Ah, fall, that lovely time of year when the leaves turn brilliant colors, the air smells crisp, and the autumnal light casts its enchanting glow. It’s a perfect time for a run, bike ride, or brisk walk. And then, all of a sudden, it’s cold, wet, and dark. Yep, we’re heading into that time of year when outdoor exercise becomes a lot less palatable and we start heading back indoors to get our fitness on. But let’s face it: It can be a challenge to maintain your workout routine when it’s limited to the usual gym options.
The change of seasons doesn’t have to make the winter gym doldrums inevitable; there are endless options for innovative indoor activities and classes that will keep you interested and in fighting form for your outdoor pursuits come springtime. Here are a few to get you started:
Stroke, Stroke: Indoor Rowing Classes
Unlike the rowing machines you generally find at gyms that use air as flywheel resistance (usually abandoned in the corner and gathering dust) , Indo-Row machines use water as resistance for the blade. The result is a smoother, more consistent stroke––one that more fully replicates rowing an actual boat on actual water.
Group classes that use the Indo-Row take this verisimilitude even further. They feature high-energy instructors who are half coach, half coxswain. Instructors guide rowers’ form and offer exuberant encouragement. Participants are divided into various teams, competing with and against each other in simulated races, and encouraged to beat their split times.
Expect to leave sweaty, but also with your bow pointed straight toward fitness––the inventors of Indo-Row claim each 50-minute class can burn up to 1,200 calories. You can email Indo-Row for classes near you.
Climbing the Walls: Rock Climbing Gyms
Using a series of indoor walls as high as 50 feet, rock climbing gyms offer the experience of outdoor rock climbing without all that pesky weather. Each wall is dotted with moldings that replicate the cracks, crevices, handholds, and footholds found in natural rock walls. Most gyms have color-coded moldings, to indicate difficulty of the various paths up the wall.
As the popularity of rock climbing has blossomed across the country, so has the number of indoor climbing gyms (read: Ascend to Fitness), and visiting one regularly will do wonders for your fitness. It is an excellent way to improve your strength and conditioning; whereas weight training often isolates large single muscles, rock climbing utilizes smaller stabilizing muscles as well as the big ones.
Most people assume that rock climbing targets upper body muscles, but in fact it will work you from head to toe. Proper technique requires just as much lower body strength as upper––you’ll end up using your legs to push you up, rather than your arms to pull you, quite a bit. Making your way up the wall also requires a good deal of core strength to maintain stability.
The Indoor Landscape: Parkour Inside Parkour originated as a purely outdoor activity, in which participants utilized their running, jumping, vaulting, and other skills to interact acrobatically with the surrounding urban environment. The idea behind parkour is to use one’s momentum to move fluidly around, above, and under normal obstacles such as walls, stairs, guardrails, window sills, building ledges, and pretty much anything else a city environment can provide. Done properly, parkour is an amazing display of skill and balance. It also requires constant forethought, as participants must think two or three steps ahead
Indoor parkour gyms are now sprouting up everywhere, and they’re a great place to get a handle on the sport, as well as a fantastic workout. Here, participants can learn the basics of parkour and more by running, jumping, diving, and flipping safely buffered by foam pits and padding. Many gyms also feature graffiti, scaffolding, and open space to mimic an urban landscape.
Pedal to the Metal: Indoor Bike Trainers A couple of feet of snow blanketing the roads can daunt even the most committed cyclist. Plus, riding’s no fun when your fingers turn blue.
Of course, there are stationary bikes, and spin classes, but hardcore bikers are adapted to their own machines. That’s where indoor bike trainers come in. These devices act as a stand for your bike—the back wheel fits into the trainer and provides resistance while you pedal. You can simulate hill climbs, work on speed, or work on your cardiovascular endurance. They don’t take up much room and can cost less than $100. And some bike trainers will even put your legs to work while simultaneously generating electricity!
Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new health or exercise regime.
Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.