New Ideas for a New Year52 ideas for taking a fresh approach to life in 2012
This is about making the most of the whole of 2012 - and not about setting yourself targets that you feel forced into and which you won’t meet.
No promises. No pledges. Just a commitment to do things differently.
Go on, make 2012 your best year yet.
1. Get fit!
Saying that, a quick look at the holiday snaps come August and you might be wishing you'd read this before venturing out with your belly hanging out your speedos or in that nice bathing costume that your 'friend' said you looked good in.
2. Be a Sport
Nothing heavy, nothing hard. If sport sounds like a drag, just visit a local leisure centre and have a look around. You’ll soon realise that Swindon has excellent facilities that you’ll find are a pleasure to use – and are perfect for socialising while you get fitter. First, see our huge Sport in Swindon guide, then check out our guide to facilities across the town.
Sport is only beneficial if it becomes regular, and becoming a member of a club is a great way to get in the habit. The more you go, the less it costs – and the excellent facilities at venues such as David Lloyd, Fitness First & Nuffield Health will soon turn it into a pleasure, not a chore.
4. Learn a new skill
OK, this is a big subject with endless opportunities, but the outcome is always the same. Set yourself the challenge of learning a new language, a musical instrument, a craft, painting, archery, silversmithing, you name it… and the rewards will be numerous – possibly starting with the pleasure that comes from proving an old dog can learn new tricks. Swindon is blessed with not one but two excellent colleges that are as geared up for night school/part-time studies as they are for vocational education. There really is something for everyone at New College and Swindon College – so start looking.
If you can remember the old Kung Fu series – and even if you can’t – then give a martial art a try. They’ve been around long enough in the west, now, for us to realise that the physical benefits they bring through regular exercise is only half the story. Martial arts also build discipline and self-confidence, and provide an aid to self-defence. Check out our guide to martial arts in Swindon.
> SwindonWeb martial arts guide
6. On your bike
> SwindonWeb cycling guide
7. Get bendy
Yoga was once considered an alternative therapy but is now very much a mainstream aid to both physical and mental wellbeing - and there are various opportunities to practise it in Swindon. People of all ages, builds and mobility can benefit from yoga, so check out our guide to yoga in Swindon to find out how to get started.
> SwindonWeb yoga guide
8. Get blogging
If you thought the internet was only for passive use – like the telly – you’re missing the point. Lots of people are finding blogs are a great way to broadcast their views and reach out to a worldwide community. Everybody’s got an interesting story to tell and should tell it through a blog.
> Guide to starting a blog
9. Tee up!
We can’t promise it will get you fit, but all that fresh air can’t be bad, and if you’ve ever wondered what the social appeal of golf is, then perhaps now is the time to find out. Swindon has more than its fair share of great golfing facilities – many with excellent opportunities for beginners to improve, and improvers to flourish, as our guide to golf around the town shows.
> SwindonWeb guide to local golf
10. Be a footie star
You may have given up on your dream of playing for Swindon Town, but there are plenty of opportunities to carrying on playing the beautiful game. And when you sit down to watch the professionals on the telly or at the County Ground, you will have earned it. If 11-a-side is beyond you, small-sided games, such as Futsal, will keep you fit and active – and our footie guide shows you how, where and when.
> SwindonWeb footie guide
11. Breathe that country air
> SwindonWeb guide to open spaces
12. Walk, don’t drive
It’s healthy, it’s rewarding, it’s green. And apart from the cost of shoe leather, it’s free. You’ll be amazed at how your lifestyle changes when you swap the road for the pavement. Check out our 10 Reasons Why You Should Walk Instead of Drive – originally put together to help SwindonWeb users save money, but also useful for helping to understand why walking is so beneficial. There’s even a section with lots of tips on making walking better.
> 10 Reasons why you should walk instead of drive
13. Kick the habit
> SwindonWeb guide to kicking the habit
14. Give organic a go
One thing you need to understand about eating organic food is: it’s not like becoming a vegetarian. You don’t have to commit to eating organic food exclusively, and although there are ethical reasons for doing it, you should try to eat organic food not out of principle but because it’s healthier and because it tastes better. Remember that changing your life is about making little changes – especially at first – so introducing at least some organic food into your diet is important, not how much of it you eat. Luckily for Swindon, we have one of the country’s most celebrated organic farmers, Helen Browning, on our doorstep, where you will find plenty of advice.
