Exercise buffet 2022
November 16, 2021 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to try a new type of exercise routine every quarter of the coming calendar year, to see if something clicks with one of them and I can add it as a regular part of my barely existing fitness routine. What is something that might work for me, that I could get a feel for after a couple months?

FWIW I am a 40 year old cis male, six feet tall, and I weigh about 215 lbs. I find that things that are group activities, or a paid commitment, or that I can commit to with a friend work better for me than solo stuff.

Here's my current fitness routine:

1) I bike to work and social events which, outside of a pandemic, amounts to maybe 25-50 miles of bike time per week.

2) I jog about 10 miles per week at a very leisurely pace that I sort of hate.

3) Once a year I do an Olympic-length triathlon in the most non-competitive way imaginable. (This weekend I did a random sprint-length tri and had the distinct honor of getting lapped by more or less everyone from age 13 to age 70. The triathlons are primarily a social tradition for me and some friends.)

4) While I'm "training" for the triathlon, I usually swim something like 5 to 10 miles total for the year.

5) Sometimes I go on a long walk with a friend.

The things I'd like a more regular exercise regimen to help me with are:

1) Long-term health and well-being -- family history of diabetes and other chronic illness due to general American way of life.

2) Flexibility -- I walk around in the world with a fairly constant sense of my lack of flexibilty, from my ankles all the way through, quite literally, my fingers.

3) My back -- I had a bad back in my early twenties, which I have improved by avoiding car commuting and, when things start to get bad, doing a bunch of hamstring stretches and planks.

4) Strength -- the only muscle development I have is really just bike muscles. Would be nice to round that out a bit.

What are approaches to exercise that I can do a few times a week that will address any of these goals, and have some component of social/paid commitment? My only strict limitation here is I don't want anything to involve a computer. I'm also being optimistic and assuming an improving, not worsening pandemic situation.
posted by kensington314 to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Pilates would be great for you! I'd recommend taking a single private class and then doing group classes for work on the reformer, but there's also a number of no-equipment, mat-based pilates classes available on YouTube or pilatesanytime.com
posted by wowenthusiast at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of adult beginner ice skating, and most rinks have an "LTS" aka "Learn to Skate" program that features group lessons for X number of weeks, with a defined set of skill challenges that allow you to move up as you progress. At many rinks, if you sign up for a weekly lesson you also receive free entrance to public skating session(s) as your additional practice time.

Skating is great for balance and proprioception, and making you use the parts of your body in ways you usually don't. If you stick with it, you'll progress to moves that challenge your flexibility, which may drive you into a routine of regular stretching.

I started at 50, with massive lower back problems (among many other weaknesses). I've found it fun, super motivating, and challenging. It has absolutely been a component of making my body stronger. And because I enjoy it, I keep going.

(I see your profile says you're in LA. I am too so if you want to discuss local rinks, DM me.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2021

Response by poster: Not wanting to threadsit here, but wowenthusiast and others, how should I be thinking about the difference between equipment-based and mat-based pilates?
posted by kensington314 at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2021

You might see if there's a Tai Chi group that meets nearby - these are often very early in the morning, in a park, and were already pretty socially distanced by necessity (arm's length, at the very least). You will likely be participating with senior citizens who've been doing it for decades, but they are generally very welcoming to newbies and you might very well make some amazing new friends.

A lot of your strength and flexibility goals might be met by a kettlebell class, which you might actually also find happening outside in a park "boot camp" style, but many gyms also offer group classes.

It feels goofy but dance-type workout classes - Zumba, Jazzercise, Aerobics, whatever new repackaging exists these days - are fun, generally go by very fast, and get you your cardio and some flexibility work. And if you're doing it with friends, it's often even more fun.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

You should give yoga a try to see if you like it. If you do, it will be a great complement to your other forms of exercise. I much prefer doing yoga in a class/studio setting - look for beginner or "hatha"-style classes to start, and then you can test out other types (vinyasa, hot yoga, etc) if you find you like it.
posted by superfluousm at 10:18 AM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe Brazilian jiu jitsu? Very social, and will definitely challenge and improve your strength, flexibility, and awareness of your body. Your back might be a wildcard. There are positions and techniques that I could see aggravating a bad back, but you can avoid using those techniques until you have a better sense of it (and indefinitely, really -- everybody develops the style of jiu jitsu that works for their particular body). And for what it's worth, when I started I had some fairly unpleasant hip flexor issues that I was afraid would force me to stop. A few months in, jiu jitsu practice had dramatically improved my hip problems, not aggravated them.
posted by egregious theorem at 10:30 AM on November 16, 2021

Join a gym that includes group exercise classes. Les Mills, in particular, is available at many gyms and has several different types of classes to try what works for best for you. I do BodyPump (low-weight strength training) and BodyFlow (pilates/yoga) and what I like best is not having to think. The instructor cues you through the moves and the programs change every few months so you are always challenging your body in new ways while still performing familiar exercises.

There likely won't be many (or any) other males in class and sometimes that can be a bit weird. But I've never felt unwelcome.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 10:51 AM on November 16, 2021

CrossFit covers everything on your list. I know their are a lot of myths around CrossFit , but in my seven years of doing it, they're just that (it's a cult (nope), you're going to get injured (I know more people who have needed surgery because of golf or hockey than anyone who has gotten any kind of similar injury from CrossFit), etc. etc. etc.)

