A few years ago, I decided to try 'fitness'. I wasn't really sure what being fit meant or how much or what you had to do to be considered fit, and I hadn't really engaged in any physical activity since the elementary days of dodge-ball ("I guess our team will take uhh....uhh.....can we take the tree? No? Then fine, we'll take...Alisa. You're sure the tree can't play?") so I had no idea where to begin. And since I had no idea what to do, I did almost everything. It has been three years since I started, and throughout my journey I have amassed a wealth of knowledge that I can now generously impart on anyone who may be looking to start a fitness journey of their own. Below, a synopsis of what you can expect of some of the most common fitness options in the world of people who Just Do It. Or whatever.
BOSU Ball: Bosu stands for BOth Sides Up, which describes the half-sphere tool you use to balance on while doing strength training exercises. It'll tone you up a little if you're really committed and don't wuss out on the plank/ab exercises, but if you're the type to give yourself a break a lot, skip it as the results take a while to materialize.
Pole Fitness: I'm not even kidding - I was a pole dancer. The beginner course emphasized basic pole dancing moves commonly observed at strip clubs (the cherry, the fire pole, the peter pan...) with a focus on working your upper body as you use it to balance, to pull your weight, and to (attempt to) look graceful. I won't lie: it took me a really, really long time (two courses, actually) to finally be able to spin with grace, and before that, I looked like a soggy pair of long johns flailing from a clothesline on a moderately windy day. Eventually I left the program, mainly because I felt it wasn't enough of a workout for the rest of my body.
Zumba: Do you want to dance comfortably? Are you afraid of sudden movements? If you've answered yes to both questions, Zumba (a Salsa-dancing inspired fitness 'craze' which I really hesitate to call 'craze' on account of the zzz factor of the repetitive and un-challenging movements) is for you. Seriously, lots of people love Zumba, but umm what is the opposite of breaking a sweat? That is what I experienced during each of the eight classes I signed up for.
Core Intervals: This involves a series of strength training exercises sometimes including weights or steppers. While I love overcoming fitness challenges, for some reason I always feel angry during these classes. There are some things I just don't like doing in large amounts, like tricep dips and bicycle workouts, for example. But mostly, what I don't like about this type of workout is that it feels like all I'm doing is tearing my body up. There's not enough cardio and not enough time to give your body a break between all the twisting and mangling. Sad face.
Boot Camp: You know those I <3 NY t-shirts? If I could get one for bootcamp, I would. The format of the class varies depending on what gym you go to, but at my gym, they split us into groups of 3 or 4 and we go through a circuit of stations at which we perform a certain activity for a minute. Every minute we're doing something different, and the exercises are a combination of cardio and strength training, so you're always either coaxing your body into that extra push-up or boosting your heart rate with sprints. It's also a perfect combination of positive encouragement from the trainer and shame-induced drive (when you see an elderly person zipping through the push-ups, you pick it up a notch, 'na mean?) and just last week, in a fit of tested endurance and pain-fueled adrenaline, someone yelled out: "I have issues!"...what more could you want?
Belly Dancing: Admittedly, I only took 4 classes, so maybe there's some explosion of fun and energy I missed out on, but once again, I didn't feel very physically challenged by the class. The instructor tied a coin-embroidered skirt around my waist and promised me visible abs by the time I was done the course, but the exercises (slow stomach rolls and hip shimmies) left a lot to be desired in the toning realm, so I hung up my skirt and called it quits.
Hooping: This class uses a weighted (optional) hoop and supposedly works your hips and waist as you stand there and...hoop. They teach you to weave the hoop from one arm to another, to keep the hoop moving on your legs, and even how to shimmy it up when it starts falling, which instantly makes you a bad-ass at family picnics. I left the first class eager and with a burning mid-section which, I discovered, turned into a bruise akin to an abstract painting with every shade of purple splattered on by canon of hatred. Summer was just around the corner and I didn't feel like having to regularly assuage the concerns of family members and social workers alike, so I canceled the rest of my classes and that was that.
Aerobics: It takes way too long to memorize the patterns which they change every 82 seconds anyway so forget it.
Kickboxing: Yes yes yes yes yes! If you have the right instructor- which I almost always do at my gym (the Y) -this is one awesome workout. The instructor leads you through a merciless set of kicks, punches, on-the-spot running, jumping jacks, side jumps, and lunges (among billions of sweat-beckoning drills) and you do it all. You do it all because you're not the wuss they said you were at dodge-ball. You do it all because afterwards you feel like Mike Tyson/Ali/Zeus (apparently my heroes..?). You do it all because you had a hamburger with a side of hamburger at lunch. Oh and just when you think you're done, they pull out the mats, and tell you to do planks and push-ups and bicycle twists. And you do it all, too.
Hot Yoga: This one isn't my favorite, but I am well aware of its benefits. It is what it is: it's yoga, in a hot room. You sweat a lot, you nearly faint, and afterwards your muscles are nicely stretched. Highly recommended for runners.
Swimming: Truthfully, if I had an appropriate bathing suit, I wouldn't mind swimming at all. Currently, my options are a brown JLo-esque super low cut out Speedo, and any of my fruit-themed bikinis, all of which are super inappropriate for the kind of professional, serious swimming I see going on during Lane Swim. My heart races as I complete lap after lap, not from the cardio but from the fear of being whistled at and removed from the water with a giant pool rake or whatever, forced to stand at the edge of the pool in my pineapple bikini while being scolded for being an aqua skank. I swear I'm not an aqua skank, though, I just haven't found the right bathing suit, but I'm working on it! That said, I think most people enjoy lane swimming, and so do I. It's not stressful on your limbs (especially for people with foot problems) and you can sort of pretend you're on vacation when you're in the water.
So, there you go. Trying new fitness routines is a fun way to work off those burritos/chimichangas/taquitos (apparently my new favorite foods...?), but don't get stuck doing something that sucks. Your time is way too precious to be flapping your arms slowly to the beat of La Isla Bonita, so don't you ever worry about quitting a class/activity that isn't fun.
In the coming months, I'm also challenging myself to try something I've always dreaded: cycling. Anais is an avid fan, so I'm really trusting her enthusiasm. I'm also on a Dragonboat racing team, with only a few months of practice before us, as the Ottawa Dragonboat Festival is happening very soon. Lastly, I left out one exercise which I can't wait to write about in the next post. It has become very close to me over the past year and definitely deserves its own spot.