Let’s face it. It takes a special kind of discipline to hit the gym day in and day out, to hold yourself accountable, navigate the crowds, wipe down the equipment and schlep home to shower.
For many, it’s not long before the enthusiasm wanes and the “Let’s do this” mentality fades to “It won’t hurt if I skip a day or two.”
So how do you harness that willpower for the long haul? Consider a change of scenery and try something new. Paddleboarding toward the wind can get your heart rate pumping and work your core; rock wall climbing can burn as many as 700 calories; and hiking works your legs and core while feeding your mind.
Even hard-core gym rats alter their workouts, both to get maximum physical results and to stave off boredom.
Thankfully, there are a number of options available to enhance your regular workouts. Here are six alternatives to the gym.
Head to any local pond or lake and among the canoes and kayaks you’ll find people standing on paddleboards. In Smyrna, you’ll find them doing yoga, thanks to Angie Hall, who launched her own stand-up paddleboard (SUP) business last year, called Kula SUP. As a certified instructor, she offers both yoga and cardio SUP classes on Lake Como in Smyrna, as well as guided adventure tours on the Bohemia River in nearby Cecil County, Maryland.
A SUP cardio workout incorporates core strengthening and cardio.
A SUP cardio workout incorporates core strengthening and cardio, according to Hall, as students paddle hard into the wind, then transition into squats, burpees and even sit ups.
“SUP yoga is just so different than [yoga] on land,” says Hall, of Elkton. “You’re keeping your balance and maintaining certain postures, and you engage smaller muscles on the paddleboard. People wake up sore the next day because they’re targeting different muscles than they’re used to.”
An added benefit? Paddleboard classmates. “It’s really cool to bring people together as an alternative to the gym when it’s beautiful outside,” says Hall.
If you can’t muster your own motivation, consider hiring a personal trainer. From shaping your fitness goals to taking you out of your comfort zone, a personal trainer brings expertise and the qualifications needed to inject new routines into a burned-out regimen.
Patience Cooper, of Cooper Personal Training, offers private and semi private sessions in Middletown, and says trainers know how to pair exercises, pay attention to form and identify methods to push their clients to greater limits.
“I yell,” laughs Cooper, who says clients know she’ll follow up with them if they miss a session. “I’ll ask, ‘Where were you, where have you been?'”
A personal trainer brings expertise and the qualifications needed to inject new routines into a burned-out regimen.
Cooper says many people just get in a rut at the gym. “Women typically go right to cardio machines—we think we burn a lot of calories and we don’t get in anyone’s way. A trainer opens your mind to the possibilities. It’s that extra push that some people have trouble finding on their own,” she adds.
If you can’t afford long-term training, Cooper recommends committing to just one or two sessions every few weeks.
If you thought outdoor rowing or crew was an elite sport reserved for Ivy League students, think again. The Wilmington Rowing Center (WRC) offers a popular Learn to Row program for beginners, and membership is growing, according to Brooks Reinhard, WRC house chair. For two hours a day, six days a week, participants navigate the Christina River and learn the mechanics of good rowing form, which works the core and lower body, as well as the arms.
“It is a total body experience—60 to 70 percent of the work is in your legs,” explains Reinhard, a rower for more than 45 years. “The seat moves back and forth, so for each stroke we use our full body—we drive the legs and pull them back and then go again.”
According to U.S. Rowing, rowing is a low-impact sport that uses all of the body’s major muscle groups, and offers an ample aerobic workout too.
Learn to row at the Wilmington Rowing Center// Photo by Jim Course, Moonloop Photography
Single boats, or shells, are popular, but Reinhard says there’s much more to be gained by rowing with a team, which demands the coordination of two to eight people rowing in perfect time.
“The coordination of all those people as one is what’s unique about the sport,” says Reinhard. “It’s all about connecting with the other people in the boat. If you’re rowing in a team of eight, you’re like an 8-cylinder engine. It makes you think about what you’re doing—you concentrate and perform as a team.”
Proficiency level dictates rowing times, with novice groups meeting three evenings a week. While it’s a low-impact sport, don’t be fooled. Higher-level rowers train 8 to 10 miles a day.
Running may be one of the oldest and most efficient forms of exercise around. There is no membership fee, you go at your own pace, and you can do it anywhere—vacation, early morning, even during your lunch break.
Pound the streets of your neighborhood, head to a local high school track, or explore trails and parks. The best part? You’re competing against yourself.
