When it's cold and wet outside, indoor sports arenas come into their own, writes Susan Edmunds.
Winter sports mean a lot of things, such as dirty rugby gear, wet feet, and goosebumped legs in short netball skirts. Whether it's the prospect of shivering on the damp sidelines while your kids play football or adding another thermal layer of clothing before you head out for an after-work bike ride in the dark, there are a lot of potential hurdles to put people off being active in winter.
But around the city, people are moving traditionally "outdoor" sports indoors. Organisers of Auckland indoor sports arenas say putting a roof over your head while you play netball, golf or even ski, removes the safety and weather concerns - and often gives you the option of stopping off for a shower, drink or coffee afterwards - without a splash of mud in sight.
Indoor Sports St Lukes, 31 Rossmay Tce, Morningside, ph (09) 845 1436.
Kumeu Indoor Sports Centre, 250c Main Rd, Kumeu, ph (09) 412 7993.
Indoor Sports Balmoral, 164 Balmoral Rd, Balmoral, ph (09) 630 2100.
North Harbour Indoor Sports, 12-14 Kaimahi Rd, Glenfield, ph (09) 444 4900.
Action Indoor Sports Central, Newmarket, Pakuranga and Manukau.
Action Indoor Sports Waitakere, 133 Central Park Drive, Waitakere.
Planet Sports, 57 View Rd, Glenfield, ph (09) 444 2311.
Western Indoor Sports, 26 Veronica St, New Lynn.
Indoor cricket, netball and soccer (futsal) are played in weekly competitions throughout the city. They are like their outdoor equivalents but with changes in the rules to suit the indoor courts, which make the games faster and require fewer players. Gary Adamson, of Planet Sports in Glenfield, says he has noticed a lot of people coming through his facility who are interested in the social side of indoor sport, and use it to improve their fitness. "You don't have to know so much about the sport [as when you play outdoors] and it's a good workout for all levels."
Indoor cricket is played between two teams of eight, rather than 11, and every member of the fielding side bowls at least two overs. Players batting don't have to run the whole way from one wicket to the other to score a run - the striker must run the full distance but the person who didn't hit the ball only has to run halfway. Batsmen can continue to bat after getting out but they lose five runs off the score. Bonus runs are earned by hitting the ball into the net around the playing area, and it's a more high-energy game.
Indoor netball is usually played with six on each team - two attackers, two defenders and two centres. A net around the court stops the ball leaving it, cutting down on playing stoppages. Goals can be shot from outside the goal circle, and earn an extra point when they are. Goals from within the traditional circle earn one point.
Futsal is played with only five players, including the goalie. "The ball is never out," Adamson says, "So it's a quicker, more intense game."
Harriet Watson and her husband, Craig, dreamed of owning their own indoor sport facility for years before they opened Kumeu Indoor Sports. They offer a number of leagues for indoor netball, cricket and soccer, and are just starting dodgeball and turbotouch. Players can approach the centre as individuals looking for a team, or register their own.
Business is growing, and she says she has noticed the range of people involved is getting wider. People like the convenience of playing indoors, but she says it has added benefits for spectators, especially parents. "If it's a rainy day, you don't get muddy, or wet. We have a bar and bistro so parents often sit and have a drink while their children are training and buy them some food afterwards."
Matt McCondach, manager of Indoor Sports St Lukes, says netball is the most popular sport played at his facility, with about 190 teams taking part in weekly games. "We're full most of the year - the biggest benefit is you can play whatever the weather." He says people are also drawn to indoor sports for the convenience - while they might spend all day playing traditional cricket, an indoor game is over in an hour and a half.
Adamson thinks the decision to play indoors can be put squarely down to weather. "In the 80s it was a novelty to play indoors but now it's purely because of the weather."
Cyco, 228 Ponsonby Rd, ph (09) 376 4447.
Paul Leitch (Orakei Community Centre, Tuesdays, Banff Ave, Epsom, Thursdays), ph 0274 711 460.
Indoor cycling is something of an underground activity, says Cyco's Lance Maitland. Most people have heard of the RPM classes held at gyms, but there is also an indoor fix available for more serious cyclists. Every year, from May until October, Maitland offers cyclists a chance to kick their fitness and form up a gear before the coming summer. On Tuesdays, from 6pm until 8.30pm, Cyco on Ponsonby Rd fills up with cyclists, who bring their own bikes and windtrainers (which the bikes fit into) and undergo an intensive stationary session working on building up their leg speed, strength, use of their gears and general hill work. By October, when daylight saving makes it easier to get on the road again, the cyclists should have better fitness and technique and their average speed should have lifted. Maitland describes his classes as a "high-tech version of RPM". Cyclists get to use their own gear and, because he spends much of the session wandering around the group giving tips and advice, they get a lot of one-on-one training to improve their cycling. "It's good for technique, and cycling is all about technique." Maitland says it's the convenience that draws people - they can get a good cycling session in without having to worry about riding in the dark or wet weather. It also helps cyclists get through a plateau in training - it's harder to be lazy or complacent when working out with a group. A windtrainer costs about $399.
