Offbeat Fitness

By Sharon Naylor

December 4, 2009 6 min read

You know that exercise is the cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention, as well as a cheerier outlook because of all those happy hormones a good workout creates, but how motivated are you to get on that treadmill day after day?

"Half the battle of sticking to an exercise routine is actually looking forward to your workout," says Mary Anderson, fitness director at Fitness magazine. "If the treadmill has become stale, sampling a new class might do the trick to get you hooked on the gym again."

The new wave of creative, unique fitness classes popping up at gyms, YMCAs and community adult education centers are anything but stale. Tried-and-true classes, such as yoga and spinning, are getting makeovers. In addition to introductory yoga classes, you might find yoga classes set to Caribbean music. A spinning class set to Motown hits could create a far more fascinating ride for you. Shape magazine's monthly "Fitness Class of the Month," featured on its Web site, recently extolled the fun and excitement of "Punk Rope," a jump-rope class set to high-energy, fast-paced punk music to get that heart rate pumping. At such a class, you may discover a renewed passion for your childhood joy of jumping rope. You just needed a new soundtrack.

"We get tons of reader mail about such exercise epiphanies," Anderson says. "In the January issue, a reader relates an aha moment about trying out a pool workout to rehab a hurt knee that she's stuck with ever since."

It's often a creative twist that may get you to revisit a former fitness love. For example, if you've drifted from your passion for stationery cycling, you may get recharged at Crunch's "Spectrum Ride" class. Crunch, a chain of gyms, illuminates the room with colorful rainbows while you ride, and your fitness leader instructs about each color as it relates to a different chakra of the body and spirit. If you're interested in the New Age realm, this fresh new biking class can rev up your dedication to the workout.

With dancing such a worldwide sensation, thanks in part to the hit show "Dancing with the Stars" and shows like it, your new workout schedule might include classes on the standards of ballroom -- salsa, merengue and the waltz -- and you also can expand your dance horizons with new classes in Bollywood-style dancing, Caribbean-style calypso or a blend of styles, such as Crunch's "Tribal House Party," featuring the hottest club dancing moves set to "tribal" music.

"A personal favorite is the 'Jukari' class at Equinox," says Anderson, who regularly samples a variety of unique and motivating fitness courses. This particular one is offered, so far, at only two Equinox locations, one of which is in New York City. "Jukari is a sort of flying trapeze class without the scary heights that was a collaboration with Reebok and Cirque du Soleil. It's the latest in the trend of off-your-feet workouts (TRX suspension training, including anti-gravity yoga you perform in a sort of fabric sling). Basically, there are about 16 trapezes in the room, which can be set to shoulder height and used to perform flying leaps and twirls or set to shin height to use like stirrups, where you hold a plank position with your feet suspended. Our staff tested it out when it first launched, and everyone -- all seasoned exercisers who've done it all -- loved it."

Similar to the Jukari class is the "BodyWeb" class at Crunch, a similar system of TRX-suspended ropes and wires that give you a chance to flex your inner Spider-Man.

Tapping into a childhood sense of play also gets hearts beating for new classes, such as the ever-popular "Harry Potter" series' sport of Quidditch, without the flying brooms. The sport, in which players run with brooms between their legs, focuses on scoring against opponents while also trying to capture the "Golden Snitch" (a player dressed in gold with a tennis ball in a sock secured to his or her belt). The sport has inspired an actual tournament, the Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup, which was held this past October at Middlebury College in Vermont.

And remember your pogo stick? That's the centerpiece of a new fitness class at Crunch, as well. If you played it in grammar school, there's probably a course out there somewhere offering you a chance to reign on the field once more. Dodge ball, anyone?

With the new collection of fitness classes constantly inviting you to refresh your exercise routine and keep you coming back, a good amount of caution is advised, as well. You must honor your current fitness level and get the green light from your physician before undertaking any fitness routine. "Going into any class, as the instructor will tell you, go at your own pace," Anderson says. "It's OK to consider your first class a trial run where your main goal is just to learn the ropes. No pun intended. If you really want to get the hang of it, stay at the front near the instructor so that you get extra attention rather than sneak in the back of the room."

Crunched for cash and not able to join a gym? Check online to find free yoga, tai chi, racewalking and new and exciting martial art capoeira (a Brazilian dance, martial art and acrobatics workout) classes held in your local parks and town recreation centers. Fitness can be free -- and certainly fun -- for all.

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