Health + Wellness

10 Creative Workout Ideas + 5 Fitness Tips

by Amy Azzarito

Sometimes, creative workout ideas come from where you’d least expect. In late March, my good friend Dylan Thuras invited me to a secret speakeasy. I had just come from an intense yoga class and was tempted to stay home with Netflix and a glass of wine but Dylan is the co-creator of Atlas Obscura and has a direct line into all things awesome and wonderful (and frequently weird!), so I was pretty sure that this wasn’t going to be a normal night out. After climbing stairs, fire escapes and hopping across building tops, we reached the roof of an abandoned building with a water tower where the speakeasy, Night Heron, was located. The inside was decorated with old piano parts and the bar itself was a half of a piano. We were served house drinks and chatted with the other patrons and, while getting to Night Heron was nearly a workout in itself, it lead to one of my new favorite creative workout obsessions.

A fellow Night Heron patron Lisa Jamhoury, told me about this thing she did called “aerial silks” and something about the openness of the entire evening made me pay attention to the light bulbs going off in my head. Two days later I was taking my first aerial silks class with Laura Witwer and since then, I’ve been going as often as I can. I love it because it’s not about bikini-body fitness, but about learning what you can do with your body. Inspired by this creative- and healthy!-awakening, I decided to share some of my favorite creative ways to stay in shape when you’re not trapped behind a laptop like we so often are. You may have to hunt some of these down in unexpected places in your town, but sometimes the most unique experiences are the ones that make you stick with them. –Amy Azzarito

This post is brought to you by Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water.

1. Aerial Silk – After my first silks class with Laura, I couldn’t believe how sore I was or how little I could actually do on the silks. Just lifting myself up was a challenge. Each class, I’m able to do a little bit more and that is all the motivation that I need to keep coming back. And most importantly, it’s so fun!!!

2. Skateboarding – A couple of years ago, Grace mentioned that she wanted to try longboarding so on her birthday, I surprised her with a lesson for the two of us in McCarren Park. We had so much fun that we went straight to Bustin Boards and picked out longboards. When the weather is nice, I skate into work almost every day (This was the video that hooked both of us).

3. Roller Derby – This is a great one for community bonding as well as having the added benefit of keeping you healthy. (Here’s a great NYTimes article about Roller Derby Classes)

4. Hula Hooping – The first time I realized someone could be good at hula hooping, I was at an outside concert here in Brooklyn. I couldn’t stop staring at a girl with four hula hoops, grooving to the music.

5. Trapeze – I’ve got my hands full with Aerial, but watching people do trapeze makes it seem pretty fun. (And you end up with killer arms.)

6. Trampoline is another one that falls into the circus skills. When I take aerial, I watch the folks do tricks on the trampoline – my favorite trick is watching them bounce on their backs as they run up the wall. (Like this)

7. Surfing – A couple of summers ago, I took surfing lessons in the Rockaways. It was amazingly fun, but the 45 minute train ride out the beach made it a little tough. I’m tempted to try a Surfset Fitness class (as seen by Grace on Shark Tank!)

8. Synchronized Swim Team – If you don’t have one in your town, you should start your own. (To get you inspired, here are the Brooklyn Peaches)

9. Barre Classes – Barre classes seem to be everywhere lately and if you loved dance class as a child, this might be for you. (Just do an online search for Barre Classes in your area)

10. Indoor Climbing – I’ve yet to try outdoor climbing, but I have great fun at Brooklyn Boulders. It can be a little nerve wracking to climb up, but once you become obsessed with finding the right path to the top, it’s addictive!


Tips to Keep you Working Out

1. Stay hydrated! (Now that we’re moving into summer, this is super important. Often, if you’re doing an activity that is fun, you might not even notice that you’re sweating. (Drink plenty of water before, after and during workout time.)

2. Cute clothes – I definitely believe in investing in workout clothes that make you feel good and work for the sport. After my first silk burn (think rope burn) in aerial, I invested in leotards and unitards.

