Most of us recognise that physical activity is good for us – but exercising indoors can be unappealing particularly when the weather improves as at this time of year. So here are three main and some supplementary options for exercising outdoors under guidance and in the company of others.
If you pass by the Monumento ai Caduti (the War Memorial) along the lakefront you may well see an animated group, ranging from between ten to twenty people, being led through a work out to the accompaniment of a reggaeton soundtrack. These classes are run by Total Fit. Their website introduces themselves as follows:
‘We aim to appeal to those who do not want or are unable to subscribe to a classical fitness centre where you are left on your own during your training without options for stimulus or support. With us instead you will find a welcoming and enjoyable environment.’
The website (in Italian) also includes this illustrative video which captures some of the excitement and energy I witnessed when passing by the other day.
Total Fit have a three point approach to wellness, namely through exercise, nutrition and what they refer to as integration. Their holistic philosophy is something participants can take on, explore as profoundly as they wish or alternately, ignore in its entirety. Theirs is a well-established organisation that has been running for the last three years in which time they have built up a following of over sixty clients. They are associated with Herbal Life, the nutrition and dietary supplement company. They do state that those who sign up with them are entirely free to pursue any recommended lifestyle goals as far as they wish. Nor are they obliged to purchase supplements from Herbal Life if they prefer not to.
You can just drop in at the Monumento dei Caduti on one of their outdoor sessions held, weather permitting, from 09.00 to 10.00 on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays and from 10.00 to 11.00 on Saturdays. There are also two evening sessions held in the same location from 20.00 to 21.30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. One session will cost you €10. When weather does not permit, sessions (at the same times) are held in the gym of the Scuola Media ‘Ugo Foscolo’ on Via Borgo Vico. All ages, abilities and aptitudes are welcome with courses designed for three levels of participation – base, intermediate and advanced. Each level has its own focus for achievement with base level directed at posture and breathing, intermediate at strength and resistance while advanced incorporates cardio and muscular definition. Scroll down to the end of the article for their contact information.
Total Fit aim to hold their exercise sessions outdoors as far as possible for both the physical and mental benefits of direct contact with nature. The same commitment to exercising in a natural environment is shared by our next group – MammaFit. If you were to continue your walk from the Monumento ai Caduti, along the lakefront walkway to the gardens of Villa Olmo, you may well see a group of young women, with their babies in buggies, being led through an exercise programme designed specifically for postpartum mothers.
MammaFit is an Italian organisation set up to offer vital support to mothers looking to get back into shape after giving birth. But its much more than a standard exercise class. Its an opportunity to get together away from the home, to undertake exercises designed specifically for the needs of a new mother and of course, to share thoughts, ideas and information amongst a peer group facing the same sort of emotions, concerns and challenges.
The Como group meet in front of Villa Olmo, on the lakefront close to the Lido bar on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10.30, weather permitting. They are led by qualified personal trainer and osteopath Katy Rose who is originally from the UK. Her group is truly international consisting of both Italian and foreign mothers. As with Total Fit, the instruction is given in Italian but language really is no barrier and of course, Katy can always clarify in English if necessary.
Recent mothers are recommended to join the programme approximately forty days after the baby’s birth and maintain it for about twelve months or as long as the babies are happy to stay sat watching in their buggies. In fact, the babies all seem totally intrigued as they watch the circle of mothers pass by their push chairs. The activity has a calming effect on everyone, including Katy’s beautiful dog!
Katy’s personal journey from Guildford in Surrey to Como is fascinating and she shares some of the similar qualities I discovered when recently interviewing Sarah Aller, Como’s New York artist – a determination to make a success of living as an ex-pat by embracing Italian life for its positives and of course, managing the negatives! Sarah happens also to be one of Katy’s MammaFit participants.
Katy started leading the Como group back in 2016 having completed her training with MammaFit in 2015. She was looking for an activity that allowed her to continue her interest in physical activity while caring for her new-born child. Now into her fourth year, she is again accompanied by her second child but also thinking of the needs of mothers with toddlers. For them, she has devised her own programme held indoors called ‘Back in Shape‘. Contact information for MammaFit and Katy is at the end of the article.
