In a Treadmill Tizzy? How About a Running Rut? Try These 20 Unconventional Workouts to Rev Up Your Workout Routine!
Like many people, you live to lift and covet the Cybex. You’re high on HIIT and committed to cardio. Tabata training is (amost!) better than chocolate. When your gym closed for unexpected roof repairs, you ran in the rain—and snow. Weekends are spent cycling or blading—or both. If you don’t do something, you’re a bear to live with. Friends and family can always tell those rare times when you’ve skipped your workout. But one day your motivation tanks and you hit the (rock) wall as extreme boredom sets in. It happens to the most motivated athletes. So what can you do to maintain your workouts and stay in shape?
These out-of-the-box workout ideas can provide just the incentive you need to scale some new fitness heights, keeping you on the path to optimal condition:
1) Pound. That’s right—get out there and bang that…err…aerial drum! Founders Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom turned their twin passions for the beat and the body into a cardio jam session that taps your sense of rhythm and rips routine to shreds. In a spirited stew of arm and cardio-challenging drumming moves, Pilates and aerobics, Pound burns fat while building strength and stamina. Contact your local fitness facility.
2) Skijoring. Born in Scandinavia, this outdoor sport includes your best furry friend, providing an amp’d up cold weather workout for both of you. While you’re on cross-country skis, a special harness connects you to your dog as he pulls you as fast as he can along a wintry trail. To raise the bar on fitness, some skijoring clubs hold races.
3) PiYo. A confluence of Pilates and yoga in a vinyasa (fluid)-type style, PiYo is a sculpting, fat burning, flexibility-building workout that makes you sweat. Using the body as resistance, while there are no high impact movements, PiYo is also suitable for those with injuries as it achieves its goals without a lot of risk. Co-developed by fitness expert/bestselling author Chalene Johnson and workout, diet and supplement company Beachbody, PiYo is available on DVD and in many fitness studios.
4) Doonya. Think those Bollywood dance moves are as easy as they’re beautiful? They’re not! Described as a “nonstop, high energy, cardio, strength-building exercise program that combines dance and fitness,” Doonya revs up your heartrate in a marathon session that never fails to entertain. Available on DVD and at its sole studio location in NYC.
5) Krav Maga. Loved (or hated!) today for its popular “exhaustion drills,” Krav Maga was initially developed in Israel in the 1940s as the official hand-to-hand combat method of the Israeli army. Considered a serious martial arts workout, devotees embrace it as much for its superb effects on the cardiovascular system—including vigorous kicking/punching moves—as for its self-defense benefits.
6) Karaoke Spin Class/Cycle Karaoke. Granted, for many of us, getting to the end of a spin class is about all we can do. But devotees of adding the singing component claim it forces them to focus more on their breathing, while also providing a barometer of the class’s intensity. If they can sing effortlessly, they may need to increase their movements. If they can’t sing at all, they need to ease off a little.
7) Polga. No longer the sole domain of strippers, pole dancing—combined with yoga postures to produce Polga—is touted as a strength-building, flexibility, range of motion and balance workout. Tantamount to a power yoga class, Polga is relatively new on the fitness horizon, with founder Carla Mock offering instructor certification classes to increase its visibility.
8) Punk Rock Aerobics. While the term “aerobics” may elicit images of a very ‘80s Jane Fonda in a striped leotard, with “punk” taking us back a couple of decades to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Team Spirit,” you got it! This high-cardio fitness forum provides an anti-establishment workout that, per its job description, allows participants to “channel their inner rock star.” The brainchild of Boston-based graphic artist Maura Jasper and Hilken Mancini, co-founder of The Girls Rock Campaign Boston, these classes are often held during off-hours at nightclubs and use cinder blocks for weight training. “Waves” include intervals of choreographed and freestyle dance moves. Check your local watering hole. Take that, Olivia Newton-John!