Due to a big dust-up in the summer of 2020, a huge number of CrossFit gyms de-affiliated themselves, so there are probably numerous gyms near you that used to be Crossfit gyms that are now doing their own (but similar) thing. my gym is one of them, and we do pretty much all the same stuff we used to do, but with more structure. But we still have the same group classes and sense of community. So if you can find one of those, you'll get a solid mix of stretching, weights, and cardio.
posted by jonathanhughes at 11:04 AM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I suggest starting power lifting. It is the direct path from where you are to your goals of a strong healthy back and strength.
posted by bdc34 at 11:10 AM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do you live near water? If there are rowing clubs around, there are almost certainly learn-to-row camps as well! They'll teach you proper form on the water and the ergs and it's a hell of a full-body-workout.
posted by jquinby at 11:15 AM on November 16, 2021

+1 for power lifting, especially if you can get a buddy to join you - ideally start off by splitting the cost for a few weeks of coaching sessions to get your form started off correctly, then work out together 2-3 times a week for the rest of your quarter. It is quite different from the rest of the suggestions here so it might be a nice change, and it is great for strength (of course) and for core/back, if you're doing it correctly. Your lifting buddy does not need to be at a similar fitness level to you, power lifting is super easy to work out with someone of different ability.

You will need access to a gym with weights and mirrors to check form, ideally flat shoes without too much padding but you can start in any sneakers, and a notebook or phone app to track your routine.
posted by february at 12:11 PM on November 16, 2021

Best answer: I was going to say either Aikido or Judo for the flexibility and sorta body awareness and control. Long ago in the martial periods these two were one Aikijujutsu then they mostly broke up and became the sport like Aikido and Judo. Aikido is the mostly standing bit and dancing around, Judo is mostly the wrestling on the ground. They overlap quite a bit. But I think the Judo might be more back straining-ish. Aikido involves a lot of stretching and being bent in weird ways and tossed around to the ground. Either will limber you up.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:14 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of the GMB fitness programs - they're all online with videos - you can go at your own pace - you sound self-motivated so staying consistent with practicing without a class sounds doable
posted by kokaku at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2021

Rock climbing would be a good fit I think!
posted by thebots at 12:30 PM on November 16, 2021

I’m almost 40 and am taking beginner tennis lessons. One reason I signed up is because it’s social and seems like something you can do as you age, so I think it checks your long term health box. Where I live there are lots of public courts, so it’s easy to find a place to play.
posted by imalaowai at 1:48 PM on November 16, 2021

I agree that Pilates would fit in really well - it will help with protecting your back, strength, and flexibility.

In terms of mat vs reformer - I think it’s good to start with reformer classes if they’re accessible for you - they tend to be more expensive, but the classes are smaller (meaning you get more individual attention) and the teachers are usually specifically trained in Pilates. Some mat classes are great, but some pretty much just have the teacher talking and demonstrating at the front and not giving individual corrections. As you’re starting with Pilates, it is really helpful to have those individual classes, because a lot of the work is pretty subtle - an adjustment of a cm or two takes something from incorrect to correct (and often easy to really hard).
posted by insectosaurus at 4:49 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'll add kettlebells to the suggestion pile. Most of the exercise you're doing at the moment is cardio, and strength work would be a sensible addition - and it only becomes more important as you get older and natural reduction in muscle mass sets in.

Kettlebells are good because they're dynamic, you're moving while lifting, so you get lots of bang for your buck in terms of the muscle groups you work. You can do them in a class so you'll get the social aspect and learn the movements and good form. You can also do them at home so if you wanted to after a few classes, you could do eg. one class a week and a couple of home sessions a week or vice versa. I've heard people say that's expensive because if you improve you have to buy heavier bells, but while I was doing it, I didn't improve at such a rapid rate that it was bankrupting me!

They're also something where you can get a lot of value from a shortish session. The class I used to do was 45 minutes, that was about 10 mins warm up (a bit of cardio then some exercises with light bells), 20 minutes of lifting, and 10 minutes of stretching, with obviously a bit of faffing about, pausing, drinking water etc. filling the class out.

I never really expected to like it but a running friend raved about it so much I thought I should try it, and turned out to love it.

Also nthing yoga, which can help with most of the stuff you list, and likewise is good to do in class to have company and learn good form, but once you're in to it, could do some of your weekly sessions at home if it was more convenient.
posted by penguin pie at 7:28 AM on November 17, 2021

Also here to recommend rock climbing/bouldering!
posted by All hands bury the dead at 9:03 AM on November 17, 2021

You totally want to try reformer/equipment Pilates, the only exercise I have ever described as "fun." Pilates equipment (more than just the reformer!) is like jungle gym for grownups, and it covers all your goals.

Almost every studio I have been to has an intro special where you do 1 or 2 private lessons and then some small group (like 3-6 people?) classes, before they try to transition you to a monthly subscription for 1-3 group classes per week. This sounds perfect for you if you respond to a paid commitment and a social dynamic. I have dropped in on, say, a Tuesday/Thursday 7 am group and the handful of people there had clearly been cheering each other on for ages. (I would rather set my hair on fire than have people I know watch me work out. This is also why Crossfit didn't work for me. YMMV.)

The intro special is usually where I run out of money, but I have good form when I do mat workouts at home for free because I had those private classes. If you're in the L.A. area there must be several studios you could try out in 3 months.
posted by doift at 8:25 PM on November 17, 2021

Archery lessons did all of that for me, except that flexibility isn't required (there's only a small bit of warm up / stretching at the beginning of each class).
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:48 AM on November 21, 2021

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