Newark resident Karen White found keeping up with group exercise classes after work impossible with three children, so she joined a Couch to 5K running program at the local YMCA.
“We met very early so it never interfered with my work schedule or the children’s schedule,” says White. “After my 5K race I was hooked, and I kept being motivated to keep running longer distances,” she adds.
Running may be one of the oldest and most efficient forms of exercise around. The best part? You’re competing
JoLynn Bitler took up trail running to incorporate some cross-training into her road running regimen. “What I loved about it is that it gave me shade from the sun, the pace was quicker and strides shorter, and my ankles and calves were always being challenged by roots and dirt, rock and ground,” says Bitler, who headed to Lums Pond State Park in Bear. “I was fully engaged and looking ahead. It excited and energized me.”
According to the American Council on Exercise, the average person burns between 110 and 180 calories per mile.
If you’re not ready to jump into running, how about hiking? Delaware offers more than 500 miles of public trails and multiuse pathways as part of its Trails and Pathways program. Like running, hiking requires no memberships or special training. It also boasts the added benefits of varied scenery, a boost to the senses and is low-impact.
Kathy Chrisbacher of Kennett Square was looking to change up her exercise routine when she started the Happy Hiking Group through Facebook in 2011.
“I knew there were some great trails at White Clay Creek, and I didn’t want to walk or hike them alone,” says Chrisbacher, who downloaded a map to plan hikes based on distance. Then she invited others.
“We’ve had up to 10 people, and the best part of the hike is that we all would just talk about life. We would always say that it was our therapy session. We would feel great physically and mentally.”
Delaware offers more than 500 miles of public trails and multiuse pathways as part of its trails and pathways
The Wilmington Trail Club offers guided hikes each week to its membership, including 10- to 15-mile hikes along the Appalachian Trail and shorter hikes through Delaware at Brandywine and White Clay Creek state parks.
Delaware continually ranks in the top 10 bike-friendly states in the U.S., according to the League of American Bicyclists. Pro-cycling laws and a push from former Gov. Jack Markell mean there’s no shortage of cycling enthusiasts navigating Delaware roads.
Middletown resident Jen Easterday took up cycling at age 40, and started meeting up with friends to ride once a week. “I was absolutely petrified to ride on the road,” says Easterday. “One ride took care of that. Getting up early on a Saturday to ride with a group of women progressed into a weekly thing. I went from riding maybe 20 miles on a Saturday to saving up for a road bike and doing my first century ride within a year.”
Delaware continually ranks in the top 10 bike-friendly states in the U.s., According to the league of american
This summer, she completed in a duathlon (a trail run, followed by a trail ride, followed by a shorter trail run) and qualified for a spot on the Team USA Duathlon in Spain.
Locally, Delaware offers a number of annual bike events and cycling organizations, including Sussex Cyclists and White Clay Bicycle Club.
Want to rejuvenate your relationship with your gym?
Change up your routine, religiously.
Maybe it’s time to think outside the box with your gym membership. Think less treadmill and dumbbells, more CrossFit classes and mud runs. Many of today’s gyms offer complex equipment and classes geared toward today’s popular obstacle competitions.
Ryan and Amanda Peters founded RISE Fitness + Adventure in Rehoboth Beach after getting “humbled” by an obstacle race in northern New Jersey.
“There really wasn’t anything to train for this around here, nowhere you can do this,”
So the duo outfitted a 24,000-square-foot facility for a gym and cherry-picked some radical equipment that includes monkey bars, indoor turf, sleds, bouldering wall, even a rock climbing wall.
“The goal was to have somebody walk through the door and train in any discipline they needed—CrossFit, obstacle racing, rock climbing, cardio and bodybuilding,” says Ryan. RISE features a 24-foot rock wall, an alternative to traditional cardio that works flexibility and body awareness, according to Ryan. It also burns up to 700 calories an hour.
“Everybody’s here to build a better version of themselves,” he says.
Pamela Cox, group exercise director at the Bear-Glasgow YMCA, leads an Obstacle Course Race Training class. During the 60-minute class, participants switch between short bursts of intensity and recovery periods.
“I started doing mud and obstacle races,” says Cox. “Through a lot of trial and error I learned how to train for them. I wanted to help others with their journey.”
Cox says participants walk out stronger, faster and with a sense of accomplishment.
“As a coach, it’s awesome to see how the group comes together as a team to overcome the challenges they face each week.”