I’m in love.  With an oval.  I’m in love with an oval?

The Richmond Oval, which I visited for the first time yesterday.  It’s an incredible building dedicated to all things active, and I felt healthier just standing in it.

Built for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, The Oval hosted twelve medal events in long track speed-skating during the games, and witnessed three Olympic records set in the Men’s 5,000m, 10,000m and Team Pursuit races.  It has since been expanded into a facility that houses an endless number of activities; speed-skating, yoga, basketball, hockey, badminton, table tennis, wheelchair sports, volleyball, climbing, martial arts, fitness classes, and rowing are just some of the ways in which the community can get its collective body moving.

At 47,500 square metres, this place is a cathedral for sport. I’m ready to take advantage of my year-long membership and learn plenty of new ways in which to burn the 9,873, 322 calories I’ll be consuming over the next 12 months.  Yesterday I started by sweatin’ it out in the state-of-the-art gym, spending much of my workout staring up at The Oval’s immense, rippling wooden roof.  It’s a piece of sculpture unto itself.

Under that impressive ceiling there are real, live Olympic athletes!  Apparently, the Canadian women’s soccer team trains downstairs every morning, and I watched as some world-class fencers lunged at one another with terrifying grace and speed.  And why wouldn’t they train here?  The Oval has:

• a 23,000 sq ft Fitness Centre

• 2 Olympic sized ice rinks

• 18 badminton courts

• 13 FIVB regulation volleyball courts

• 10 FIBA regulation basketball courts

• 3 FIFA regulation indoor soccer fields

• 16 international sized table tennis tables

• 200m, 5-Lane training track

• 110m, 5-Lane sprint track

• Indoor rowing & paddling centre

• Group rowing & spinning studio

• Group fitness studios, and more

Honestly, it’s the size of a small city.

But the food, you ask, WHERE IS THE FOOD?  I wanted to dedicate an entire post to The Oval, so I figured it would make sense to eat there, too.

There’s a modest little café on the second floor with sandwiches, wraps, entrees, yogurt, fruit, drinks, and a variety of baked goods.  It’s obviously not the right place if you’re seeking oysters and caviar, but for a quick and healthy snack, it does the trick.

I tried the California Chicken Panini with avocado and cheese (good bread and lots of chicken, though skimpy on the rest of the fillings), a cup of fresh fruit, and a really good homemade granola bar.  I felt like a bit of a doofus taking photos of it; the guy next to me was probably thinking “It’s a fruit cup!  Get over yourself!”

It all came to around $12.50.  I should note that the granola bar wasn’t exactly the healthiest of snacks, but since I’m not training for London 2012, I believe it’s more than okay to finish a workout with a chocolate-studded square of oats and butter.  And Canada, you should be glad about that whole “me not being an Olympian” thing, because I’m terrible under pressure.  Granola bars > Olympic Dreams.

If all this talk of glory is making the place seem intimidating, fear not.  The staff I interacted with were all lovely (hey-o Debbie and Amy!) and the facility’s programming includes something for almost all interests and fitness levels.  I’m really excited to be there on a regular basis, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going just for the cafe, it does provides some satisfying snacks for your post-workout appetite.

Thanks for joining me on my first venture into this vast Land of Fitness.  I’d like to leave you with my favourite 2010 Olympic moment, which isn’t actually footage of speed-skating itself.  Please watch as Marianne St. Gelais cheers on her boyfriend, Charles Hamelin, all the way to gold in the Men’s 500m.  It wasn’t even at The Oval (which one reader has kindly pointed out) but it’ll brighten your day, trust me!

Someone’s kindly forwarded me a video of another exciting event, and one that DID happen at The Oval!  Here’s Christine Nesbitt skating to Canada’s first speed-skating gold of the games in the 1,000 metre event.  Thanks, L!