2017-07-14 / Health & Wellness

Outdoor activity is fun, but gym provides the real workout

COMMENTARY /// Fitness today
By Karen Robiscoe
Special to The Acorn

During the summer, it’s plenty easy to get all the physical activity you need outside.

A bike ride in the foothills, a hike on a mountain trail, an afternoon swim or a run through the neighborhood—the great outdoors is so user-friendly, it’s easy to overlook the value of the brick-and-mortar health club.

Gyms come equipped with machines that spin, pedal and step you into shape. There are reasons to visit them beyond the dictates of bad weather.

You can’t beat what a gym has to offer for perfecting your physique, but if your routine bores you, it’s a safe bet you’ll find a reason to skip the fine-tuning and settle for less. Little wonder, since your muscles are bored, too.

Performing the same motions day in and day out reduces the efficacy of your exercise, overworks the muscles targeted and leaves them prone to injury.

But don’t fret! The route to visible results is as easy as sidestepping that elliptical and engaging your imagination instead.

Take free weights, for example.

They’re not just for bodybuilders anymore. A marvelous tool for isolating specific muscles and muscle groups, a weight training session elevates your metabolism for hours after you’ve hefted your last dumbbell and allows you to sculpt the figure you want in a way cardio machines never will.

Cardio’s great for warming up, but once you get that blood pumping—pump some iron.

Want a more impressive chest? Try a few bench flies gripping dumbbells in each hand. A better booty? Then loaded lunges are in order. A whittled waistline? Try torso twists with a medicine ball to get that hourglass, and enjoy the benefits of a stronger core and improved stability as a bonus.

Group exercise is a fun way to shake it up, too. Specialized classes are a constantly evolving facet of gym culture, and the variety is enormous: function fitness, boot camps, Bikram yoga and more. You can pick your pace, focus, forum and schedule. You might even pick up a few new friends, since nothing breaks the ice as quickly as sharing a good sweat.

Different gyms offer different things. If you’re lucky enough to belong to one that has a swimming pool, it’s time to don the Speedo and log a few laps. I can tell you from firsthand experience that nothing flattens the abdominal region quite as efficiently as a daily dip with multiple laps, and it’s easy on your musculoskeletal system, too.

Prefer a good game? If your club has a racquetball court, grab a buddy and flavor your workout with the thrill of competition.

Whether it’s a rock climbing wall you’ve been skipping or an outdoor track you’ve been meaning to try, I guarantee you’ll exercise longer and have more fun doing it when you focus on activities you enjoy.

So go ahead. Goblet squat, frog jump, chaturanga and rappel your way to that Beyonc√© bottom. There are so many options available in a club setting to give you the figure you’ve always wanted that turning the hamster wheel of a cardio machine every time you go is a cop-out.

The more varied your exercise is, the more likely it is you’ll look forward to the time you spend at the gym with the same enthusiasm you feel for outdoor activities.

Karen Robiscoe is a certified fitness trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a published author of short fiction, essays and poetry. Email Robiscoe at iscribe@cox.net or visit www.charronschatter.com.

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