Join­ing the Rab­ble

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Cover Story -

I’m go­ing to be hon­est from the start: I hate or­gan­ised fun. Most of what I do, es­pe­cially when it’s ex­er­cise-re­lated, has a de­fined pur­pose and ob­jec­tive. My com­fort zone in­volves or­gan­i­sa­tion, goalset­ting, and en­deav­our. So when I found out that in­creas­ing num­bers of Lon­don­ers were meet­ing in parks, not to per­form sets and reps of spe­cific ex­er­cises, nor to hit box­ing pads, nor even kick a foot­ball into a goal but to play games, I shud­dered. Yet where does life be­gin, but at the edge of one’s com­fort zone? With the clear and firm ob­jec­tive of get­ting bet­ter at recre­ation (I’m try­ing!) I de­cided to book in for Rab­ble. Clearly there’s a de­mand for the pseu­do­com­pet­i­tive fun that Rab­ble of­fers. It sits in a va­cant space in the fit­ness mar­ket, some­where be­tween mil­i­tary-style boot camps and a friendly game of Fris­bee. Since it was founded by Char­lotte Roach, 26, and Rose­mary Pringle, 27, more than a year ago, Rab­ble has gath­ered a mem­ber­ship of 900 and looks set to ex­pand beyond London into other ma­jor ci­ties. “After I stopped train­ing as a pro­fes­sional ath­lete and got a reg­u­lar job I be­gan to dread go­ing to the gym,” says Roach. “All I wanted was to play in the park each day with my mates, and that seemed im­pos­si­ble in London. “Ei­ther I didn’t have the skill to play dif­fer­ent sports, or I didn’t have the money to join lots of clubs. Or I couldn’t com­mit my time to do­ing it. So I de­cided to set up a club where you can turn up when you’re able to, and where the aim is to make ex­er­cise as fun, en­joy­able and ac­ces­si­ble as pos­si­ble. “We play games, purely games. No­body else does that. The rea­son we do that is to take your mind off the ex­er­cise and help you en­joy it. It also means that if you have a pro­fes­sional netball player along­side lots of peo­ple who’ve never played be­fore, no­body re­ally has an ad­van­tage.” The big day comes, and it’s

rain­ing. Not just a lit­tle bit, but chuck­ing it down. I hope it might be can­celled, but “we play in all weath­ers” comes the re­sponse, ac­com­pa­nied by a wicked grin. Be­sides, by the time our mot­ley crew meet, it seems the God of Play has spo­ken: the shower has fin­ished, leav­ing the kind of slip­pery ground that hu­mil­i­ates even the most cau­tious of run­ners. Al­ready mud-soaked, I com­mit to 60 min­utes of pure fun, as the class be­gins. It’s clear th­ese ses­sions are more about giv­ing one’s in­ner child a work­out rather than any spe­cific body part, yet our tasks are sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar to those a trainer might ask of a client: catch this ball and throw it back, or run up that lung-bust­ing hill, again and again. Every­body is friendly and seems gen­uinely thrilled to be here. Some are pure play­ers and oth­ers use Rab­ble as part of a broader weekly ac­tiv­ity sched­ule. Not­with­stand­ing its in­sis­tence that you don’t need any sport­ing back­ground to join, there is clearly a strong carry-over, in terms of the skills we try to master dur­ing rounds of “dodge ball” and “storm the cas­tle”, to other sports like foot­ball, rugby and even dat­ing (the whis­per is that a few ro­mances have been kin­dled amid a game of what I can only de­scribe as “bib grab”). Dart­ing around to avoid or tag oth­ers will un­doubt­edly build agility and co-or­di­na­tion, just as charg­ing up a hill re­peat­edly will make you a gen­er­ally fit­ter hu­man be­ing. I’m un­sur­prised when one woman on my team, a reg­u­lar at a north London rugby club, tells me that when she at­tends reg­u­lar Rab­ble ses­sions she gets faster on the pitch. Es­sen­tially, this is train­ing in dis­guise. If you miss the en­er­gis­ing en­deav­our of school team-games and find run­ning on a tread­mill bor­ing, Rab­ble could be for you. Could you recre­ate the con­di­tions with a group of friends? Prob­a­bly, yes. But you’d need to re­search a lot, as the Rab­ble founders have done, to en­sure you’re con­tin­u­ally com­ing up with fun new games, and buy some ba­sic kit, in­clud­ing two large, in­flat­able pink balls. With Rab­ble, you just turn up when it suits you, pay a rea­son­able amount and play. Come to think of it, that sounds like a fairly ef­fi­cient and pur­pose­ful use of time to me. Per­haps this does suit me after all. Ses­sions take place in London at Fins­bury Square, Mon­day and Wed­nes­day 7pm; Clapham Common, Tues­day 7pm and Sun­day 11am; and Fins­bury Park, Satur­day 11am. £7.50 per ses­sion, £50 for 10 or £25 a month. Visit joinrab­ble.com for more.

Fun and games: Lucy Fry joins in one of the Rab­ble ses­sions in cen­tral London

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