, in the back room of a scuzzy pub on a Monday evening. Clearly, I'd paid too much attention to the 'party party' bit, turning up in a skirt and flat shoes, rather than shorts and trainers like everyone else.
London's DDPP costs £4 a session and is run by Leah Banderas and Rita Platts, who have excellently eclectic taste in music; we jive, skank, grind, rave and shimmy our way through a playlist that begins with "Do You Love Me" by the Contours and ends with "Shake Ur Body" by Shy FX, taking in Lykke Li and the Prodigy, Hanson and the Hives. Dancing, hard, for an hour, does seem much more like exercise when you're stone-cold sober and not stopping to chat to friends.
I love dancing, but have neither the co-ordination nor concentration for set steps and routines. So it's great to find an exercise 'class' – in the loosest sense; they give no instruction – where you can just leap about uninhibited. The girls-only policy helps; no one worries about trying to pull, or doing sexy moves, or avoiding pesky sleazeballs, or any of the other nonsense that sometimes makes a dancefloor feel more like a cattle market than a place for unbridled joy. And a place for exercise; it's definitely a good work-out. I might even take my trainers next time.
Cheapskate's version: crank up the stereo, turn out the lights, dance round your room... aaaand stretch.
The bicyclist: Get shirty
By Simon Usborne
For all the talk of a cycling revolution, my office bike racks aren't half empty these days. Nothing punctures a boom like a cold, dark, wet morning in late October, and it says something when a journey on London Underground feels like a decadent way to get to work. Trains and automobiles will always have one thing over cycling – a roof.
The clocks change tomorrow, testing in particular the resolve of new riders, several of whom have asked me for advice this year. I don't blame them for wavering. Even among bike bores something in the mind threatens to switch at this time of year. No longer the early-Sunday-morning leap out of bed, or the regret of a weekend without 100 miles on the clock.
So, some new tips. First: dress well. A good pair of water-resistant gloves (see below) are a must, as is a thin repellent jacket and as much reflective and illuminative stuff as you can bear to be seen in. Otherwise, whatever's comfortable. Take advantage of the lower temperatures (it's nice not to sweat as much).
Finally, seize that damn sun when it does creep above the horizon. On crisp, clear autumn mornings, even the greyest route can glow irresistibly, clearing the mind of gloomy thoughts. It will also offer a timely reminder of why cycling seemed like such a good idea in the first place.
Takin' it easy: 'Always be leaning'
By Larry Ryan
On a recent holiday, I noticed in Nice airport that while smokers must stand outside, they at least have an elegant resting place. Smokers' exclusion zones there are demarcated with railings in the shape of a backwards lean, so you can take a load off with a fistful of Gitanes. The French are aware of a simple maxim (with apologies to David Mamet): always be leaning.
Modern gym rules: Pants
Under Lycra, underwear is essential. Neither camel toes nor pantlers have a place in the modern gym.
Fit kit: SealSkinz Waterproof Winter Cycle Gloves, £40
Thick but not ski-glove thick, water- and windproof yet breathable, and with comfy gel pads, this fine pair of good-value gloves will keep you digitally insulated through the chillier months.