More Giggles than Groans
What do bikini-clad gorillas, hoop dancing, aerial silk acrobatics, anti-gravity yoga and Pilates on the water have in common? They are among the most enjoyable ways to burn calories and increase strength.
On the Run
In Mankato, Minnesota, runners and walkers dressed like gorillas, many embellished with bikinis, tutus and football jerseys, take part in the annual Gorilla Run to benefit the nonprofit North Mankato Miracle League and Fallenstein Field, a fully accessible softball field for children with mental or physical challenges. This year, a local DJ dressed as a banana led the pack of 600 gorillas through the 2.4-mile course, raising $30,000. Next April, pro athletes and other volunteers will again pitch in to set the pace for other cities that want to ape their act.
Travis Snyder’s family-friendly Color Run, founded in Draper, Utah, and launched in Tempe, Arizona, in early 2012, has caught on in more than 100 U.S. cities as a way for novice runners to have a stress-free, untimed, fun day. Sixty percent of the participants have never run a 5K (three-plus miles) race before. Staff and volunteers throw brightly colored cornstarch on the runners at regular intervals, making the finish line a virtual rainbow. The larger runs boast thousands of participants. There are only two rules: wear a white shirt at the starting line and finish plastered in color.
On the Water
For anyone looking for a unique water workout, Tatiana Lovechenko, founder of Fort Lauderdale Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), has an answer. “We have paddleboard boot camps and sunrise and sunset tours, on the ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway, based on conditions. Safe and eco-friendly LED lights, our latest innovation, let us see the fish below and make sure boats see us at night.”
Their SUP manatee tour is particularly popular. “This endangered species congregates in less-traveled waterways. They often come up out of the water to look at us,” says Lovechenko. “We’re not allowed to touch them and must stay alert in case they bump the boards and dump us into the water. They’re gentle, but immense.”
If basic SUP isn’t enough, onboard yoga or Pilates can be added. “It’s easy on the joints for those with knee or ankle problems,” Lovechenko advises. Regardless of the level of experience, “Yoga paddleboarding naturally calls for a calm mind, steady breathing and attention to balance. With Pilates, working out on a board in water that’s 10 to 20 feet deep activates a different set of muscles.”
Dancing on Land
Hoopnotica, on a roll here and in Europe, reintroduces play into physical fitness with fresh, fun, expressive movements (Tinyurl.com/HoopnoticaLessons). Instructional DVDs and classes are available to revive and enhance childhood hooping abilities.
“Hooping spans genres from classical to hip-hop, tribal to lyrical, depending on who’s spinning the hoop and what’s spinning on the turntable,” says Jacqui Becker, Hoopnotica’s director of content development and lead master trainer, in Brooklyn, New York. “When I carry a hoop around town, people light up. It’s like walking a puppy, but an even better workout, with no cleanup.”
Dancing in Air
Aerial silk classes take exercising to new heights. Cirque du Soleil-style and more elegant than rope climbing, students don’t have to be in peak shape to start. “Just show up and want to learn,” says international performing aerialist Laura Witwer, who teaches how to climb fabric attached to steel rigging 16 to 25 feet high in New York City spaces. “We work close to the floor for beginners,” she explains. “They learn to climb, then to hang upside-down, and then tie knots. We’ve had all body sizes, shapes and ages in class; it’s a great way to stretch and add strength.”
Yoga can also take to the air with anti-gravity classes that position participants in fabric slings or hammocks that relax joints and help the body realign itself. Christopher Harrison, founder and artistic director of AntiGravity Yoga, in New York City, is a former worldclass gymnast and professional dancer on Broadway, two professions that are tough on the body.
“As an aging athlete whose passion continued, but whose body had been ripped apart by numerous surgeries, yoga healed and rejuvenated my mind and body,” he remarks. “In order to take pressure off the joints, I took my performance company from tumbling off the ground to hanging up into the air by inventing apparatus that allowed us to fly.”
Whether by land, sea or air, adventurous souls are discovering new ways to recharge mind, spirit and body.
Connect with freelance writer Sandra Murphy at StlSandy@MindSpring.com.