Snowplanet, 91 Small Rd, Silverdale, ph (09) 427 0044. Morning pass: $29 (child/student $19), day pass: $59 ($39), night pass: $41 ($29), group classes $29.
Keen skiers can get their fix in Auckland - and indoors. Snowplanet, in what looks like a huge shipping container on the hill next to SH1 near Silverdale, offers skiing and snowboarding year-round. Most of the clientele on an average weekend are families there for the novelty fun factor or getting a ski-refresher before heading to the mountain. There is also a terrain park popular with snowboarders wanting to hone their tricks. It's like a huge fridge, with indoor snow stretching up in a smooth curve up the hillside. It's temperature-controlled at -5C and the conditions are totally reliable. You know you are never going to have a day unsuitable for skiing or have to wait for the wind to die down. Snowplanet also offers lessons - I took one in snowboarding - and it's a warmer, safer, easier place to learn than on a mountain. There are fewer steep slopes and the best bit is that you are only a few metres from a coffee in the restaurant and bar at the bottom of the slope. You need to bring your own warm clothing and gloves but all other gear can be hired. There are membership options available.
Extreme Edge Indoor Rock Climbing, 5 Waikaukau Rd, Glen Eden, ph (09) 818 3038; 40c Morrin Rd, Panmure, ph (09) 574 5677, Adult $20, child $15
Clip 'n Climb, 610 Dominion Rd, ph (09) 630 6040. Adults $18, school students $15, pre-schoolers $10.
With a fear of heights and upper-body strength that could definitely use some work, it is fair to say my early ventures into rockclimbing were not my favourite indoor-sport experiences. Since then, though, facilities have sprung up catering for the "fun" side of the market. So while expert climbers scurry up walls with intimidating overhangs, kids (and people like me) can choose a less intense experience.
Gavin Harris, of Clip 'n Climb Dominion Rd, says the focus of his facility is entertainment. They use an automatic belay system "primarily designed for idiots". Whether you are 3 or 93, you can just clip on and the machine does the thinking. Traditional rock climbing requires another person to help with the belay and take the weight of the person climbing (and laugh as they get stuck halfway up the wall).
For serious rockclimbers, Harris says there are benefits to doing it indoors instead of on a mountain. "It's a controlled environment, there are no weather issues and you could do it seven days a week, 24 hours a day, if the facility was available."
It's a safe training environment to prepare for outdoor climbing. "You can maintain your fitness and practise particular climbs or techniques that you then apply on real rocks."
Harris says rock climbing is the ultimate exercise. "With gravity, your body has one mission in life and that is to get back to the floor. With this, you're working against it." Regular climbers develop strength, flexibility, stamina, endurance and get a good cardio workout.
Dave Spooner, of Extreme Edge, says they are also moving to include young climbers with the new Climbzone - where kids can clamber over fun shapes like balloons. He is an outdoor climber himself and uses the facility's standard rockclimbing walls for training. "It's much safer - if you fall here, there's nothing you can hit. If you fall outdoors, you worry about what you are going to hit." It also builds more strength. "Outdoors, there aren't many large overhangs but in here, the most popular climbing wall has a big overhang, so there' s more of an upper-body and core workout."
He says indoor rock climbing isn't replacing the outdoor sport. "They work together and it makes the sport more publicly accessible."
Citygolf, 92 Albert St, City, ph (09) 302 2790. Simulator lounge hire is $75/hr.
It's fair to say work is often not great for your golf game. Citygolf offers the opportunity to get some professional coaching in on your lunchbreak - or just the opportunity to take on a golf course with a few friends. There are two golf simulator lounges, in which players hit the ball at the screen. "They are accurate to 95 per cent," says spokesperson Heidi May. The simulators pick up your speed and angle and can recognise hooks, slices, topspin and backspin. There are a variety of international courses to choose from. People can play on their own or with up to four to six others. For a special event, the two lounges can be combined into one. Players bring their own clubs or borrow them. "It's good for people who want to go and hit some balls but don't want to get wet while they are doing it," says May. Playing a round at Citygolf is quicker than a regular golf game, so it suits people who can't commit an entire afternoon. "We have 58 golf courses to choose from, or they can be set up for Longest Drive, Closest to the Pin or Ambrose for larger groups."