For some women, fitness fun may sound like an oxymoron. Where is the pleasure in logging miles on a treadmill? What’s exciting about crunches and lunges?
Unfortunately, without finding a way to enjoy working out, the odds of sticking to an exercise regimen are low.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity a week. Before you start grumbling, read the fine print in the agency’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: “Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy.” No treadmills or health club memberships required! That means you can get physical doing activities you actually like.
“Enjoying your fitness routine is vital to long-term success and maintenance,” says Melissa Arnold, a personal trainer and programs director at The High Intensity Training (HIT) Centers. ”When we are enjoying an activity we are more likely to make it part of our lifestyle routine than a part of our To Do list.”
There are countless ways to create a more vigorous lifestyle. Jazz things up with a new piece of equipment, sign up for a new class, join a team or indulge in one of many outdoor activities.
The latest and greatest in exercise gear
In 2002, more than $4 billion was spent on home fitness equipment. As companies develop new products to tap into this market, the boon for consumers is a constant stream of new and exciting gear.
Topping the list of innovative fitness products is technology-based “exergaming.” Exergames are video games that incorporate exercise, such as Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution and Nintendo Wii Fit. The Wii Fit monitors body statistics while offering yoga, balance, strengthening and aerobic games such as slalom skiing and hula hoop.
Other fitness products are designed to enhance traditional exercise like aerobic dance, calisthenics and weight lifting such as the dome-shaped BOSU® Balance Trainer, oval polymer gliding discs and cast iron cannon-shaped kettlebells.
Technology is making workouts more fun. Waterproof cases and headphones make it possible to listen to iPods while swimming or surfing, and one company even manufactures an underwater MP3 player. For runners, Nike+ is fast becoming the leading trend in high-tech gadgetry. The Nike+ sensor, which fits into a special slot in the bottom of certain Nike running shoes, communicates with a computer-compatible reader or an iPod Nano, allowing individuals to upload distance, pace, time and calories burned.
A new class of fitness
Gyms and fitness instructors know that diversity and novelty are two ways to keep clients coming back. They also know that group settings offer a supportive environment and an opportunity to meet new friends. Most facilities continually expand and change their lineup of classes.
There are several trends popping up in fitness classes around the nation, including group personal training, different types of yoga, circuit training, boot camps, cycling and active aging exercise. Choreography has been popular for years, ranging from hip hop to belly dancing.
“Dance brings an element that’s so exciting,” says Beth Handline, a fitness instructor and co-owner of Dance Trance Fitness. “Fitness becomes a side element.”
Dance prevents boredom by challenging participants to learn new steps. It is socially rewarding, and it provides an outlet for creativity and personal expression, Handline says. Many women also find it to be a great stress reliever, as focusing on the music and movement chases away thoughts of work, family and other responsibilities.
Zumba is the latest dance craze. These routines feature interval training sessions with fast and slow Latin rhythms. Developed by celebrity fitness trainer Beto Perez in the mid-1990s, Zumba blends toning and sculpting with the fat-burning efficiency of aerobics. According to Zumba.com, there are almost 200 Zumba classes within 25 miles of Jacksonville.
The team mentality of fitness
Many a woman recollects the pride and camaraderie of participating in organized sports as a youth or teen. Whether it was tennis, bowling, basketball, softball, soccer or golf, team sports are still a great option for getting out there and having fun.
“It pushes you to your personal limits in a fun, competitive way,” says personal trainer Melissa Arnold. “The team environment is also another positive component of sport: You are not doing it alone, which keeps you accountable, and it is motivating and fun.”
Terri Wright, 45, of Fernandina Beach, became an avid golfer about two years ago when a career change afforded time for lessons and league play. Three times a week she is on the greens. She says the physical activity of the game has improved her muscle tone, agility, flexibility and weight management. “I’m not a person who likes to work out,” Wright says. “Someone can call me and within the hour I’ll be ready to walk six miles on the golf course, but the treadmill is torture.”
Swimming is another athletic activity with wide appeal. “Everyone can swim, no matter their fitness level,” says Joani Maskell, swimming instructor and owner of Swimming Safari Swim School. “It can make you feel like you can really move. You can do a lot more in the water than you can on land.”
Swimming isn’t limited to doing laps. For something different, try water aerobics, walking in water, water polo, diving, synchronized swimming or adding props such as foam noodles, kick boards, ankle and wrist weights, steps or balls.
Maskell adds that the tactile experience of being in water helps women to connect with their bodies, building self-confidence and helping them feel more comfortable within their own skins.
Fun under the Jacksonville sun
Living in Florida provides year-round access to water and land-based activities. Jacksonville’s Riverwalk, along the north and south banks of the St. Johns River, provides an urban setting for walkers, runners and bikers. For nature enthusiasts, there are a number of local parks with paved and unpaved trails including Little and Big Talbot Island State Parks, Crystal Springs Road Park, Fort Caroline National Memorial and Tree Hill Nature Center.
If your fitness routine is usually based indoors, take your workout to the waterfront. A number of businesses rent bicycles and other water equipment like surfboards, boogie boards, snorkel sets and kayaks. For novice water sport fans, tour guides and instruction are also available.
Jody Hetchka, co-owner of Kayak Amelia, has been teaching the basics of kayaking for more than thirteen years. “It’s like any new sport,” she says. “You’re not going to be perfect the first time. There’s a technique to doing it the right way.” An afternoon spent on the water will work out abdominal and lateral muscles, as well as arms and shoulders. Serious fitness buffs who want more of a challenge can surf the ocean waves or paddle against the current. Either way, it’s a definite change of pace from the treadmill.
Today’s woman has many demands on her time and energy, so any activity she doesn’t enjoy is likely to get pushed to the bottom of her list. By exploring ways to make fitness fun, you are more likely to get active and stay active. And that feels good.
Find Your Fitness Fun Factor
“If you go out with the attitude that all exercise does is help you lose or control your weight, then the actual therapeutic value of exercise is lost,” says Melissa Arnold, a personal trainer and programs director at The High Intensity Training (HIT) Center. “Making working out fun requires something different for everyone.”
Try these suggestions to transform your fitness routine from a work-out to a fun time out.
– Create short-term, manageable goals that focus on the process, not the outcome. Instead of aiming to lose twenty pounds, strive to get outdoors three times a week or learn a new skill like kayaking.
– Move with meaning: Get involved with a 5K fundraiser or charity bowl-a-thon.
– Spend some time analyzing what types of activities you enjoy. If you like socializing and making new friends, a class or group setting might be a good choice. If you’re competitive and athletic, join a team or league. If your life is hectic and busy, a solitary walk or meditative yoga might appeal.
– Buddy up. Working out with a friend provides encouragement and accountability.
– Commit to trying one new activity each month.
If you need just one more reason to get active, consider these facts:
By age 65, people who have not engaged in regular exercise may lose up to eighty percent of their muscle strength.
If you are 25 pounds overweight, you have almost 5,000 extra miles of blood vessels through which your heart must pump blood.
Research shows that regular exercise can improve your mood and enhance your overall sense of well being.
Experts report that working out in increments as brief as ten minutes can pay off. Logging thirty minutes of moderate activity five days a week can help you look and feel better as well as cutting your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The top recreational activities for women are walking, aerobics, exercise, biking, jogging, basketball, lifting weights, golf, swimming and tennis.