Feed my workout routine!
March 14, 2010 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I've gained a lot of fitness over the last few months. I want to take that fitness and do something useful- I want to do something that's fun and will make me want to work out more, but also have it be a bit of a workout itself. Help!

I like working out, and I like doing the same things. But I want more.

I've been running for a number of years. However, if I focus on running for too long and set really high goals for progress, I burn out and get despondent. I like being in shape but sometimes running itself seems rather futile. When I start getting into this train of thought, I end up having to force myself to go out and I lose fitness as I start to skip days.

When I first noticed this cycle of interest/disinterest, I added weightlifting to my routine. I started lifting 3-4 times a week, making sure I did it on days when I didn't feel like running. This way I got a mental break from running and I stayed in shape. Generally, I'll run the next day and I won't feel quite as guilty as I did when I didn't have lifting in my routine.

I've kept this schedule up for around 9 months. Whereas I've gained a lot of muscle and I'm running pretty much as fast as ever, I find I'm still becoming unmotivated at times and rather discouraged. I'm hoping I can find that third "thing" that will not only improve my fitness by giving me an extra workout, but take what I've already gained and will make me glad I've been running and lifting for all this time.

So far, here are my ideas include martial arts, rock climbing, and swimming. What's really appealing about the first two is they take both endurance and strength, the two things I've been working on, and combine them into a skill I can use in real life (or, at least, they're more real-life skills than pure endurance or muscular strength).

Any ideas? Do you have anything that you use to supplement your regular workouts? How do I get started?

posted by pyrom to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I say this without experience, because I'm rather out of shape, but maybe you could get involved in an unorthodox team sport, like ultimate frisbee? Something in that vein might be a great workout and great fun, and you'll meet a bunch of people in your area concentrated on fitness.
posted by makethemost at 5:34 PM on March 14, 2010

A lot of my family members have been getting into Triathlons and seem to be having a lot of fun.

Triathlons would give you lots of goals to work for, including swimming. You could even travel to events out of your area.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:44 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do martial arts and a very little rock climbing and recommend both. I also jog regularly in good weather and play basketball semi-regularly. I don't really enjoy running, but do it to fill in between other activities.

I really like that martial arts (I do shaolin kung fu) is a class I go to, instead of something that I have to push myself to do in my own basement or from my front door. This helps to force me to go.

With rock climbing, my husband and I are doing it together and have to go somewhere other than our place to do it, so it helps to, again, push me out the door.

Also, both these activities and basketball have a distracting element about them---I am not focusing on getting fit, I am focusing on my routines and take downs with kung fu, getting up the wall with rock climbing and chasing after the ball and sinking it in the basket with basketball. If I was looking at these as fitness activities I would get board quite fast, as I tend to with jogging (which I just can't see as anything else).
posted by chiefthe at 5:54 PM on March 14, 2010

I think an unorthodox team sport is an excellent idea. A lot of cities have adult kickball leagues, so something along those lines might be appealing. Dancing is also a great way to workout and learn something useful with the added bonus of enhancing your grace, poise, and agility.
posted by katemcd at 5:54 PM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Triathlons are fun, but require a lot of training to be competitive. They come in three distances; Ironman (8-17 hours), Olympic (2-4 hours), and Sprint (thirty minutes to two hours). Sprint triathlons vary in length; the other two are prescribed distances.

Rock climbing is fun, and while strength is useful - and you'll build strength - the majority of the skill is technique based, so there's a *lot* to learn.

I bicycle around, and see stuff. I also used to love team sports - volleyball, specifically - because it let me be mildly active while getting some social time in. Being able to break a sweat while hanging out with friends is certainly a good use of my time. :-)
posted by talldean at 5:55 PM on March 14, 2010

I think adding a competitive element to your search for continued fitness could be a good incentive to keep it going and/or fine tune it while also doing something that's motivating. The triathlon suggestion is great, or you might try another individual competitive sport like tennis, biking, etc.

Additionally, from an even more practical angle, you could find some sort of volunteer opportunity that requires hard labor or even one where you are helping disabled people move around and experience a sport. You could also coach a team/assistant coach and simultaneously participate.
posted by thorny at 5:57 PM on March 14, 2010

I know several people who compete in off road running races. It's a lot more interesting than just running and needs a higher level of overall strength and good balance. Orienteering is another way to add an extra challenge to an otherwise standard run. Competing definitely helps, not so much trying to win but going for top 25% or improving on your last time, that kind of thing. Keeping with the offroad theme, I also know a few mountain bikers who rave about the adrenaline rush and the fun they have.

