Paul Berger

We’ve all been there, trudging up a Stairmaster, staring out from an air-conditioned fishbowl, counting down the minutes until we can finally go home. It’s no surprise then that going to the gym is a difficult resolution to keep. Remember when exercise meant hopping on your bike and riding with friends until your lungs were raw? Being an adult doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the favorite sports of your youth -- or discover something new. Here, a few ideas to get you out of the gym.

Chase your hoop dreams

One of the great things about basketball is its versatility: You can play on your own, one-on-one or in teams. So head over to your local basketball courts and insinuate yourself into a pickup game. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great player. “There will always be the guy who is better than the other guys on any court, anywhere, at any time. But everyone else is pretty average,” says Brendon Volpe, an IT manager in New York who plays twice a week, in a corporate league and with friends.
Where to begin

Check out local basketball courts or type “basketball league” and the name of your town in your preferred Internet search engine.

Discover your inner Beckham

There are many reasons why soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. But chief among them is the fact that it has so few requirements: no bat, no net, no posts, no basket or wall. Just an open space, a ball and something to mark out the goals. Gytis Barzdukas, a software company executive, has played co-recreational soccer in Seattle for about seven years. (Co-recreational teams have a mixture of male and female players, with no more than six of either sex playing at one time.) Although it is competitive, Barzdukas says the emphasis in the lower divisions is on teamwork and having fun. “This is much more about getting exercise and enjoying yourself,” says Barzdukas. “And after the match, we socialize with teammates and go out for beer.”
Where to begin

Search the Internet for “soccer” (or football, hockey, volleyball -- you get the idea), “league” or “co-rec,” and your town.

Swim, cycle and run the race of your life

A race that involves swimming, cycling and running may seem more suited to a Marine or a secret agent than your average Joe, but most towns have triathlon clubs, and it’s a lot less daunting than it seems, according to triathlon enthusiast Murray McCutcheon, a research assistant in optical engineering at Harvard University. “In difficulty level, it’s a little bit longer than a 10-kilometer run,” he says, “but it’s not as onerous as, say, a half marathon, because the sports are split up. You might be a bit fatigued when you get off the bike, but then you start to run and you have to use different muscles.” Traditionally, a starter triathlon, known as a sprint distance, involves a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a three-mile run. The mix of activities keeps things interesting, and training can be a lot of fun. When it comes to triathlons, says McCutcheon, “most people’s barriers are in their head. It’s anxiety and doubt that stops people rather than a lack of ability.” 
Where to begin

Ask around your local pool or try a combination of the following key words in your search engine: triathlon, running, cycling, swimming, club and your town. Don’t like to swim? Consider a duathlon, which combines running and cycling.

Dance the night away

Dancing may not be your typical “sport”; nevertheless, it provides a great cardiovascular workout -- plus, it’s a terrific way to meet new people. Carl Nelson travels the country as a freelance designer and dance instructor. His specialty: a form of swing dancing called Lindy Hop. “Big dances will go on for three or four hours, so I usually have to bring a couple of changes of shirts,” says Nelson.
Where to begin

Most cities have a dance community with clubs and classes. Try Googling the name of a dance style that interests you (swing, hip hop, salsa, etc.) and your town.

Find your sweet spot on the court

When it comes to racket sports, “it is important to find a soul mate or mates that you really enjoy playing with on a regular basis,” says Bob Stoner, an economic consultant from Berkeley, Calif., who has played tennis all his life. During a 20-year stint in D.C., Stoner would meet a buddy three or four times a week, concentrating as much on improving each other’s game as competing. Now that he lives in Berkeley, Stoner plays outdoors year-round, often with his teenage son in the evenings after dinner. Proper form is crucial, he adds: “If your swing’s all wrong, you are going to end up wrenching your back or getting tennis elbow.” So investing in a few lessons can be money well-spent.
Where to begin

Head to your local public courts or stop by a tennis club. Useful Internet search words include the following: tennis (or racquetball, handball, squash), league, club and your town.

“I think a lot of people end up in the gym because they can make it fit their schedule, and they don’t have to think about it,” says Stoner. “But that’s never been for me.” If the gym isn’t for you either, it’s time to find your sport. Doing so will take the “work” out of “workout” and make exercise fun again.

Paul Berger Paul Berger is the author/contributing editor of six books and a regular contributor to a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Forbes and The Guardian. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.


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Health - Take the Work Out of Workout