21 Ways to Get Fit
Here are some new ways to shake a tail feather that you just might find more refreshing than a rerun of your regular workouts.
The shimmy walk is just one of the moves taught in weekly belly-dancing clases in Cambridge. No experience -- or coordination, say teachers -- is necessary to get shaking. (Jason Wallengren)
If the idea of another night at the gym, another run along your usual path, or another sweaty session with those same yoga videos makes you want to sit on the couch and meander through the TiVo listings, it's time to switch your exercise routine. Here are some new ways to shake a tail feather that you just might find more refreshing -- and rewarding -- than a rerun of your regular workouts.
SHAKE IT UP
Think of it as the antidote to too many crunches -- it's expressive, fun -- when you wiggle your middle and shimmy your hips in belly-dancing class. Anita-Cristina Calcaterra, cofounder of The Goddess Dancing, calls the low-impact workout beginner-friendly, easy for pregnant women, and accessible even to the not-so-coordinated. "It is like doing strength training, and then when you put on music and let your creativity go, that's when you can get your aerobic workout," she says. Weekly classes are held at The Boston Dance Company in Cambridge, and drop-ins ($18 per class) are welcome. To join: 781-207-9182 or thegoddessdancing.com. Ama Allara, owner of Rock City Body in Allston, incorporates bellydancing, yoga, and pilates into a weekly class for aerobic, strength, and flexibility training. It stretches your body as well as the old definitions of what's what at the gym. Five-week sessions cost $135, and single classes are $17. To join: 617-782-4410 or rockcitybody.com.
LIFE IMITATING TV
The Waltham branch of the YMCA is offering a reality TV-style fitness challenge for couples that begins next month. During the 12-week session, couples compete against other couples in nutrition and fitness challenges such as eating enough vegetables and performing various types of aerobic and strength-building exercises. This weekly program, which will be open to nonmembers, includes access to all facilities at the YMCA. Membership costs $81 per family, and financial assistance is available; there will be an extra fee to participate in the fitness challenge. To join: 781-894-5295.
If a workout buddy is all you need to get moving, go online to find your perfect partner. Exercisefriends.com functions in much the same way as a dating site -- it helps people who have similar interests meet -- except that there's no dating allowed, and it's free. Create a personal profile, then use the site's search function to find a worthy handball opponent, a hiker who's free next weekend, or an endurance runner training for the same race you plan to enter. The site has just over 2,000 members in Massachusetts. To join: exercisefriends.com.
Krav Maga, a type of martial arts, is "kind of a twofer," says Dennis Amato, head instructor and owner of Krav Maga Training Center of the South End. "People come in to learn self-defense, and they get into phenomenal shape." Unlike some other martial arts, the intense, allover body workout is short on ceremony and heavy on practical fighting techniques, he says. A basic membership costs $115 monthly and includes unlimited Krav Maga classes. To join: 617-427-7199 or kravmagaboston.com.
Healthworks, a women-only club, has two new outdoor exercise programs based at its Back Bay location. Weekly morning and evening running groups leave from the gym and head out for a 55-minute workout along the Charles River, where runners get their hearts beating and also do conditioning drills, stretching sessions, and calisthenics with a trainer. A morning strolling group gets new mothers outside for an hour each week to exercise. Moms are asked to bring a jogging stroller -- and baby -- for sessions that include power walking, body-weight resistance exercises, and flexibility drills. All three classes are free for members (membership starts at $72 per month); drop-ins are welcome to attend a single class for $20. To join: 617-859-8700 or healthworksfitness.com.
Modern boxing gyms are safe, professionally run, and clean, says John Hazard, who owns Ring Boxing Club in Boston. They're also catering to beginners; the vast majority of Ring members, he says, had never even tried the sport before they first walked in the door. The workout is old-fashioned, with lots of jumping rope, chin-ups, and push-ups. Then the footwork and one-two punching begin. "It's not like a regular health club," says Hazard, where members are on their own to "figure out how to push 'start' on a treadmill." To get new boxers started and move the rest along the learning curve, beginner classes and access to trainers at Ring are free with a membership (from $79 per month). Nonmembers can even try one lesson for free. To join: 617-782-6946 or ringboxingclub.com. Boston Sport Boxing Club in Watertown offers similar classes and training opportunities (membership is $65 per month) and puts on intramural bouts twice a year. To join: 617-972-1711 or bostonboxing.com.
Immerse yourself in another culture while you work out. Brazilians who have moved to the area have brought capoeira with them, a unique fusion of dance and martial arts that is increasingly popular here, both at small studios and large gyms. Capoeira is offered three times a week at The Dance Complex in Cambridge, where drop-ins are welcome and a 90-minute class costs $12 to $14 per session. To join: 617-547-9363 or dancecomplex.org.