9) Thug Workout. Like Punk Rock Aerobics, the Thug Workout takes rebellion seriously and takes it to the streets. Designed for individuals who know their way around a gym and are fluent in form, this workout plan uses basic tried-and-true exercises such as pushups, pullups and squats, but takes them to urban locales such as parks, ‘hoods, and streets. Using “equipment” like picnic tables, tires and telephone poles, the Thug Workout features a hip-hop soundtrack and commentary by hip-hop collective Ruff Ryders. Available on DVD.
10) AcroYoga. Like flying? AcroYoga is billed as a combination of yoga and partner acrobatics. Focusing on increased strength and flexibility, it also fosters trust as groups of three participants include a base, flier and spotter. If balancing on your stomach on top of your partner’s feet doesn’t develop connection and trust, maybe you should find another workout!
11) Capoeira. A Brazilian game-like format that blends combat and dance moves, with rhythmic music, some posit Capoeira was created by African slaves in colonial Brazil. Among its many requirements (and benefits) are speed, strength, acrobatics, agility and flexibility. Some classes even feature hands-on exposure to instruments including the single-stringed berimbau.
12) The Gospel Workout. Amen. Now there’s a way to get or stay in shape with a faith-based program using high-energy gospel music to pump you up. Fitness instructor Donna Richardson leads each workout routine with a prayer, followed some kick-ass (oops..no offense) cardio. Produced by the same company behind the DVDs P90X and Turbo Jam.
13) Jukari Fit to Fly. This circus-inspired workout—the brainchild of Reebok and Cirque du Soleil— strengthens arms, legs and core on a trapeze-like apparatus. In many ways a kissing cousin of aerial or antigravity yoga, Jukari makes you spin, swing, fly and jump for an optimal strength-training and cardio workout.
14) Walking on Water. No one’s being sacrilegious here. Waterwalkerz™ are clear, giant balls you step into, seal up and propel across the surface of a pond or lake. Think it’s a walk in the park? Think again. Keeping yourself upright and the ball moving takes a lot of balance and core strength: an abs-olutely super workout!
15) Jumplife. Miss the abandon of jumping on a trampoline with your best friend? Jumplife combines mini trampolines with disco balls and neon lights. Participants say it feels more like a party than a routine exercise class. Cardio and toning are emphasized in separate programs.
16) Zuu. Modeled on the movements of wild animals, Aussie-based Zuu is a cardio, strength training and agility workout. Challenges include arm swinging like a gorilla, ground crawling like a bear and many other exercises. Though rare in the United States, Zuu is slowly catching on because it’s as much fun as it is beneficial. Try the Internet for instructions.
17) Inversion workouts. If your core is squawking for its life, inversion workouts turn basic core exercises upside down—literally. Attached by your ankles to a bar or cable and suspended upside down, defying gravity results are multiplied (have you tried an upside down sit-up?). An inversion workout also helps to relieve pressure on your back and joints. Just ask an astronaut.
18) Ye olde pogo stick. That’s right. The rhetoric says it was invented eons ago, and a pogo stick may not be easy to acquire, but using one burns 600 calories an hour, same as running—but probably a heap more fun!
19) Prancercise. Whether you’re into reindeer names or horses in general, this method of moving mimics a horse’s gait. Sixty-one-year-old creator Joanna Rohrback created the workout that involves stepping forward and back, side to side, in 2013, attributing her toned abs and glutes to the choreography. Instead of walking or running your usual 2-to-5 miles, try prancercising for a beneficial change of pace.
20) Spoga. Though it may seem counterintuitive, spoga—a confluence of spinning classes and yoga—lets you move and meditate; spin and stretch; cycle all-out and circle back inward to challenge both the physical and mental you. The result is a fat-burning, mind-bending session where you are equally energized and relaxed.
Want more? Experts say some of the most innovative workouts come from people who simply got tired of the treadmill and took their fitness challenge to wildly creative places. What are you waiting for?!