If you’re champing at the bit in anticipation for what could be a year of sporting achievements, Wales has a lot to offer in terms of training facilities, natural or otherwise. Whether you're pro level or an amateur seeking something a little bit different, get outdoors in Wales and and reap the benefits to your wellbeing.
We’ve bred and trained some of the world's most talented athletes, from a Tour de France winner to world-class football and rugby players. Throughout 2021 we're hoping some of our most talented sportspeople will get the chance to represent Wales on the international stage at a number of events delayed from last year, including the UEFA EURO 2020 championships and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
We're also hoping for the return of well loved and popular Welsh sporting events, such as the Cardiff Half Marathon, Marathon Eryri, and IRONMAN Wales (held in the beautiful coastal village of Tenby). So when it's safe to do so, build a visit to Wales into your training plans, and take advantage of some of the spectacular sporting events on offer.
Cycling and mountain biking
Wales is a mecca for cyclists and mountain bikers from across the world, with top-class routes and facilities available for all abilities. South Wales’ purpose-built downhill riding centre, BikePark Wales serves up dozens of thrilling trails for riders of every level. It’s all about downhill action at Antur Stiniog. This adrenaline-filled centre of cycling excellence within the former slate-mining town is the place to roll, rattle and rock over steep swoops and tricky terrains.
Welsh cycling isn’t all mountain biking though, we also have hundreds of miles of wonderful traffic-free family friendly cycling routes such as the Elan Valley trail in Powys or the Millennium Park in Llanelli.
Have a look at some of what’s on offer for anyone keen to undertake a cycling or mountain biking trip.
Running took off in a big way during summer 2020, and many have carried on and are still reaping the rewards.
Whilst the regular parkrun events are on hold for the time being, (not) parkrun is an alternative way to participate in a 5k walk, jog or run in the absence of the usual Saturday morning events. You can take part in a (not) parkrun anytime, anywhere following the appropriate guidelines for physical activity.
Wales has some of the best places to run in Wales and some of Wales’ well-known faces have outlined their favourite routes for us as inspiration for those looking to take their running on tour one day. Welsh actress Eve Myles’ favourite place to run in Wales is along the Taff Trail. Starting at Castell Coch – a fairytale Victorian castle – all the way down to Cardiff Bay. Ultra-marathon runner Huw Brassington is constantly drawn towards the coastal path surrounding his home, the Llŷn Peninsula, choosing its dynamic landscape as the ideal outdoor gym to train for his next race.
Get in the water
The mental health and well-being benefits associated with watersports (such as swimming) made headlines during a difficult 2020.
Sian Sykes runs a stand-up paddleboarding academy, Psyched Paddleboarding, on the Isle of Anglesey. She sees more and more that 'people are seeking a connection to the outdoors to challenge themselves mentally and physically – and above all, to give it a go.'
Coasteering was invented in Wales and it’s an all-in-one experience that includes rock-hopping, shore-scrambling, swell-riding, cave-exploring and cliff-jumping. It’s also as much about discovering our wildlife and coastline at close-quarters.
Whether you fancy a relaxing family adventure afloat in a canoe or the exhilaration of rushing across waves in a kayak, Wales is the place to find it and there are plenty of options to get out on the water and explore.
In Pembrokeshire, the Bluetits Chill Swimmers make the most of the sea, lakes and ponds all year round. Sarah Mullis has been a member for four years. She says: 'I used to associate the outdoors with competitive men in Lycra, but chill swimming changed that for me. The women we swim with have all sorts of things going on in their lives. But when we get together, our problems seem that little bit smaller.'
As more people take to the waters, surrounded by the coast and dotted with lakes, Wales has plenty to offer in this arena. Have a look at some of the watersports opportunities on offer.
With its wild Atlantic breakers and wide, sandy beaches, Wales is among the best places in Europe to learn to surf – and in doing so, you may learn about more than how to catch a wave.
Tim Woodman, professor of performance psychology at Bangor University, says: 'Learning to surf can help people develop self-esteem, because they learn to adapt to an ever-changing environment. It’s a great training ground for life.'
North Wales is home to Britain’s first artificial surf lagoon, Adventure Parc Snowdonia. Its managing director, Andy Ainscough, is another advocate for the mental benefits of the sport. He says: 'By sticking at it and incrementally taking on bigger challenges – more powerful waves, for example – we gradually expand our sense of what we can achieve if we put our mind to it.'