> Helen Browning website
15. Make some ‘Me time’
Why not make time for you in 2012? Perhaps the biggest step you can take towards a happier life is to stop giving all your time to other people and save some for yourself. You could treat yourself to an hour of pampering every week or every month, give yourself a new look or sample alternative therapies. The most important thing here is not what you do, but deciding to take time out from your life to do it. Have a look at our big Health and Beauty Guide to see the kind of things we mean.
> SwindonWeb guide to health and beauty
16. Get running
You may already have decided this isn’t for you, but wait! The mistake most people make when they decide to take up running is they aim too high. You don’t need to be marathon-fit to reap the benefits, and you don’t have to aim to get fit inside overnight. You could think about entering a road race (SwindonWeb always features local ones) or you could even set yourself the long-term goal of running in the Swindon Half Marathon – and you’d have three-quarters of the year to achieve it. If there’s the slenderest outside chance that you might think about taking up running, see our guide to running before you make up your mind. Be warned that you are likely to feel inspired.
If you have time on your hands, there are two main reasons why you should think about volunteering. Not only will you be helping others, but you will be helping yourself. Self pride, self confidence and satisfaction are just some of the benefits, and you’ll probably also have a whole lot of fun, too.
> Swindon Volunteer Information Service
> Swindon Volunteer Centre
18. Give the supermarket a rest
Go on, buy local! We’re not suggesting that you turn your back on supermarkets completely, but we do like the idea of spending at least some of your time – and your money – on what you could call alternative shopping therapy. That could mean supporting local shops – such as the many fresh greengrocer shops in the Broad Street/Manchester Road area of town - or by visiting local markets. Our markets guide is a good place to start, and you could also try farmers’ markets and outlets, such as Coleshill Organics for good, wholesome food, grown right on your doorstep.
> SwindonWeb markets guide
19. Eat out
> SwindonWeb guide to eating out
20. Dance the night away
Millions watch and love Strictly Come Dancing, so why don’t they get out there and give it a go themselves? If you’re a Strictly fan, take the decision to be a doer instead of a watcher - and find out that it’s even more fun to do it yourself than be a couch potato. It doesn’t have to be ballroom, either, because there are lots of other types of dancing going on in Swindon – as our constantly updated dance guide shows.
> SwindonWeb dance guide
21. Get wet in the great outdoors
22. Get your skates on
Ice skating is one of those things that people have either tried once or get hooked on. If you haven’t done it for a while – and especially if you haven’t been on the ice for a few years - have another go! We can’t think of anything that combines fun and exercise so neatly. And don’t think that you have to be a certain age to try it. We checked out the Link Centre’s web page and we can’t find anywhere where it says they have an upper age limit, so it’s official: you’re never too old for ice skating.
> The Link Centre
23. Give a dog a home
Many people’s first thought when looking for a pet is to consult the small ads or contact a professional breeder. But there are always lots of animals in need of re-homing that will fit the bill just as well. And the satisfaction of knowing that you have given a fresh start to an animal which, through no fault of its own, found itself with nowhere to live, is a great bonus for many animal lovers.
> Animal Recue in Swindon
24. Join the club
Or the society. Or the association. There are dozens to choose from in Swindon, and, once again, it’s not so important which one you choose, only that you choose one to give yourself a change. But boosting yourself by making a change in this way is only one benefit. You'll also meet new people, learn new skills, take on new responsibilities… the only downside is you’ll kick yourself for not doing it before. If you can’t find something to interest you in our extensive list of local clubs, then you only have one option – start one of your own!
> SwindonWeb guide to local clubs
25. Support your local football clubs
If you're fed up with football on telly, get back to your roots! There's no substitute for honest, live football, so if you haven't been for a while, give it another try. Who knows it may even be a Wembley year!Renew your allegiance to Swindon Town or check out the non-League, Swindon Supermarine. On second thoughts, don't choose - support both!
