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Natural Awakenings

Winter Workouts: Indoor Options to Beat the Blahs

Dec 01, 2008 05:49PM ● By Barb Amrhein

Plunging temperatures in cold weather climes can put a chill on the best-intentioned fitness routine. DVD programs and free weights are solid indoor choices, but we also can look forward to moving beyond those basics to more adventurous pursuits at local fitness clubs, health centers and YMCAs. This winter, try some of these activities to stay in shape while having fun.

Take a spin

The latest version of stationary bike riding, called spinning, continues to pick up in popularity, burning about 350 to 500 calories per 45-minute workout while toning the lower body. The trademarked indoor cycling equipment workout, created by endurance athlete Jonathan Goldberg in 1987, employs stationary bikes modified to feel like mountain bikes, allowing riders to change speed and resistance levels. In a class setting, instructors employ music and coaching to lead riders through routines designed to simulate outdoor terrain, with hill climbs, sprints and interval training.

Spinning can be high-intensity, “but you control your ride,” advises Evelyn Sevilla, a certified spin and fitness instructor. “If you’re a beginner, tell your instructor at the start of the class, so he or she can set up your bike appropriately and make sure your seat and handlebar positions are comfortable. Then, you can pedal at your own pace.”

John McCutcheon, 51, an off-road cyclist in Milwaukee, credits spinning with keeping him in shape through Wisconsin’s long winter months. “I can mimic the climbs I encounter when I race outdoors,” he comments. “Sitting next to other people on bikes—even though none of us is really going anywhere—keeps my competitive edge keen, psychologically.”

Get some kicks

Kickboxing adeptly fuses elements of martial arts and boxing with aerobics to burn calories, build stamina and relieve stress. Set to beat-bound music, kickboxing movements vary from non-contact air kicks and punches or blows to actual punching bags.

Kickboxing is strenuous, so start slowly with a qualified instructor and work up to more complicated contact moves. “Our classes accommodate people at various fitness levels,” notes Robin Siewers, communications director at the YMCA of the Palms, in Southwest Florida. “The instructor demonstrates different ways to perform the movements, so people with more experience are challenged through higher intensity, while beginners enjoy a good workout that doesn’t overtax their muscles or heart.”

Dive right in

Water workouts are easy on the joints, a plus for everyone. While lap swimming boosts cardiovascular fitness, water aerobics and other pool-based classes offer variety and camaraderie. Most are music-based—think splash dancing—with choreographed moves and exercises that may use water dumbbells and webbing props for full-body benefits. Pool noodles—inexpensive cylindrical foam flotation devices that resemble their name—are often used for balance, resistance and buoyancy. Students can bring their own or snag one provided by the facility.

Accomplishing something different — in a gym or pool, on a bike or up a wall — adds enjoyable new dimensions to winter fitness.

“Water aerobics is accessible to anyone, and it’s fun,” enthuses Siewers. “You don’t have to be an accomplished swimmer or even know how to swim to enjoy an invigorating workout that offers cardiovascular conditioning and muscle toning. Pushing through water, which is about 12 times denser than air, increases resistance and builds strength.”

Climb a wall

Pronounced upper body strength is not a prerequisite for tackling an indoor climbing wall. Experts note that scaling these manmade heights is entirely safe, because climbers wear a safety harness and climbing shoes provided by the facility. Finger and hand crevices, slabs and overhangs, as well as modular holds bolted onto the artificial rock wall, assist climbers as they move laterally or pursue the summit. Most children relish indoor climbing, so it’s an ideal choice for family fitness adventures.

The 14-foot wall at Red Dragon Kenpo Karate, in Fort Myers, attracts all ages, according to owner Steve Casamento. “Our wall has beginner, intermediate and advanced sections, and we often schedule reunions and other get-togethers,” he says. “Families enjoy the challenge and being together, and they leave feeling that they’ve accomplished something.”

Accomplishing something different — in a gym or pool, on a bike or up a wall — adds enjoyable new dimensions to winter fitness. As always, remember to check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning unaccustomed activities.

YMCA of the Palms has facilities in Naples and Bonita Springs; call 239-597-3148 or visit for class schedules and information.

 Evelyn Sevilla is a holistic wellness coach and personal trainer based in Southwest Florida. Connect at 239-248-5160 or [email protected].

 Red Dragon Kenpo Karate is located at 18070 S. Tamiami Trail in Fort Myers; call 239-278-4437 or visit to book a climbing wall appointment.

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