For something completely different, kayaking or sailing would make use of that extra strength you have.
posted by shelleycat at 6:08 PM on March 14, 2010

Not on the same scale as triathlons but tennis is insanely fun, addictive to improve on, a great way to get fresh air, and something you can play on a sunday afternoon with friends and family who aren't particularly fit. I love it.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:12 PM on March 14, 2010


More seriously, trail running. You can't get obsessed about speed and precise distances, you just can't. And it's more of an all-body workout than road running is.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:13 PM on March 14, 2010

Fencing? It's a great workout, somewhat unorthodox( at least here in the US), and you get to play with swords.
posted by COD at 6:31 PM on March 14, 2010

Erging (using the indoor rowing machine) is a great full-body workout! You can do sprints, which will be strength exercises, or long-distance pieces, which are more endurance based. Most gyms have one or two Concept2 ergs hanging around. Seriously, it's super tough, good to break up a routine with, and likely won't require any money or initial outlay on your part.
posted by hepta at 7:13 PM on March 14, 2010

Go all out, put your name in the hat to do The Amazing Race and see what happens. That would be a hell of a work out and might earn you some extra jack!
posted by bkeene12 at 7:48 PM on March 14, 2010

another vote for triathlons (sprints are very easy to train for if you want to keep running as your primary activity, not so much for the other distances). Swimming on its own is great, especially open water swimming.

Since you enjoy the weights, consider Crossfit or kettlebell training. I'm also kind of competitive, so I do some boot camp classes because I push myself pretty hard when working out in groups.

In the winter I add cross country skiing, which is a great use of running fitness, but different in that it's very technique dependent (much like swimming).
posted by smalls at 8:02 PM on March 14, 2010

Oh also, there are some alternative running races out there. Things like muddy buddy races, urbanathlons, or stair races up skyscrapers.
posted by smalls at 8:05 PM on March 14, 2010

Racquetball is perennially popular as a "sport you do at the gym" -- it's a great high-intensity workout, you only need one other person, it's light on equipment (though you should never play without protective eyewear!) and court access is usually cheap, especially if you already have a weight-room pass. Ask around, maybe someone at the gym will be willing to play it with you.
posted by vorfeed at 8:29 PM on March 14, 2010

I paddle, but I also live 2 miles from two lakes and a river, and I own my own kayak. Erging can be kind of boring after a while, sculling is better. But again, you sort of need to live near a lake and have access to a shell, or a rowing team.

Go for martial arts. I've always wanted to do it, but I bruise easily.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:14 PM on March 14, 2010

Search and rescue, lifeguard, volunteer firefighter, coast guard. Sometimes useful means useful to others, too.
posted by eccnineten at 10:48 PM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Any kind of vigorous dancing, especially stuff where you have to do somewhat athletic things with a partner.
posted by Nattie at 12:21 AM on March 15, 2010

Search and rescue is less of a workout and more of an exercise in freezing your ass off. Usually on a Wednesday at 1am.

Surfing is fun and a great workout. I also like competitive sports and aside from the ones I'm actually good at I also play soccer, ice hockey and racquetball at the "I suck" level of the local leagues.
posted by fshgrl at 12:39 AM on March 15, 2010

I would look into Crossfit. If you can find a group to do it with that would be awesome, but even doing it alone nearly killed me ( in a good way ). I can run and I can lift weights, but CrossFit / P90X workouts are on a whole other level. Some workouts you can bang out in 15 minutes or less. Try the Filthy 50 and get back to me. I modified it by lowering the reps and called it the Dirty Thirty.

I would also recommend Ultimate. Tons of sprinting, jumping, juking, catching, throwing, etc. Most people are very surprised just how tough of a workout it can be, especially if you are playing with people who are in good 'Ultimate shape'. Plus its just an all around awesome game that attracts all around awesome people.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:05 AM on March 15, 2010

Seconding eccnineten. Maybe Habitat for Humanity?
posted by Neekee at 9:02 AM on March 15, 2010

Since you express an interest in martial arts, I specifically recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (aka "BJJ"). Being a pure grappling art, you get to spar at nearly full speed every class, which helps feed that competitive drive to learn. (Most striking arts either enforce very light sparring or disallow sparring altogether -- katas, one-steps, and kicking pads get frustrating...) It has a very steep learning curve, but your classmates are, for the most part, on the same curve so you'll always find somebody to challenge you. Burnout is delayed by the sheer volume of material there is to learn -- imagine any possible position you could take vs. any possible position by your opponent, and that's what you're dealing with. You will never run out of things to learn. And there are plenty of tournaments around, if that's your thing.

BJJ is, in the end, mostly a mental game with your body along for the ride, like physical chess. But fitness helps, especially at the beginning when you lack technique, and the sport will help reinforce your fitness. (Getting your butt kicked is terrific motivation!) And because no two fights are exactly the same, you'll work all those fiddly little muscles that specific weight training will miss. A possible down side is that you're sore pretty much all the time. You may view this as a positive thing: you're finding, and training, your weak spots.

BJJ meshes very well with Crossfit, mentioned above. (A lot of BJJ schools also offer Crossfit.) I'd think rock climbing would also complement it well. And I've read that something like 80% of top BJJ practitioners also surf -- something about a mental state of "flow", although I must admit I don't really "get" the connection yet.

It's pretty popular at the moment, so you should be find a local school easily. Feel free to memail with any questions.
posted by LordSludge at 9:20 AM on March 15, 2010

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