Your TrailFit guide to Hampstead Heath

Running up Parliament Hill, stumbling upon a secret garden and taking a dip in the famous ponds: British adventure athlete and TrailFit ambassador Laura Kennington steps out in her KEEN Terradora to craft her own fitness routine in this iconic London park

  Images by Conor Beary

Images by Conor Beary

The red buses, distinctive skyline and constant humming of movement, London can feel exhilarating and exhausting all at once. However, amid the chaos is an unmistakable charm. If you know where to look, London has some real hidden gems, pockets of wilderness that can be a sanctuary for those too busy to escape the city. Hampstead Heath is one such sanctuary. Surrounded by quirky coffee shops, characterful houses and historic buildings, it’s also home to 791 acres of ancient woodland and swimming ponds.

I’m between adventures at the moment, living nomadically, so I adapt my fitness routines to wherever I am so I don't need to go to the gym. This is the essence of TrailFit for me – making the most of wherever you are and being outside, even if you find yourself in a huge city like London. It's all about carving your own path to fitness. For me, the key to being active regularly is to make it easy, so it fits into your routine (such as your commute) and to make it fun.

My go-to shoe for when I know I'm going to be on my feet all day, even it's walking to and from meetings in London, is the Terradora. Its versatility means it works well in different environments, whether wild or urban.

Running up that hill

Even on a busy day, allowing a bit of extra time to walk, run or cycle not only keeps me fit, but it means I soak up, rather than insulate against, my surroundings. I’m constantly on the lookout for obstacles I can incorporate into my fitness routine: hills in the countryside and steps in the city. In Hampstead Heath I like to warm up against one of the ancient trees (below) before a run up Parliament Hill. At the top you’re rewarded to that quintessential London skyline – Canary Wharf, the Gherkin, the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral – and feel a sense of almost smug contentment viewing frenetic city life from a peaceful park bench.

  Laura makes use of natural features  , such as trees, for stretching and warming up against

Laura makes use of natural features, such as trees, for stretching and warming up against

A walk in the park

Roaming the ancient woodland trails of Hampstead Heath is akin to stepping foot into Narnia. You can walk for hours through undulating terrain and quickly forget that this small oasis lies within Zone 2 of the Tube network. I'm always on the lookout for natural obstacles that I can incorporate into my ever-changing fitness routine. Trees such as these (below) are ideal for a body weight workout and I can clamber along fallen trunks to improve my balance. This is what TrailFit is all about – making the most of your surroundings and seeing the city as your playground. It really helps you to explore more and unlock your creativity – so much better than a stifling gym.

  Who needs a gym when you've got the park as your playground?

Who needs a gym when you've got the park as your playground?

Secrets to be shared

Stroll through Hampstead Heath’s 791 acres of ancient woodland and you might happen upon the hidden Hill Garden and Pergola (below) – an Edwardian paradise built by landscape architect Thomas Mawson for Lord Leverhulme, who hosted many a summer party here. It was built around the same time as the Northern Line – in fact the spoil from digging the tunnels was used to landscape the gardens. The Pergola, with its classical stone columns creeping with vines and flowers, is a fine place to meander and pretend you're in a period drama. The Terradora boot is the ideal companion for spontaneous rambles such as this. They're so lightweight and comfortable, I barely feel them on my feet.

  Spontaneous rambles in your city can reveal hidden gems, such as London's Hill Garden & Pergola

Spontaneous rambles in your city can reveal hidden gems, such as London's Hill Garden & Pergola

Space to stretch and be you

Seek out the sculptures in Golders Hill Park (below) and the nearby stumpery – a quirky Victorian garden craze in which ferns and woodland plants are arranged around tree stumps. There's even a free zoo to explore and get up close to rare and exotic birds and mammals, such as laughing kookaburras, ring-tailed lemurs and ring-tailed coatis.

There are plenty of wide open spaces in the park to lay out a yoga mat, or go barefoot! I’m doing more yoga at the moment; I love that you can just rock up and do it anywhere. This is TrailFit at its core – redefining fitness in a way that gives you confidence and a sense of freedom. It gives you permission to be you – you don't have to mirror what the media dictates about how you should look or dress or keep fit.

  Yoga is the essence of TrailFit: you can do it anywhere, even barefoot in the park

Yoga is the essence of TrailFit: you can do it anywhere, even barefoot in the park

The ponds and a well-earned coffee

We’re not designed to live our lives in a temperature-controlled environment, cushioned against the natural world. Take a detour and change the pace. Sometimes, that change of scene you’re craving is much closer than you think.

Instead of competing for lane space and counting laps, dive into any number of outdoor pools London has to offer and revel in bird song as you glide through the water. At Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds (below) it’s just £2 for a day pass. After a bracing dip, you’ll feel your senses enlivened, and a flat white and a spot of brunch in one of the independent cafés in Hampstead Village, such as local haunt Ginger & White, is guaranteed to taste better. 

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The Terradora: embracing the TrailFit movement

The Terradora is a robust, lightweight andwaterproof boot designed especially for women that combines the support of hiking footwear with the flexibility and vigour of a trail runner. 

  • Specifically designed for women’s feet 
  • Cushioned panels reduce pressure on the Achilles tendon
  • Low-density EVA midsole provides lightweight support for high intensity workouts and steep descents
  • KEEN all-terrain rubber outsole for high traction grip
  • Dual-density PU foam footbed
  • Lightweight mesh upper
  • KEEN.DRY Waterproof breathable membrane. 
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KEEN’s Terradora comes in a mid (£109.99) and low (£99.99) style. Head to keenfootwear.com/trailfit-eu for more information, watch the Terradora video at bit.ly/ErnestTerradora and check our online directory for more stories from KEEN.

Follow on Instagram and Facebook @KEENEUROPE. Tag your pics #Terradora and #TrailFit to join the TrailFit movement.