Fit to Be Tried
If you're like a lot of people in this gluttonous nation, there's a point in mid-December when you just give up. Eff the diet, screw the exercise -- anything requiring self-control is usurped by gluttony and oh-so-much Baileys Irish Cream (or is that just me?).
Then January comes in like a brutal hangover, and motivation is harder to find than your flab-buried six-pack. Don't feel bad: The Resolutions Guide is pleased to provide you with exercises so cutting-edge, creative and downright weird that even you, O Sloth of Sloths, will get off your inflated rear and hit the gym.
If you keep running into hostile gangs of sea turtles while scuba diving (and really, who doesn't?), you should absolutely learn Aquando, or underwater martial arts. Of course, those who don't regularly engage in underwater combat can benefit from the exercise as well, which is basically a combination of kickboxing and martial arts performed in a pool. The idea is that while these moves are tough in thin air, they're even tougher with water's resistance, increasing calorie burn. Plus, all that jumping around won't be hard on your joints (24 Hour Fitness Meyerland Plaza, 713-665-2411, www.24hourfitness.com). And if you're ever planning to bicycle under water (how this might come up in real life, we have absolutely no idea), you can practice with Aquatic Spinning -- an exercise that's tough enough on land, and brutally fitness-inducing with water's resistance (The Houstonian Hotel Club & Spa, 713-685-6888, www.houstonianclub.com).
We really can't picture anyone doing a striptease so frequently as to actually lose weight, but perhaps some boyfriends/husbands/clients are very demanding. Or maybe you're just compulsively seductive. Either way, there's a class for people like you: "The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women" at NiaMoves. This, of course, demands a degree of cynicism -- thinking about burning calories while in the throes of seduction is a whole new level of obsessive-compulsive -- but we'll give the workout credit for its self-esteem-boosting power. Dancers practice in heels and an oversize button-down shirt, but there's no nudity in the class, so your goodies are reserved for your eventual (lucky) audience. Bonus: If the exotic dancing doesn't really do it for you, NiaMoves also offers classes in belly dancing, yoga and something called "Ecstatic Dance" (713-864-4260, www.niamoves.com).
All that underwater martial arts and sexy stripping will leave you in need of a stretch. If you love yoga and Pilates but can't bear their 2001-ness, you can bring them up to date with Yogalates (Hatha yoga plus Pilates) at FIT Athletic Club in River Oaks (713-782-9348, www.fitathletic.com). Or, if you want to take your core strength and flexibility to a whole new level of perfection (and freakishness), try Gyrotonics, which stretches you out using a wood-and-cord contraption that would fill with glee any 16th-century torture master. One of the machines is called a "pulley tower," the other an "expansion system," which sounds kind of eerie to us we're not sure we want to be expanded but the pros claim it opens up the body and loosens joints (The Houstonian Hotel Club and Spa, see above).
You know who look good? Brazilians. (This in case you missed the Great Supermodel Invasion of 2000.) They don't achieve their rock-hardness by just lying on the beach, kid (though they seem to do a lot of that, too); many practice Capoeira, a dancelike martial art that incorporates music, flexibility and ritual. The concept might seem odd at first -- what's practical about combining dancing with self-defense? (And it conjures up some disturbing images involving Michael Flatley.) But it was actually a way for African slaves in Brazil to defend themselves while retaining their cultural identity. Slaves added music, dance and ritual to disguise the fact from their keepers that they were practicing a martial art. The result is a lovely movement that's part booty-shaking, part booty-kicking and all very good for you (Grupo Capoeira Brasil offers classes at the Jewish Community Center, Rice University, the University Club at the Houston Galleria and other locations, 713-557-8022 or www.grupocapoeirabrasil.com).
And, if you want your fitness flavored with a hint of regression, we recommend firming up with the BOSU Balance Trainer, a large rubber bubble that comes off the floor -- like one of those big inflatable exercise balls chopped in half, with a platform on the bottom. It was created in 1999 for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team to help skiers work on balance and core strength. As you stand, hop, sit and lean, the ball always keeps you slightly off balance, making you try a little harder and toning up muscles you probably didn't even know you had. The nice thing about the BOSU is that it reminds you of a toy; there's something immensely satisfying about jumping up and down on a bouncy surface for a while. And hell, if you just so happen to get a six-pack out of it, great. (Classes at Bally's Total Fitness, multiple locations, 1-800-515-CLUB, www.ballystotalfitness.com.)
If nothing from bicycling underwater to jumping on a rubber ball will get you motivated this spring, then we're sorry -- we can't help you. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're going to try that faddish "jogging" trend -- we hear it's very retro.
Who, Me? Cheat?
We can't all be gym rats, spending hours honing our muscles until nickels bounce off our biceps. Some of us need a little extra help, a little grease in the fitness department. Lest you think we're advocating a swindle of some sort, let us point out that bending the rules to gain an advantage in sports is a time-honored tradition, even for professionals (see: Sosa, Sammy; Harding, Tonya). Sure, whacking someone in the knee might get you in trouble, but there are subtler ways to gain an advantage -- with equipment that's banned for pros, but perfectly cool for you to cheat with. Um, use.
Inspector Gadget would be pleased with the Spira running shoe, which uses "WaveSpring" technology -- basically, springs built into the balls and heels. The idea is that the springs reduce impact, which is great news for people with sensitive joints. But not, unfortunately, for people who want to run the Boston Marathon -- the legendary race has banned the shoe, claiming it violates a USA Track and Field rule that says, well, that you can't build springs into shoes. But for those of us not running in Boston, the shoe is available at www.spirafootwear.com.
Springs are on everyone's shit list: The United States Golf Association won't let its pros golf with any club that "acts like a spring." But your local country club will, and manufacturers are happy to let you spend $500 or more on a club that'll give you an advantage in your drive. Check out for a plethora of drive-enhancing, accuracy-improving and shank-eliminating clubs. Then throw in an exploding golf ball for a friend and seal your invincibility.
Tennis players, rejoice: Recently unbanned is the BlackBurne Double Strung racquet, which consists of two sets of strings (one on each side of the face) instead of one. Its makers (www.blackburneds.com) claim it enhances stability, increases the sweet spot and eliminates frame shots. Apparently, this was too much advantage for the International Tennis Federation, which banned the racquet from competition for ten years. But it's back in play and ready to enhance your game while you swear it's your forearm doing all the work.
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