As winter encroaches, how do we physically prepare for the onslaught on our health and sanity that is the Danish Christmas? With difficulty! But while it is tempting to spend three months in the comfort of our workplaces and homes, there’s a world of sporting opportunity out there: both indoors and out.
Anyone fancy a dip?
Anyone who’s not actually a native Viking tends to shiver at the thought, often dismissing the very idea of their existence as some kind of chilly urban legend best retold with a glass of nice hot gløgg in hand. But they are indeed for real, these intrepid ‘winter bathers’, and not only is the season approaching when they jump into the ice floes around Copenhagen, but one club has taken the whole business up market at Vinterbad Bryggen, the new winter bathing club in the heart of Copenhagen.
International architects Bjarke Ingels Group BIG and Vinterbad Bryggen are joining forces to extend the existing Copenhagen Harbour Lido with saunas, a café and facilities for winter bathing. This scheme will be a welcome addition to winter bathing in the capital as the traditional association known as Det Kolde Gys has already closed its waiting list for 2012/13.
However, there’s nothing to stop you trying out this amazing activity for yourself if you approach De Dragør Vandhunde on the last Saturday of the month from October to March between 11am and 1pm at Dragør Søbadeanstalt. Closer to town there is Svanemøllebugtens Vinterbadelaug, with 1,500 members and generally speaking a long waiting list. But at the time of writing you can sign up for membership for the new season and enjoy the benefits of immersing yourself in the freezing depths while fast-tracking your way to absolute integration into the community.
Indoor gymnastics: ideal prep for the julefrokost
Not all Danes are so intrepid. Many prefer indoor leisure pursuits as the nights draw in. Again, signing on for classes with a gymnastics association is a great way to meet people and to train for the office party. One of the biggest clubs offering fun classes for the winter is ODK, a club started in the 1920s by a group of former students from Ollerup Gymnastikhøjskole who just couldn’t face not seeing each other again once they had returned to the capital. There are classes for kids, but these are often oversubscribed. However, if you make your way to the last pages of the 2012/2013 catalogue, you’ll come across a number of classes for grown-ups including such exotic challenges to the physique as powerhoop, floorball and ACT (Advance Circuit Training). They do more traditional things like yoga/pilates and zumba too.
Braving it out in the underground car parks
Other Danes may not fancy the Øresund ice, but they have their own brand of boldness even so. They do things with kettle bells and tractor tyres – exercises preferably performed by consenting (young) adults in gloomy underground car parks. But they too are a welcoming lot, usually giving the impression of being so gobsmacked by their own intrepidness that if you show up once, you are unlikely to find your way out of the car park until you’ve promised to show up next time too.
Pounding the ground in the city parks
This is an ideal set-up if you are not old enough to play games with Motionsklubben Amager twice a week, where a 22-year-old DGI instructor has been helping Tårnby’s more mature population to rediscover their childhood with a scientifically engineered training programme full of fun and, to be honest, serious interval training. You can sign up online, or you can save a few kroner by turning up on the day (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-6:15pm) and button-holing Grethe Kristensen, the club’s chairperson of 25 years. Training starts at the clubhouse, and ostensibly the scheme is a ‘runner’s academy’, preparing its students to take part in the Amager Strandpark parkrun every Saturday at 9 am, but is more like an excuse to boost your fitness and improve your lipid profile so you too can beat the ‘julesul’. The parkrun is easy to find (see the website), but the clubhouse might not be: it’s a low building somewhere along Amager Strandvej 285, just before the turning into Kastrup Strandpark. Don’t rely on Google to help you locate it! Similar runner’s academies will be starting in Ørestad this autumn and Østerbro in the spring.
A world of opportunity at your fingertips
There are plenty of other activities to help dispel the winter blues and keep you in shape. If you are short of inspiration, try the DGI på kanten website. Who knows: with enough hits from expats, DGI might even translate the site into English! If your Danish isn’t quite up to the job, feel free to get in touch with the bright young things at the DGI Storkøbenhavn office (7940 4900). They’ll point you in the right direction.
Jonathan Sydenham, originally from the UK, enjoyed getting muddy on the rugby pitches in his youth, which might explain why he today enjoys cross country running. He is a sports consultant at the DGI (the Danish Gymnastic and Sports Association), an umbrella group for around 5,000 local associations, which massively vary in size, from the dozens to the thousands.
For four weeks at a time, four times a year, our aim is to give you all the seasonal lifestyle advice you need to thrive in the areas of gardening, health, food and sport. When should you plant your petunias, when does the birch pollen season normally start, which week do the home-grown strawberries take over the supermarket, and which outdoor sports can you play in the snow? All the answers are here in ‘A plan for all seasons’.