People who want to get into great shape will often join a gym and take up a training routine involving lifting weights and doing cardio on a regular basis in order to accomplish their aims. This is an admirable effort but unfortunately it’s one that is often doomed to failure. Partly that’s because working out several hours each week is time consuming, but at the same time it’s also because no-one particularly enjoys any of these exercise activities. Let’s face it: running on the spot for 20 minutes isn’t exactly fun, while lifting weights often seems like nothing other than a good way to make yourself feel tired and possibly put your back out. Frankly, resistance machines look like torture devices…
And really this is crazy when you think of how many activities there are you can actually enjoy completely for free in order to improve your health. And I don’t mean that doing certain sports will improve your health a little as a nice bonus while you have fun – I mean that often these activities are just as good as a ‘workout’ if not better. Read on to see how you can make yourself slimmer, fitter and more muscular by doing things that are actually just a lot of fun!
Let’s start out by looking at tennis. This is an enjoyable sport that a lot of people play simply for fun but it’s also incredibly good for your fitness. Tennis doesn’t only involve a lot of running around, but also challenges you to quickly change direction, to mix up your speeds and to stop and start a lot. By the end of a game of tennis you will usually be out of breath and aching from head-to-toe. This will also build your twitch muscle fibres, your core strength and even your arm muscles. It really is just as good as running on a treadmill for an hour, and probably much better in fact. And it’s also fun.
If you don’t have a nearby tennis court or don’t want to spend the money but you do have a garden, then you can get similar exercise using something called ‘swingball’. This is essentially a tennis ball attached to a piece of rope, looped over a metal coil and then stuck into the ground. The idea is to hit it back and forth so that the ball doesn’t travel all the way to the top or bottom of the coil. A few missed hits and it’s game over.
This isn’t quite as energetic as playing actual tennis as there’s no running around and no court. However simply hitting the ball hard enough, ducking and dodging underneath the rope as it swings around, and staying on your toes are all enough to help you work up quite a sweat nevertheless.
Other easier alternatives include hitting a ball against a wall, or even play Wii sports.
Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that’s much more accessible for beginners. Here you don’t need any rope or harness, you simply get a short climbing wall and the opportunity to climb it. Because the climbing wall is low to the ground, the only safety equipment necessary is a crash mat at the bottom to catch you if you fall and that means that there’s no queuing, no need for expensive gear, and generally low entry requirements for noobs.
And if you want to build muscle, this is one of the very best ways to do it. For starters you will be using explosive movements to launch yourself up the side of the wall. Secondly, you will taking all your bodyweight on your arms and legs, and thirdly you will be combining isometric holds with rapid repetitions and more. In particular, rock climbing is a fantastic workout for your legs (total legs workout), your biceps, your lats and your forearms. The forearms are what you will use to generate the gripping power necessary to hold yourself onto the wall, while your lats are what will give you the strength to pull yourself up or lower yourself down. It’s also great for your fitness as hanging on to the vertical surface quickly becomes tiring. The only part of your body that won’t get such a great workout perhaps is your pecs, so do some press ups at the top and bottom of your climb and you’re sorted!
Traversing is a type of rock climbing in which the aim is not to climb up the wall, but rather to climb along it. You do this by using your hands to grip onto the wall again where you can find the jugs and holds and then stepping out sideways into the foot holds. This is actually even more of a workout for the forearms and it’s ideal if you’re afraid of falling because you’ll only be a few inches off the ground at any one time. Better yet, traversing means you don’t need access to a gym with a climbing wall: as long as you have a rough brick wall near you you will be able to use that.
Another bodyweight exercise that is fun to practice and also excellent conditioning is hand balancing. Hand balancing is what it sounds like and essentially involves balancing on your hands while attempting to pull off a range of poses. These include one-handed handstands, plank (without your feet on the floor), v-sits and a range of transitions. This is an amazing skill to develop and one that will be sure to impress guests. At the same time, it’s also a lot of fun and something you can practice on its own. Unfortunately it doesn’t do much for your pulling muscles or legs, but for that you can practice stunts on a pull up bar (look up bartendaz) and you can do poses with your legs. Hand balancing you can practice at home on your own, but if you want to take this further then you should sign up for a gymnastics class.
Martial arts are fantastic toning and cardio and far moreso than something boring like circuits. Martial arts sessions generally involve lengthy warm-ups that have you running around the gymnasium and stretching, along with sparring sessions (think highly intensive cardio sessions) followed by performing katas and punching pads before cooling down. All of this means you’re constantly moving, pulling off difficult positions and punching and kicking. The body of a martial artist is normally highly toned and ripped and this is why!
The less aggressive but just as tiring alternative to martial arts is dancing which will once again mean constantly moving while training your muscles in all-sorts of unusual ways. Dancing lessons have helped many people to lose weight when all else has failed and again this is something that can be practiced in a class or at home.
There are many other methods besides these too, but the point to take home is that sports, activities and things you enjoy can be just as beneficial as straight-up training programs. And if you are more likely to stick to them because you enjoy them more, then they’ll actually be significantly more beneficial.
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