ACT YOUR AGE
You don't have to live in Groton to participate in fitness programs at the large and active senior center there. (You don't even have to be a "senior citizen," defined in Massachusetts as being older than 60.) The center has a wide variety of daytime exercise opportunities, including linedancing classes and a walking club. But two new weekly senior fitness programs have been added to meet a growing demographic, says center director Martha Campbell: those who want to work out after work. The center offers a new evening dance class that incorporates "karate, yoga, pilates, and t'ai chi," she says, as well as an aerobics-and-weights session called StepStrength Training. A $2 or $3 donation is requested, but not required, at each class. To join: 978-448-1170 or webpages.charter.net/gcoa.
COLLAR A FRIEND
When her clients are having a hard time meeting exercise goals for weight loss, Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian, advises them to buy a dog. "We know people who own dogs will do more activity," she says. Researchers have long known that when people buddy up, they have an easier time achieving weight loss and fitness goals, she says, but a study that Blatner helped manage for the
The Central Massachusetts Yoga Institute in West Boylston offers yoga for veterans twice a week. The classes, which cost $130 for a 10-week session, attract mainly men and mostly veterans from the Vietnam War, but Iraq and World War II vets trickle in, too. The practice incorporates relaxation techniques and breathing exercises as well as yoga's classic standing and seated poses. Studio owner and instructor Lucy Wagner started the program after a successful one-off workshop at the Worcester veterans center. She says her students are building a social community outside class, and that some of those dealing with trauma disorders credit yoga for "the tools to have some time when the mind is at peace." To join: 508-835-1176 or centralmassyoga.com.
Ex-Marine Jessica Giannone Camacho teaches a group class through the Bally Total Fitness gym at Downtown Crossing that's based on military training and exercise drills. Intense cardiovascular exercise such as running sprints around cones in the gym is interspersed with rigorous weight training, and sometimes the two are combined - as in the extra-fun running stairs-while-carrying-weights-drill. The class gets outside, too, for triceps dips and push-ups off the park benches on the Common. Drop-ins are welcome for a $20 fee. The class is included in a gym membership, which starts at $19 per month. To join: 617-338-9001 or ballyfitness.com.
IT TAKES TWO
With just a few Argentine tango classes, you can learn the basic moves of this improvisational form of dance and slide gracefully into a whirlwind of workshops, parties, and master classes (year-round weekly lessons in Medford, full-moon dances in Cambridge in the summer). "You get your heart rate up," says Clifton Chow, director of special events for the Tango Society of Boston -- and he's talking about the exercise aspects of the sexy dance. The group has more than 2,500 members (annual dues: $15) who are already sweating, sweeping, and stepping away. To join: 617-699-6246 or bostontango.org.
The gym-class game you loved to hate as an adolescent is now a great way to get an adult workout. Teamworks Sports Center in Northborough hosts weekly nighttime dodge ball games for adults over a 10- to 11-week season; team dues are $325 (six play at a time, though most teams carry about 10 players). To join: 508-351-9800. Boston Ski & Sports Club in Watertown holds games twice a week; individual fees are $35 for members and $60 for nonmembers for the 7- to 9-week session. To join: 617-789-4070 or bssc.com. Cambridge Racquet & Fitness Club hosts one-day tournaments, with fees of $25 per player; call ahead to get your team in the brackets. To join: 617-491-8989 or cambridgefitness.com.
EXERCISE YOUR INNER CHILD
You don't have to be an all-star to play a team sport. There are Wiffle ball leagues for adults and teenagers all over the area, including Danvers, Stoughton, Saugus, Newton, Northborough, and Chelsea. "For the most part, anyone can compete," says 15-year-old Tucker Mizhir, who got into the game after he didn't make his local baseball team. The game is a great workout, too, says Joe Love, 35, who attributes most of a recent 70-pound weight loss to his league play. To join a league: goldenstickwiffle.com (north of Boston), hrlwiffle.com (Central Massachusetts), newazone.com (New England Wiffle Association), or fastplastic.net (a national organization).
The Waltham branch of the YMCA has a families-only workout room with video games designed to link exercise with play. One game hooks stationary bicycles up to video game-style race cars -- the handlebars control the steering, pedaling sets the speed - that compete in a real-time race shown on a screen in front of the bikes. The Y also has the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution; players move their feet, following directions on a screen, in a progressively faster dance to win points. Access is included in membership, which costs $81 per month for a family, and financial assistance is available. To join: 781-894-5295.
In addition to its fitness and nutrition programs for women, the nonprofit Healthworks Foundation runs a free program during school breaks designed to introduce school-age girls with mostly sedentary lifestyles to sports and exercise and to promote general body awareness. Each weeklong morning program has a theme; the session this month focuses on team sports. "It's for the novice," says foundation director Kim Walker, "to help her get moving." Sessions are at the Healthworks Foundation gym in Dorchester, and participants from all over Greater Boston are welcome. To join: 617-825-1600 or healthworksfoundation.org.