Everybody's doing it - so join in. And don't forget to 'LIKE' SwindonWeb! Facebook is not just for teenagers' gossip, but is now used by people of all ages to stay in touch with one another. There is no catching up to do if you haven't used it before and you shouldn't need any help with getting started, but there are guides to help you if you do.
27. Get Tweeting
Twitter is even easier to get to grips with than Facebook and although its attraction is not obvious at first, tweeting soon becomes great fun. You can use Twitter to keep up to date with all kinds of things, including what's new on SwindonWeb.
28. Get a new job
29. Get personal
There is one good reason why you should get yourself a personal trainer: you deserve it. Just because you’re not a Hollywood star or David Beckham, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from a professional looking after your physique.
> SwindonWeb guide to personal trainers
30. Learn a new language
Learn to say hello in Swedish (it's 'Hej' pronounced 'Hey' by the way) if a weekend in Scandinavia is on the cards or something amazing in Chinese if you're off on a business trip. Speaking a new language is seriously useful whether you target is a killer chat-up line or making a big sale. And at the Swindon Language School in Rodbourne they offer bite-size courses in loads of different languages.
31. Be complementary
Hands up if you thought so-called ‘alternative therapies’ were only for ‘hippies’. Well, notice that we are calling them ‘ complementary therapies', not ' alternative therapies' - because such things as hypnotherapy, reiki, aromatherapy and flotation tanks shouldn’t be thought of as alternatives to either medicine or conventional therapies, but rather a kind of bonus. If you’ve never tried them or you don’t have a specific problem you need them to tackle, you should still think about experiencing complementary therapies. If nothing else, opening your mind to something completely new must be a benefit, and there’s no obligation to ‘believe in’ all the claims of their practitioners.
> SwindonWeb guide to complementary therapies
32. Learn an instrument
> John Holmes Music
33. Walk the dog
If you’ve got a dog, get walking! Dogs thrive on exercise, so if you are a dog owner and you step up your exercise regime, you’ll both benefit. Add some variety by taking advantage of Tara’s Trails, a special guide, specifically for dog walkers in Swindon. It will add a whole new dimension to your daily walk.
> Tara's Trails
34. Dig up your family tree
Yet another one of those things you’d love to do but haven’t quite got round to it. The trick with family history is not to set your goals too high. It’s not about going all the way back to the Norman Conquest or finding everybody in your family tree. In fact, the job can never be completed because there’s always something left to discover. So think about tracing just one branch of the tree to begin with – and remember that the best place to start is talking to elderly living relatives about relatively recent times, which is a pleasure in itself. See the Wiltshire Family History Society's website for practical advice and check out the fantastic resources at Swindon Central Library, where staff are always keen to help you with your research.
> Wiltshire Family History Society
35. Connect with your (Swindon) heritage
> SwindonWeb history pages
> The Swindon Collection on Flickr
> The Swindon Society
> New Mechanics' Institution Trust
> Highworth Historical Society
> Rodbourne Community History Group
> The Richard Jefferies Society
> The Alfred Williams Heritage Society
36. Connect with your (Wiltshire) heritage
How long is it since you last took a trip to Avebury? Simply take a day out to put your hands on the stones at this world-famous site and remind yourself of the deep roots of the county where you live. Connecting with history is at once a humbling and empowering experience.
37. Go live
At SwindonWeb, we are great believers in live entertainment – which is why we have a constantly updated live music guide and theatre guide. Live entertainment is a treat, it supports artists and puts a spring in your step. So try to see more of it in 2012 instead of sitting in front of the telly.
We live in a golden age of photography - when everybody can afford to take as many pictures as they like – and share them with the rest of the world. The online photographic gallery, Flickr, has a group especially for photos with Swindon connections. So if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a photographer but couldn’t find an outlet for your talent, be a part of it – and help raise Swindon’s image to new artistic heights.
> Swindon group on Flickr
39. Take an away-day!
Swindon is perfectly placed, geographically, if you have earned a treat and want to reward yourself with a day out. With the history and culture of Bath and Oxford a short distance away, bustling Bristol not much further, and London within easy reach, Swindonians are spoilt for choice. We’re not so far from the sea, either, nor the heritage of places such as Salisbury, Portsmouth and the industrial Midlands. So get out more and make a day of it. Barnes Travel will not only get you there, but have plenty more ideas.