June in Como is the ideal month for outside physical activity – the heavy rains of spring have stopped, the sun is shining but the temperatures have not yet risen too high. It is just the right time to participate in the totally free ‘pop-up’ activities organised by Pratiqiamo which start on Monday June 17th. All the groups mentioned here pay attention beyond the physical to embrace the mental and social advantages of participating in outdoor activities. For Pratiqiamo these aspects, alongside the ethical, are fundamental to their philosophy based as it is on the principles of the Chinese art of Qi Gong from which are derived Tai Chi and other martial arts. As was explained to me by Francesca Cervellino, Pratiqiamo’s activity coordinator, Qi Gong is basically about listening to your body and learning how to use our internal energy.
Pratiqiamo is a loose grouping of like-minded professionals who volunteer their time to offer a month long programme of physical activity in the open, for free. They range in age from 30 to 70 and come from a variety of different disciplines including dance and sport as well as the martial arts. They eschew publicity as much as they reject formal organisational structures, marketing or any other aspect of commercialism. However, by following their Facebook page and getting your details into their WhatsApp group via Francesca, you will receive all the practical details as to where and when they are meeting.
For them, being outdoors and surrounded by nature is of primary importance hence their name Prati-Qi-Amo (translated as Fields-Qi Gong-I love) but also sounding like ‘pratichiamo’ – we practice. They like to locate their activities within Como’s different parks and public spaces with the intention of reclaiming these as places for communal enjoyment. Some of Como’s parks away from the lakefront can be somewhat neglected and certainly underused. Pratiqiamo aim to assist the reintegration of these overlooked areas back into social urban life.
Their group activities are not highly structured. Each session is normally ‘guided’ (not taught) by three or four leaders. They seek to assist all participants, no matter what age, level of experience or capacity, to find their individual source of energy. Language is not a barrier. Francesca speaks English but, as with the other physical activities described here, communication is as much about being led by example as through verbal explanation.
Pratiqiamo’s programme (if it can be called as such) runs for just about a month starting on Monday June 17th. They may also hold one or two additional events at other times of the year. Follow their Facebook page to get information on the start of their activities or you may also contact Francesca directly. If you have time free in June or are visiting Como during this month, get your name and details into their WhatsApp group so you know where to be and when. Contact details can be found at the end of the article.
Right alongside the Monumento Ai Caduti is the club house of Canottieri Lario, Como’s very successful rowing club. They too offer classes for adults aged typically from twenty five to sixty and above. These are not strictly outdoor courses since they run in the evenings from autumn through winter until spring.
They make use of the club’s gym and the ‘vasca voga’ – one of the unique features of the club which allows teams to practice rowing indoors. They do also go out on the lake on occasion if weather permits. These evening classes have been running for the last seven years and they offer a great way for participants to test out if rowing could be an enjoyable physical activity for them. In many cases, this proves the case since usually about half of the courses’ participants go on to join the club. Instructors such as the Gerosa twins, are both qualified and experienced rowers.
Summer Activities for the Young
June sees the start of the long summer holidays which bring the annual challenge for parents to find activities to keep their children occupied and happy.
The Red House Riding Club, based in Senna Comasco on the road out of Como towards Cantu, organise two weeks of summer camp with a daily programme running from 09.00 to 17.00. If days horse riding and helping out in the stables with an international group of children might be of interest, contact long-time English ex-pat resident Roz on +39 338 3405 954 for more information.
The soccer school run by the famous Portugese team, Benfica, hold soccer training camps for children and young people in Olgiate Comasco from 10th to 14th June, in Giubiasco from the 17th to 21st June and a residential course in the Valtellina from 30th June to 5th July.
Contact Jorge Pinto (Portugese also speaking Italian, Spanish and English) on +39 349 385 0344 for more information. You can also visit their website.
Go to our Sport page for details of a number of other organisations offering courses for adults and children. Check out the Como Rugby Club who will be facing a touring team from Ireland later this month and are also holding an open day for children born between 2008 and 2015 this Saturday (8th June) from 15.30-17.00 at the Centro Sportivo Belvedere on Via Longoni.
Contact name and number: Marta Garlaschelli +39 333 241 7952
Contact name and number: Katy Rose +39 392 533 7036
Contact name: Francesca Cervellino, message her via Pratiqiamo’s Facebook page and send your telephone number to her to get included in the WhatsApp group.
The first week’s schedule of Pratiqiamo’s activities are also listed on our calendar and future dates will also be included when known.
Contact name and number: Call +39 031.574720 Mondays to Fridays 09.00 to 12.30 and 14.00 – 18.00