October 2, 2012 in Features, Health

Exercise in disguise

Five unconventional workouts to keep you moving as the days get shorter
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Picture story: AIRobics
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Jeannette Gomez, leads the Airobics exercise class at Sky High Sports in Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

Who can blame us for ditching our running shoes for the remote control? It’s getting dark out there. Soon it’ll be cold. “Modern Family” is back on.

Americans gain about a pound a year between late September or early October and late February or early March. They also tend not to drop it – it accumulates, in some cases leading to significant weight gain, according to a study published in 2000 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Predictably, two factors influenced weight gain: hunger levels and activity levels. Along with the hungrier study participants, those who reported being less active had the greatest fall-winter weight gain.

But as we look indoors for fitness-boosting activities, treadmills can grow tiresome, weights repetitive. Here are five ways to stay or get fit through the darker months – exercise disguised as fun.

Jump, jump

Inner children can bounce off the walls in trampoline aerobics classes.

At Spokane’s Sky High Sports, they call it “Airobics.”

The 50-minute classes are low-impact, said Dave Neu, Sky High’s general manager. Each landing is cushioned by a trampoline, minimizing sore joints. But it can be a high-intensity workout, too.

Participants are encouraged to work hard but start at their own pace, he said. Instructors gauge fitness levels in each class and adjust accordingly. They “strive to hit all the muscle groups and get a good cardio workout, too,” Neu said.

The class takes place not on individual trampolines you’d find in backyards, but on a large “floor” of trampolines separated by padding. More trampolines are mounted at 45-degree angles on the workout space’s perimeter.

While beginners are welcome, it’s a challenging workout for their buffer counterparts, too, Neu said. A fit, outdoorsy guy himself, “I can still come in and do the Airobics class and feel like I got my butt kicked.”

Jumpers can go barefoot or wear lace-up shoes. Wear what you’d wear to the gym, Neu advised – comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing. “You’re definitely gonna sweat.”

Classes start at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays. Cost: $8 a class or a 10-class pass for $50. No preregistration required. 1322 E. Front Ave. in Spokane. (509) 321-5867.

Dancer moves

If your legs are shaking during a barre workout, you’re doing it right.

That’s the aim of the hour-long classes at Spokane Barre, owner Emily Rogers said. Using the kind of rail used by ballet dancers to maintain balance, participants practice isometric – small, precise – movements to target the muscles in “hard-to-reach” places such as thighs, rear ends and the backs of the legs.

Followed up by stretching, barre workouts – a blend of ballet, yoga and pilates – help students develop long, lean muscles, Rogers said.

Barre classes have surged in popularity in the past couple of years. Barre is a tough workout and fast way to strengthen muscles, Rogers said, but it’s also “kind of a feminine workout.” Her classes take place not at a big gym but at her “boutique studio,” painted periwinkle. (Men are welcome, and the two or so who’ve showed up also found the workout challenging, Rogers said.)

Rogers’ classes make no distinction between beginning or advanced students. Less-fit students can rest when they need to, and she helps beginners modify exercises to suit their needs. “It’s an intense, full-body workout, but everybody can take it at their own level.”

Spokane Barre is at 201 W. Riverside Ave., Suite 201. While a typical drop-in customer pays $16 a class, new customers pay $30 for three classes. Packages are available; a 10-class pass costs $135. Classes are offered seven days a week; go to spokanebarre.com for a schedule.

You don’t even have to run away

Aerial performers climb long pieces of fabric hanging from a single point, wrapping their bodies for poses or performing drops, in which performers fall from one position on the “silks” to another.

This might conjure images of Cirque du Soleil – young, toned people doing elegant tricks in the air. But you don’t have to be young, or toned, to climb the silks, said Sherrie Martin, who owns Spokane Aerial Performance Arts. Really.

“You can have zero fitness and do it,” she said.

The first half of each entry-level class is dedicated to building core muscles. Participants do “planks,” variations on the standard sit-up, and balance exercises. Participants then move to the silks, which even those with little upper-body strength can tie into a hammock to support their weight, Martin said.

As students progress, they build shoulder and upper-back strength and improve their flexibility. Some of her most loyal students are older than 45, Martin said.

One woman, at 54, recently held herself upside-down on the silks for the first time – a thrill for the student.

Older students “have developed so much more strength,” Martin said. “Their milestones may come a little slower, but they’re way more important.”

While she offers children’s classes, too, Martin said adults are “enthralled” when they leave the floor. “Everyone likes to go in the air. There’s something happy about it. It’s a little bit circus.”

Spokane Aerial Performance Arts is at 5503 E. Broadway Ave., Suite 1, in Spokane Valley. The six-week entry-level class costs $55. The next session starts at the end of October. Call (509) 435-1576.

Channel your inner samurai

Sword-fighting trains the body, but also the mind.

That’s among its attractions: “It’s interesting exercise,” said Russ Sinclair, who co-owns the Spokane Kendo Club.

Kendo is Japanese swordplay derived from the fighting methods of the ancient samurai. The eight-week beginners’ class focuses on injury prevention. The instructors gradually add tougher exercises to build students’ stamina.

More advanced students wield a 3-foot, flexible bamboo sword, wearing helmets and protective armor over uniforms. Series of sword movements and footwork provide a strenuous workout.

“Kendo in its advanced stages is really challenging, endurance-wise,” Sinclair said. “This is lower and upper body at the same time, so it really gets your heart rate up.”

Women represent about a third of the club’s students, Sinclair said. “In kendo it’s all about speed and technique, and women do really well competing against men.”

The Spokane Kendo Club, 829 W. Broadway Ave., holds a dozen classes each week for children and adults. The beginners’ class costs $85. Call (509) 465-5207 to register.

Form and spirit

No sequins required in Arika Devi’s tribal belly dance classes.

Most people think of belly dancers as “the ladies in chiffon with lots of sparkles and glitter,” Devi said, participants in her classes more typically wear yoga pants or sweatpants and tank tops or T-shirts.

They practice a more modern version of the traditional dance, incorporating elements of modern dance and hip-hop, for example. The “tribal” part refers to the fact that the women are dancing in a group, Devi said.

It’s a form of exercise that enhances fitness – particularly legs and core muscles – but also builds a sense of camaraderie, she said. “We have a really great community of women. We respect each other, we work out and we dance.”

Classes start with some low-key yoga, and then move to conditioning exercises such as sit-ups before moving on to dancing. Students also learn to play finger cymbals called zills.

Beginning students often arrive nervous, Devi said. “I love those people the most. I get to watch them relax and learn to have fun. I get to win them over.”

No experience or fitness level required, either, Devi said: “You just have to have hips.”

A 12-week session at Devi Dance Studio costs $144. Drop-in students pay $15 a class. Tribal Bellydance Basics with Zills runs from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Lotus Studio, 212 W. Second Ave. It runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Club Corazon, 2117 E. 37th Ave. Other classes are available, too. Email arika@ devidancestudio.com.

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