The Spectator’s Emma Reilly explores three new ways to add some spice to your workout schedule
WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. A New Years’ resolution to hit the gym, which seems so easy to maintain during the first few weeks of January, starts to look a little less shiny as February rolls around (especially when daylight hours are limited and the weather is woefully dull).
The solution? A change of routine. Here are three different workouts to add some spice to your workout schedule — and keep your resolutions from fizzling out.
If you’ve ever wanted to run away and join the circus, this is the workout for you. This class feels like a cross between yoga, gymnastics and a Cirque du Soleil performance. Large silk hammocks, hung from the ceiling, are used to help balance traditional floor poses or as a support during acrobatic flips and stands.
The poses are both comforting — lying outstretched supported by a silk hammock feels like inhabiting a cosy cocoon — and challenging, as some will find students hanging upside down, supported by the silks. For me, the most difficult part of the class was trusting that I wouldn’t tumble out of my hammock and land headfirst on the floor.
Melanie Lourenco, the owner of Circle Studios on Ferguson Avenue and an aerial yoga instructor, says the workout is safe — the silks were OK’d by a structural engineer and installed by a professional rigger — and beneficial. Aerial yoga offers the same advantages of traditional yoga, including deep muscle stretches and relaxation, while relieving strain on knees, hips, and ankles. The suspension also releases tension in your bones and muscles.
“This is great to work out and get deep stretches without putting pressure on the joints,” she said.
Aerial yoga is also beneficial for your core muscles, as your abs immediately engage to help maintain the stability you lose by taking your workout off the ground.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience with aerial yoga. Though the poses look intimidating, it was surprisingly easy to get the hang of it (pun intended). Lourenco walked us through the difficult flips and poses step-by-step and gently encouraged her students to get out of our comfort zones. Plus, it offers the same Zen-like relaxation benefits of traditional yoga — my favourite part was being gently rocked side-to-side while lying in the hammock at the end of the class.
Scaling a 40-to-50-foot wall is a test of both mental and physical endurance. While rock climbing is a fantastic workout — climbing works your arms, upper back, legs and core while increasing flexibility — it’s a mental challenge as well. First-timers like me may find the dizzying heights to be, well, dizzying. For my first couple climbs, I could only make it three-quarters of the way up the wall.
I lost my nerve and made a beeline for solid ground.
Still, the adrenalin rush that comes along with climbing can be hard to beat.
“I always say to people, if you get up to the top and your heart’s not racing, it wouldn’t be the same experience,” said Reid Monk, the owner of Gravity Climbing Gym on Frid Street.
Rock climbing is an excellent way to build upper body strength and target muscle groups that are often overlooked at the gym — especially the arms, lats and forearms, Monk said.
“It works your back, your lats, your abs, your glutes, a little bit of legs — but mostly, it’s the inside of the forearms — the muscles that close your hand.”
One drawback: climbing can be intimidating, especially intimidating for women — both due to the atmosphere at climbing gyms (the sport tends to draw more men than women) and because women tend to have less upper body strength than men. You may be more comfortable bringing a buddy, whether it’s someone who is equally new to climbing or someone who can literally teach you the ropes (I relied on the expertise and encouragement of my brother Liam, who has been climbing for years).
I can see why climbing can become totally addicting. Each climb feels like a high-stakes mental puzzle: figuring out a route to the top while the rest of the world looms below is both terrifying and exhilarating.
For those who want the workout without dealing with harnesses or skyhigh heights, Gravity also offers a bouldering wall where climbers rise only a few metres off the ground.
Your favourite childhood pastime is also a great way to get your blood pumping. The Flying Squirrel trampoline gym on Upper James, which opened in November, is about to unveil two new 55-minute fitness classes: a cardio speed class that focuses on the legs and incorporates a soft ball, and a full-body workout that uses resistance bands.
The health benefits of trampoline work gained credibility in the 1980s, when NASA studied it as a way to help astronauts work out after experiencing weightlessness in space. That study found that 10 minutes bouncing on a trampoline is a better cardiovascular workout than 33 minutes of running. Bouncing also tones your legs, core, and lower back — the muscle groups that help you stay stabilized on the trampoline.
“Instead of just going to the gym and doing one set of muscle workouts at a time, here you get the full body and full core workout,” said Luke Schueler, who owns Flying Squirrel. “You can burn up to 1,500 calories an hour on a trampoline.”
Schueler suggests replacing one day at the gym with a bounce on the trampoline and argues the switch will help get you “into the best shape of your life.”
After only a few minutes on the trampoline, I could believe it — I was surprised by how quickly my heart rate spiked.
Plus, jumping on a trampoline is genuinely fun — something most of us would never say about running on a treadmill.
Emma goes vertical. Climbing can be terrifying and exhilarating. Aerial yoga feels like a cross between yoga and gymnastics.
A trampoline workout gets your heart pumping fast.
Cocooning in the hammock was a soothing way to end the workout.
Emma Reilly working out at Flying Squirrel trampoline park, with the help of owner Luke Schueler.
Stretching upside down, supported by silks.
First-timers can find climbing a bit intimidating. Emma went with her brother Liam Reilly, who is an experienced climber.