> Barnes Travel
40. Support your local
Swindon drinkers are blessed with some of Britain’s best traditional pubs, excellent choice and, in Arkell's, has one of the most highly respected traditional family brewers in the country. With traditional British pubs threatened by recession and competition from supermarket sales, there has never been a better time to show your support for your local. In return, you’ll discover what made our pubs great – and the benefits of having a ‘local’ to call your own.
41. Immerse yourself in history
Generations of Swindonians can’t be wrong, so take a leaf out of their book and take the waters at the Health Hydro in Milton Road. This fabulous historical building now plays host to some stress-busting modern facilities, including a gym and two swimming pools, but to try something really different, head for the jewel in its crown – the historic Turkish baths. Even if you only do it once in your life, do it in 2011.
> Swindon Health Hydro
42. Grow your own food
Allotments are back in fashion. They help to beat the recession, provide plenty of fresh air and are the perfect place for you to hop on board the green revolution. Our guide to growing your own food includes top tips from an expert. It’s all you need to make 2011 the year when you went back to your roots, in more ways than one.
> SwindonWeb guide to growing your own food
43. Be a bookworm
Reading is one of the best ways to feed your brain and boost your outlook on the world, and if you are planning to read more in the next 12 months, then you won’t want to miss the must-see literary event in the Swindon calendar. Clear your diary for 12 days from 01 May, 2012 – the day that marks the start of the latest Swindon Festival of Literature. The festival has grown into one of the most respected events in Britain’s literary calendar, so check out the official website for the latest news - and be sure to book early to avoid disappointment.
> Swindon Festival of Literature
44. Get arty
If arts is your thing, don’t be shy. If ever there was a place that was dedicated to making the arts accessible to all, and using it to create a community spirit, Swindon is it. Whatever your interest in the arts and whatever your skill, the Swindon Does Arts website is the perfect place to start. It will put you in contact with like-minded people, keep you informed about events and provide all the resources you need for making 2012 the year when you finally unlocked your artistic potential.
> Swindon Does Arts
45. Sample the magic of the Mela
The date of the 2012 Swindon Mela is yet to be confirmed, but it usually takes place at the end of July. This ever popular and not-to-be-missed annual celebration of Asian culture in Swindon Town Gardens is perfect for anybody looking for a heart-warming day of colourful activities and entertainment - and it’s free.
> Swindon Mela
46. Raise money for a local charity
So why not organise a charity event and invite your mates along to donate a fiver or two? Venues like Swindon Greyhounds and restaurants such as The Bombay Lounge in West Swindon can help you organise it and really make it a night to remember.
> Fun-raising at Swindon Greyhounds
47. Buy a ticket to ride
If there is a town in Britain with a richer selection of charming small towns and villages surrounding it, we’d like to hear about it. Castle Eaton, Cricklade, Bishopstone, Purton, South Marston… these and all the others have their own unique character, whatever the time of year. And it’s easier than ever to get to know Swindon’s neighbours in 2011, thanks to the Dayrider Plus ticket. It gives you unlimited travel throughout the area, for a whole day on Thamesdown Transport and Stagecoach buses – and at £4 for adults, it's fantastic value.
> Dayrider Plus ticket
48. Go to the dogs - for FREE
49. Serve yourself some tennis
Swindon has excellent tennis facilities, including opportunities to play all year round at the Delta Tennis Centre. If that sounds too much like hard work, pop in and have a look around first. Notice how many of the games are doubles (often mixed doubles), how few people are aiming for Wimbledon and therefore how sociable tennis can be. And you’ll get fit without trying.
> SwindonWeb guide to tennis in Swindon
50. Run with the pack
Why walk the dog when you can run? The sport of Cani-X (Cani-Cross) is for dog owners who want to give themselves and their pets a run-out at the same time. It's a rapidly growing pastime worldwide, and has regular events in Swindon. Check out the official website for information about the sport and local events.
> Stargazing in Swindon
52. Keep visiting SwindonWeb
Well, we couldn’t end without inviting you to join us on a regular basis during the year ahead. We continue to be proud of our mission to bring you ‘Everything Swindon’, so here’s to all of us enjoying another fantastic year in 2012.