3. Shop around for teachers. So much of these fitness ideas are really about the personality of the teachers. The teacher is the one choosing the music and setting the pace. If you think you don’t click with an activity, it might be because you haven’t found the right teacher.

4. Vary your routine. You’ll see the biggest improvement in your chosen activity if you pair it with other more traditional fitness activities. (Plus it’s a bit easier on the wallet) For example, I pair my aerial classes with weight lifting at home and yoga for flexibility.

5. Relish your beginner status. It can feel intimating to be a beginner, but you really have to just own it.  If you feel brave, tell the person next to you that it’s your first class and you’re nervous. You’ll be surprised how friendly people will be. When you’re in the middle of a class, don’t try to do it all. If there are modifications, take them! Don’t try to do the advanced moves just because the girl next to you is doing them. You’re a beginner and it’s ok. It’s where we all start.

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  • Some fantastic ideas here, but you missed juggling! It’s a really fun way to exercise and it’s been proven to be a real boost for mental health. Plus you get to show off and, even if you’re just an average juggler, everyone who can’t juggle thinks you’re amazing.

    I’m also going Go Karting tomorrow, which is great fun exercise. You’d be amazed at how physical it is. Makes you realise how fit those Formula One drivers are.

  • “It’s not about bikini-body fitness, but about learning what you can do with your body.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m a personal trainer, and this is one of the things I find myself constantly repeating to my clients. Don’t wait until you’re fit to do the things you want to do; do what you want, and the fitness will follow! Thanks for the great post!

  • Inspiration often hits when you least expect it. Thanks for the creative ideas, always wanted to try the Surfset classes :)

  • Great ideas! I joined roller derby last fall and it was such a great workout. I was disgustingly sweaty by the end of each practice, and sore for days in the best way. Unfortunately, I had to quit after a job/schedule change.

    Around here, indoor trampoline parks are pretty popular. It’s basically a warehouse with wall-to-wall trampolines (and trampoline walls in some cases). It feels more like you’re playing than working out.

  • I’m a climber, both indoors & out & I really believe it is the best workout! It’s low impact, muscle toning and strengthening, & you can get cardio in if you’re climbing outdoors and have a hike in. I’m so happy to see it on this list =) My favorite aspect of climbing outside is the fact that you get to see views that no one else sees unless they also climb!

  • You go Amy and Grace! I love girls who can longboard! I got mine for my 16th birthday (I’m now 24!) and I love it but haven’t gone in ages. I need to get boarding again! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • My husband trained to be a professional wrestler. He got an intense workout a couple times a week and got to wear brightly colored spandex on the weekends. Every little boy’s dream.

  • Thanks so much, guys! I love hearing about your fitness experiences! So cool!
    @Alex – Juggling! Love that! xoAmy

  • Laser skirmish or paintball! Especially if you’re allowed to run, you get so into it that you don’t even realise how sweaty you’re getting

  • @Catherine–LOL!! How fast would my kids kill me if I did that around the neighborhood?!

    Great post!

  • I’ve tried the surf fitness classes and they are HARD. I did one in Dallas that was yoga on a surfboard and it was hard just to stand up. Everything was hurting the next day lol. I’ve been wanting to try barre and trampoline classes. If anyone is in Dallas, Texas Beyond Pilates offers fitness on a trampoline that I’d love to check out sometime. Great post, thanks!

  • I starting swimming again after years away from the pool and I love how it feels to “glide” thru the water. I am getting stronger.

  • I am a dance educator, and a few friends of mine took the Barre certification just to see what it was about. After being shown the Barre exercises, I would urge readers interested in dance to look first to dance studios. Many (especially in NYC) have offerings for adults with high caliber dance teachers. This may sound a little harsh, but in my opinion, Barre is a fad workout plan that can be taught by anyone with a couple of hours and a few bucks. Also, it’s presence draws the adult market away from dance studios that truly can offer a better experience.

  • Awesome things here. I’m very happy to see your article.

    Thank you a lot and I’m looking ahead to contact you.
    Will you kindly drop me a mail?