Fitness clubs are too stuffy for a summer workout. Who wants to be wedged between spandex-clad StairMaster zealots sweatin' to early-'90s rap, when it's sunny and gorgeous outside?
Fortunately, you've got options. And unlike some "recreational" pastimes, these actually do a body good.
We've outlined a few of our faves below -- one for every walk (run, row, sail, whatever) of life. The upside of joining a non-fitness fitness club -- other than the peer-to-peer motivational talks -- is the socializing and camaraderie that generally follow a good hard sweat. (Disclaimer: Drinking after a workout may restore whatever calories were just burned. But life is about balance. And justification. If you burn it, you can consume it . . . or something like that.)
Running freaks dig the gym about as much as a pulled hamstring. Instead, joggers, walkers, and long-distance high-milers should try out Rocky River running store Second Sole's training groups, which are broken up by pace. The Blue Angels are race walkers, and the Sole Asylum runners clock a 19-minute 5K. (That averages out to about four laps in six minutes. Burn, baby!)
Get Fit: Second Sole meets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays in various Metroparks locations. Call 440-895-1311, or visit www.2ndsole.com for more information.
An alternative to Second Sole's goal-driven training groups is the shameless debauchery and ruthless runs hosted by the Hash House Harriers and Harriettes, who proudly slug their club "a drinking group with a running problem." They heartily invite all to hash, which is a trailblazing way to get from point A to point B. Think: trees, mud, all-terrain -- land you'd probably want four-wheel drive to conquer, etc. Groups ranging from 20 to 40 runners follow the designated "hare," who makes a trail of paper, chalk, or flour. A party awaits those who cross the finish line. (Health-conscious hashers can trade their spirits for a sports drink -- no judgment.) Get Fit: Hashes are held at 3 p.m. on the first Saturday and third Sunday of every month. The group also meets on the night of the full moon at 7 p.m. Call 440-954-6666, or visit www.clevelandhash.com for more information.
Century Cycles' Night Rides keep it simple: Meet at 8 p.m. and bring a bike. The Towpath in Peninsula is a flat, easy terrain that doesn't require fancy equipment or legs like Lance Armstrong. There's no pressure to get anywhere fast. For regular Night Riders, the casual meet-up is an opportunity to swap stories about cycling adventures or trade gear tips. But the group "cooldown" at Peninsula's Winking Lizard Tavern generates stories all its own. One employee remembers when a co-worker at the shop met his future wife at the Lizard. His first words to her were "Did you know your crank set is on recall?" Very casual.
Get Fit:Call 1-800-201-7433, or visit www.centurycycles.com for more information.
No boat? No problem. You can serve on a sailing crew at the Edgewater Yacht Club by simply signing up at the office. Boaters are looking for motivated helpers who are willing to get sweaty preparing the boat and working on board during regattas. The workout is equivalent to a strenuous weight session; expect to be on duty for a good six hours on race days and rewarded with lunch on the boat or beers at the club-house afterward.
Get Fit: Sign up at Edgewater Yacht Club, 6700 Memorial Shoreway NW, or call 216-281-6470 for more information.
For another arm-toning workout, check out the Western Reserve Rowing Association's (WRAA) Summer Rowing League. If the last time you paddled was at day camp, you're welcome as a "novice." You'll attend a training session before your first practice to learn the terminology, techniques, and some basic safety rules. This particular squad is laid-back; other WRAA leagues like the Recreational Rowing Program and Competitive Rowing Program train for competition. Because rowing requires its teammates to be "in sync" with one another, the social aspect of the league is critical. A team that drinks together stays together. Get Fit: Call 216-621-WRRA, or visit www.wrra.cc/news.php for more information.
Into off-roading? The Cleveland Hiking Club boasts more than 900 members and several hikes a day. Newbies should stick to the 5- and 6-mile treks, but seasoned hikers can test their endurance on an annual 26- or 40-mile hike. The club is social and tends to attract an older crowd during daytime hikes; the age range of the weekend crew spans the board. Several members even met their husbands or wives through the club. Ah, nothing spells romance like a 10-mile Sixteen Ridges "death march."
Get Fit: Call John Nelson at 440-449-2588 or visit www.clevelandhikingclub.com for more information.
The Cleveland Plays coed sport and social club hosts a laundry list of teams and activities geared toward young professionals. Beach volleyball at Whiskey Island's Wendy Park draws more fans than participants because, well, where there's sand and suds -- who cares who wins? Not all rec teams adopt this philosophy; some are more serious and skilled, and less likely to break at the Bourbon Street between sets. If spikes and pancakes aren't your thing, Cleveland Plays also organizes coed teams for flag and touch football, softball, dodgeball, kickball, and more.
Get Fit: Call 216-632-0632 or 216-269-5019, or visit www.clevelandplays.com for more information.
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