My Grammy used to tell me that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Whoever came up with that expression...well...ick! But I got her point. If something isn't working for you, switch to another plan of action. A fitness routine can easily get stale. And boredom is not conducive to an effective exercise regimen. So I polled my circle of fabulously fit friends to find out what they do to spice up their workouts. Here are five finds that can lift you out of a fitness funk in a flash.
BALLROOM DANCING. My obsession started with four little words: Dancing with the Stars. B-List Hollywood actors and singers, a random assortment of athletes, and even the occasional politician dressed in polyester and bugle beads became my dirty little secret, week in and week out. Whether this spectacle is entertainment or torture is up for debate, but what cannot be questioned is the level of fitness reached by those who persisted. The professional dancers are a miracle of sinew, grace, and strength. But the amateurs who reached the final weeks of competition transformed their bodies in the process. My friend Steve takes classes with his wife every week. He, too, is living proof of the transformative power of dance.
ZUMBA. Combine the high energy level of a great aerobics class with Latin dance music and moves targeted to work specific muscle groups and you have an idea of the Zumba experience. Created in the late 1980s by Alberto Perez, a Columbian fitness instructor, Zumba has taken off in gyms and dance studios across the country. It has even reached New England, with a vengeance. Sizzling Latin dance moves seem like just the thing to take take the chill off a cold Maine day. A typical refrain from several of my super-fit girlfriends? "Can't talk. Gotta go Zumba!"
KRAV MAGA was developed in the 1930s as a form of self-defense in the Jewish ghetto of Budapest. While not technically a martial art -- Krav Maga is a tactical defense skill -- it is practiced by both military, law enforcement, and civilians. The study of Krav Maga involves practicing defensive and offensive moves for real-life settings. Krav Maga studios and online sites have proliferated in the past decade. Using both aerobic and anaerobic modes of training makes the workout doubly beneficial. My brother-in-law is absolutely obsessed. He's built a studio in his basement and his buff body bears witness to the effectiveness of a Krav Maga workout.
HULA HOOPING Who could have predicted that a child's toy made popular in this country in the 1950s would turn into a 21st century workout sensation? Hooping is not just for kids any more. There are a sites on the Internet offering lessons, studios, DVDs, and special hoops for workouts for anyone, from beginners to advanced hoopers. I caught the hooping bug this summer and now own three hoops of varying sizes and weights. I pop in a DVD and 30 minutes later I feel taut, toned, and even a little more graceful. This is a core workout that you've really should try!
KETTLEBELLS. My friend Robert is a police officer and fitness buff. Robert swears by his kettlebell workout and while the picture above is not of him, the body composition is not far off. Robert is in phenomonal shape and credits his fitness to a vigorous kettlebell regimen. Shaped like a cannon ball with a handle, kettleballs have been on the international fitness scene for decades, but are now coming into their own in the US. I recently took a kettlebell class and came away understanding Robert's devotion. It was challenging, well-paced, and satisfying -- I left feeling like a real jock.
So if your workout is getting stale, you might want to take a spin around the dance floor, or lift a kettlebell, or dust off your old hula hoop. Whatever you do, though...