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5 Alternative Ways to Exercise in NYC

06/04/2006

Beautiful readers,

Experts all agree that it is important to exercise regularly. At least three times a week. No matter how much you may enjoy staying in shape, that is a lot of hours of exercise over the course a lifetime. In the end it’s certainly worth it, and it really can be done, but for most people it requires some creativity, and a certain amount of variety to keep motivated.

One of the advantages of having a BF fitness instructor or one of our other fitness providers (yoga, Pilates) come to your home, is that your own instructor can change and improve your weekly routine, and since the exercise comes to you, it is guaranteed to offer the motivation that most clients need to keep going. But sometimes, what you want is a complete change in your fitness scene, at least for a day, and so for you, I am offering my list of 5 great alternative NYC exercise suggestions.

1) Run through a park Now, this would be an awfully boring or obvious suggestion if I meant that you should run around a park like on the path. Been there. Done that. Great exercise, yadda yadda yadda. But for those days when anything that even smells like a conventional workout to me sends me right back to lying on the couch, I recommend running everywhere besides the path. In Prospect Park for example (and I know this is true for Central Park too) there are a million places that are much more fun to run than the path (cooler terrain too) for example, there is a big meadow (several actually) that have enormous hills, so you can run, crazed and wild, like a dog off the leash, through the park and up and down the hills until you are breathing so hard you feel like you are going to puke. Try it sometime. It’s terrific.

You can also drop to the ground in the wet grass to do push ups and yoga after wards. Also great. And don’t be afraid to make an ass of yourself. You’re not hurting anyone, you’re doing something good for yourself, that may encourage others to do the same. Also, there are plenty of things that people do every day that they should be much more embarrassed about. This is some good clean fun if there ever was.

AND don’t feel wasteful spending a little money to take a taxi to your local park, I have a client who broke that particular psychological barrier, and now she does it all the time, and is in much better shape for it.

Check out http://www.prospectpark.org/, http://www.centralparknyc.org/ for info and inspiration

2) Play at Chelsea Piers Now, for those of you a little confused by Chelsea Piers, you have my sympathy. Chelsea Piers is an enormous complex with awesome facilities, but that has gotten a little ahead of itsself. Their website help unravel the mystery of what they offer when a bit, but I would always call before I went over there.

They do however offer the most spectacular assortment of fitness alternatives for the gym-weary that I have ever seen. They have drop in soccer, rock climbing, skating (both in-line, and skateboarding), basketball, gymnastics (yes, all for adults), batting cages, and bowling. Chelsea Piers is also the new home of Sky Rink, an impressively large, very nice indoor ice skating rink, and I hear that the indoor toddler play space is a delight for parent and child alike, especially when the weather is not so nice.

And for those who are a bit more organized they also offer terrific beginner classes in golfing (particularly important for women to learn so that they can conduct business in this much-more-fun-than-the-office environment like men do), gymnastics, soccer, rock climbing, ice skating, and a whole bunch of other enticing things too numerous to list here. And then there are the usual bunch of kids classes, including skateboard summer camp (with bus pickup), which I hear is terrific.

For all the info go to http://www.chelseapiers.com/ and be sure to check out all the tabs at the top, because part of what makes the vast offerings at Chelsea Piers a little hard to follow is that they are each in different buildings with different names, so read them all.

3) Go hiking Yes Virginia, you can live in NYC and still go do some good hiking. Hiking isn’t just something that friends from the west coast whine about. And, for those of you who may just not ‘get’ hiking, it can be a lot more challenging and a lot less boring than it was when you were a kid, and your parents made you walk forever on a flat trail while some older relative pointed out birds that you could not see. Hiking can be really really fun. (and can also give you great legs and burn a lot of calories if you go far enough).

Enter Breakneck Ridge. (sounds dangerous and exciting already, right?) a series of trails near Cold Spring New York one of which runs about seven miles (I’d say a perfect, all day, extremely challenging,((by city slicker standards) hiking distance). This particular trail, the most popular in the Northeast  is in Hudson Highlands State Park about an hour and a half from New York by car (or Metronorth has a Breakneck Ridge stop that it only makes on weekends)

From trails.com: ‘The rocky trail makes a rugged ascent from river-level to roll along a knobby ridge, gathering vistas and reaching a lookout. Special Attractions: Hudson river, Shawangunk, and Catskill Mountains vistas; old fire lookout tower; mixed forest; mountain laurel and spring and summer wildflowers. Expect some hand-over-hand rock scrambles and wear boots that protect ankles. High winds and rain increase risk of the rocky ascent.’

This is as close to ‘extreme’ hiking as I am interested in. Try to avoid the place if it’s raining though, it can be really slippery and not a lot of fun (unless you want to slide backwards in the mud while holding on to the tree root in front of you for dear life–which maybe you do) but I guarantee you that you will return home, feeling unusually outdoorsy, good and sweaty, with a sense of accomplishment that even a great week at work just can’t offer.

4) Sex, and lots of it. I won’t go into much detail on this one, but seriously, when’s the last time you did this as an all day activity? If it’s more than ten years ago, unless you are 120 years old, it’s time to get a room. And if you are over 120, get a room on the ground floor. Burns calories, weight bearing, flexibility exercise. No links for this one.

5) Play pick-up basketball with a friend. Or soccer, or frisbee, or handball…Whatever happened to playing with friends? It seems like girls go from running out onto the street (or into the yard) like boys do, excited to play jump rope or soccer, or kick the can, and then about twenty years later, then run out to sit in a tight pants suit, squeezed into a chair, behind a little table, spending money on additional calories, while they complain to their friends about how hard it is to get enough exercise. Does this not seem a little silly?

Again, don’t be embarrassed to make your more restaurant-y friends (or acquaintances, or dates, for that matter) a little uncomfortable by proposing that you do something a little non traditional. You’d be surprised how many people start out feeling stupid about the idea of playing basketball, but then ultimately come around and really really enjoy it.

And if you are worried that you won’t be able to talk intimately enough while you miss the hoop again and again, or won’t be able to give your friend your full attention as she lobs the frisbee into the bushes for the 30th time, then go have a drink afterward. Playing a sport (especially badly)  is a fantastic social lubricant (see, Chelsea Piers, and the need for women in business to play golf). In general, most people tend to be much more forthcoming afterward. And if you are concerned about being sweaty while you have that drink, try to get over it. Being comfortable with the thought of being a little salty, and a wee bit smelly sometimes, is very helpful in making exercise a regular part of your life.

So there they are. Five suggestions that can help keep the exercise ball rolling.

Alternative forms of exercise can challenge you, stimulate you mentally and physically, and help you think of fitness as the all encompassing thing that at it’s best it really can be. Trying new activities can also help you see some of the ways that your regular fitness program has improved your overall physical skill, which can give you just the motivation and confidence that you need to keep going.