From old-school throwback sports (kickball!) to never-seen-before feats (paddleboard yoga?), this summer offered a ton of ways to stay fit and active
Water ballet is no longer relegated to afternoon time slots in the Summer Olympics and Esther Williams flicks from the 1940s (who is Esther Williams?)—the glamorous yet challenging sport is experiencing a resurgence. The Aqualillies, an LA-based performance group, offers 75-minute classes for all levels in Santa Monica that have developed a cult following. Staying afloat while executing graceful dance moves amounts to a strenuous cardio workout that fires up your core and helps tone “muscles in your arms and legs that you didn’t even know you had,” says Mesha Kussman, founder and creative director of the Aqualillies. The classes have been so popular that the company will open locations in San Diego and Santa Barbara by January, and aims to expand beyond the West Coast by next summer.
Forget water aerobics, now you can take a run on a treadmill while submerged in water. Because of water’s buoyancy, an athlete on an underwater treadmill is 90% “lighter” than he or she is on dry land, which greatly reduces impact on the joints—meaning this is a great workout for people with injuries (and for preventing new ones). Water also provides extra resistance on every stride, meaning you can burn more calories in less time than you would on dry land. (Video: Blast fat with this quick workout.) The machines are expensive (how much do they cost?), but they offer distinct benefits over running on the pool floor, as they allow runners to clock more miles with proper mechanics and can help you reach speeds of up to 10 mph, says Anson Flake, CEO and founder of HydroWorx.
Stand-up Paddle Surfing (SUP)
This old Hawaiian style of surfing may look more like hanging out than hanging ten, but it’s a total-body workout that targets your core, shoulders, and arms, as well as your back and leg muscles. In the past few years, SUP has made waves as one of the fastest-growing water sports worldwide. The activity’s popularity is due in part to the fact that it can be done in almost any body of water (you can paddle surf pretty much anywhere you can kayak), plus it’s accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. Casual boarders enjoy riding as a meditative experience, while the more competitive-minded can race in one of the many SUP competitions that have popped up across the nation (find a race near you).
Perhaps the real sign that stand-up paddle surfing has gone mainstream is that it has already inspired a quirky spinoff. Programs such as WASUP Yoga in Seattle and Yoga on Water in Florida allow people to go with the flow, literally, by practicing yoga while floating on a paddleboard. The WASUP Yoga classes are 2 hours long, including a mini SUP lesson, paddle surfs to and from the class location in Puget Sound, and hour-long yoga instruction. The yoga sequence is inspired by vinyasa flow, “but nature dictates that we take it slow,” says Hasna Atry, a WASUP Yoga instructor, as staying balanced on the board requires careful concentration.
Both yoga and martial arts-themed classes have thrived the past few years, but this blend of Capoeira and yoga, developed by Carlos Rodriguez, an instructor at Pure Yoga in New York City, gives both practices a whole new spin. Capoeira is already a hybrid, so to speak—the Brazilian art form is a mixture of martial arts, music, and dance—and its fundamental movements blend surprisingly seamlessly into a yoga flow. For example, rather than changing your footing to complete a sequence on the opposite side, you’ll employ the “balança,” a fundamental Capoeira movement (see a video of balança), to shift your weight to the other leg. Mastering some of these moves requires incredible strength and flexibility, so expect to fire up muscles from head to toe, especially your core, as you learn.
The new wave of down-and-dirty adventure races in the U.S. were inspired by similar extreme events in Europe, such as the Grim Challenge in Britain and the Strongman Run in Germany. During a typical mud race, such as those offered in the popular Tough Mudder series, you can expect to crawl under barbed wire, run through flaming bales of hay, swim through freezing water, traverse up ski slopes, and, of course, slog through lots of mud. The emphasis isn’t so much about the finish time as it is about camaraderie over the epic, brag-worthy feats you conquer along the way. Like the race course, interest and participation in these events is on the incline—about 4,500 people attended the first Tough Mudder event in 2010, while a 2-day event this past May drew more than 12,000.
By Amanda Junker
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