By Lori Weiss
For many of us, the idea of beginning a new fitness program brings back memories of hours spent on a treadmill that took us nowhere. But the key, according to fitness expert Debra Berney, is finding an activity that you think is fun. "Just the other day I was playing tennis and thought to myself, 'Oh, I'll work out tomorrow', completely disregarding the calories I'd actually burned during the game!" she said laughing. "When you're doing something you love - something that's social - you forget that you're exercising."
And it's that social interaction that will bring more than 400 women to Debra's Baltimore based, Charm City Adventure Boot Camp, a division of her personal coaching program Kick In The Pants . Each weekday, a group of women gathers at a local park for an hour of exercise that's never the same twice. "I always get stretching, strength training, cardio and flexibility into the hour, but being outside gives me the freedom to switch things up and keep the program interesting," she said with a mischievous smile. "One day the group is running up the bleachers on the ball field and climbing on the high rocks on the playground, and the next, they could be having a relay race. They're like kids again, cheering on their teams.
And beyond burning calories, they're making new friends." And for women who find the idea of "boot camp" a little intimidating, Debra offers a "lite" version which moves at a slower pace. "We may power- walk instead of jog or a circuit might be five minutes instead of six, but we always fit in the same amount of laughter. And in the end, they have the same sense of accomplishment."
Charm City Adventure Boot Camp runs from May to October. For more information, check out kickinthepants.net. If you don't happen to live in Baltimore, you can find similar programs at bootcampfinder.com.
If you really want to forget that you're exercising, then a dance class might be more your style.
Zumba has taken the world by storm with more than 12 million followers. A Latin-inspired dance-fitness program, it'll make you feel more like you're at a party than an exercise class. Salsa and Merengue music fill the room, and before you realize it, you're in the midst of a high-energy cardio workout. And now, you can Zumba in the water or take one of their special toning classes. There's even a special Zumba Gold class with modified moves for individuals who are just beginning a fitness program, or older participants who want to remain active. You can get your groove on at one of 110,000 locations in 125 countries. Find out more at zumba.com.
The Natalie Portman movie "Black Swan" has made those ballet classes your mother made you take popular again. Classes like Pure Barre utilize the ballet barre to perform small isometric movements, working the abs, hips, seat and arms. They say it helps you defy gravity and after 40, and there's nothing bad about that! Classes are taught in select states throughout the country and are available on DVD. (No pink tutus required.) Log onto purebarre.com for a class near you.
And for the really adventurous, there's pole dancing. Let loose and let the burlesque babe you've always wanted to be come alive. In the safety of an exercise studio, instructors teach you how to climb, spin and perfect the kinds of stripper moves you've only seen in movies. You'll burn calories, make your friends fall on the floor laughing and you may even add a little spice to your love life! New Yorkers can check out nypoledancing.com. They also have a location in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In California, Chicago, Houston and New York, try sfactor.com.
Want something a little more rugged, but you're not feeling quite ready to hike the Andes? Climbing walls are a safe way to test out your sense of adventure and get a great workout. And what better way to strengthen those upper arms than holding on for dear life! (No need to be afraid - you're always harnessed in.) There's a whole gym dedicated to the sport in New York, with 18,000 square feet of bouldering and climbing walls. If you're in the Brooklyn area, check out BrooklynBoulders.com. For more information on climbing walls or to find a gym near you, click on indoorclimbing.com.
If you're someone who just prefers an old- fashioned run, but you're tired of the treadmill or running alone, we've found the match.com of running! Whether you're a beginner or training for a race, sign onto rrca.org/find-a-running-club and you'll find lots of people just like you.
Think you need something a little slower? There's a national program called Silver Sneakers, designed specifically for seniors that want to stay fit, but prefer a slower pace. From cardio circuits to yoga and aqua classes, there's something for everyone and you can find a location near you by going to silversneakers.com.
If you're more of a homebody or you're having trouble finding a class near you, no worries - we've got the perfect solution. Just find a great exercise DVD, invite over a few of your closest friends, make a pitcher of your favorite low-cal drink (warning: Cosmos may defeat the purpose) and get moving. You'll have so much fun, you'll forget you're even exercising.
Still need a little motivation? Then take a tip from Debra Berney. Find a friend and make a deal with them for a minimum of six weeks. Plan to meet at the gym - but each of you holds on to the other's gym bag. If you don't show up, you'll be leaving your friend stranded - not only working out alone, but without their gym clothes. And you don't want your buddy working out naked, do you?
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