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Alternative athletic activity: Try these alternative workouts

Keeping healthy can be an arduous task. Be honest, you failed your resolution to eat better and work out more — or never even started it. Even if your decision to work out wasn’t enforced on New Year’s Day, your fitness goals may be doomed from the start because you’re trying the wrong things. The flat-footed (or, like me, beyond flat footed) may hate running, but it’s obviously a very popular and simple way of staying active. The important thing is to find what works for you and is enjoyable. It’s a lot easier to stick to it if you like it.

Most people will give you fitness advice about how you’re doing it wrong, even personal trainers (that is sort of their job, though). It’s important to not focus on the negative and instead try to find the thing that makes you happy.

To start, there is always the gym — if you like lifting and tradition, the gym is probably the place for you. For a lot of people though, going to a gym is a non-starter; it can be intimidating and discouraging being out of shape in a gym, which tends to attract people who actually know what they’re doing and are already in shape. A personal trainer might make things a bit easier, but having a bad one could make you never want to go to the gym again.

Pilates is a decent place to start for those who are looking for less impact to their workout or are really out of shape. “The wonderful thing about pilates,” says  Cecile Bankston, manager of Walsh Pilates, “is that it is good for any body, at any age, at any stage [of fitness].” Pilates emphasizes the core, and “aligns” your body. You could compare it to physical therapy. It is utilized by athletes recovering from injuries, but Bankston emphasizes it can get very intense at more advanced stages.

The disadvantages are that the movements need to be perfect, otherwise they won’t be as effective, and the machines are incredibly expensive so it has to be done in a studio. The more reserved need not worry though, since Walsh (and most Pilates studios) holds very small classes, no more than five at a time.

“You get much more out of it than a class with 30 people,” she says.

You will be guided throughout the entire process. Pilates emphasizes longer and leaner bodies, so if you want to be more compact, this might be the discipline for you.

Maybe you don’t want any instruction at all though, or all the kumbaya makes the competitive streak in you want to just challenge the next person you see to an arm wrestling contest. You may want to check out the cardio-centric worlds of running and cycling if that’s the case.

Running just requires a pair of purpose-built shoes and motivation. It can be done by yourself, or with a group like the Happy’s Running Club, which can be friendly or competitive. The major disadvantage is that it’s more damaging than you may think — unless you have perfectly formed legs (which, if you’re out of shape, you likely don’t), all those joints will rub and break down, and blisters will make you never want to walk again.

In a similar vein is cycling. It’s all legs and lungs, just like running, but is much lower impact since all your weight rests on the bike and not those poor, fallible knees. There is a second appeal, according to Bicycle Shop mechanic Taylor Longwell: nostalgia. “Some people kind of feel a connection back to childhood,” he says. “You feel like a kid again.”

Feeling like you did years ago is basically the point of working out. There are plenty of groups to ride with and types of riding, from mountain biking to road racing to combi trials and so on, but Longwell suggest beginners start with a Hybrid bike to figure out what they enjoy the most. You will have to invest, though – an entry level bike will run around $450. Even if you just have your old cruiser though, you can still find a quiet road and get some cardio in.

If you really want to do something different, you could try belly dancing. You’ve likely seen the form somewhere, but it’s not some mystical thing. Katie Gromlovits, owner of Fleur de Leaf Belly Dance Studio, emphasizes it’s just learning how to use the muscles you already have.

“It’s cardio, it’s flexibility, it’s endurance, conditioning… a lot of core work!”

You can just come for the basic courses or really train so you can perform.

A creative person would enjoy belly dancing — once you learn the basic movements, you can make your own choreography or workout routines, or just dance your ass off for some daily cardio. This won’t get you cut, ripped, lean or any other adjective you may see on an infomercial; it’s far more a craft than just a regiment to follow, and is more about understanding and accepting your body than changing it. It gets you off the couch and moving, which may be exactly what you need.


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