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Chin Up: Six Exercise Solutions For the Gym Averse

Struggling to get to the gym on a regular basis? Ditch the dumbells and substitute the sweat den for something a little more matched to your needs.

Jumped the gun with that new gym membership? Can’t keep up with the spandex junkies? You’re not alone. While many find the time to beat the clock each morning for a bout of squats and iron pumpage, gym life for the longterm can be a tough sell.

Factor in the constraints of modern work-life, and scrambling for gym time can easily make us feel more stressed than we were before. Ditch the dumbells and substitute the sweat den for something a little more matched to your needs – from weekend hikes to calming qi gong, there’s a whole lot of ways to stay active these days.

Swim some laps

When it comes to the morning routine (or even the fast hour lunchbreak in between office sessions) keeping things low impact is a sound option. For many, the endorphin rush gleaned from rigorous cardio comes at the cost of exhaustion and strain. Swimming, on the other hand, is a time-convenient and gentler choice: it yields zero impact or pressure on your joints and muscles, while providing an excellent aerobic session that helps lengthen your body and increase its flexibility. On top of that, 20-30 minutes of laps helps stretch and relax your muscles, and the deep rhythmic breathing involved can easily induce an almost yogic high. An awesome solution for both body and mind.

Take a hike

Mt Tamborine is a short drive from Brisbane. Photo: Queensland Tourism

Unless you’re swelling on the outskirts, hiking might be a tricky one to work into the mid-week schedule, so save it for the weekend. Roaming through the vastness and beauty of Australia’s rural wilderness is the ultimate rejuvenator, and a fine way to take the edge off a fast-paced week. Why wouldn’t you go hiking? As well as improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels), hiking is great for your muscles, burns fat efficiently, and lowers your risk of: coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and various types of cancer. Let’s not forget the sense of mindfulness and connection that all biophiles swear by.

Not sure where to head? To kick things off, Melbournites ought to beeline for Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Walk; Sydneysiders will relish in the shorelines of the Coast Track and Brisneylanders have the epic Mt Tamborine. In Adelaide, head for Morialta Falls or Mt Lofty; in Canberra, Mount Ainslie; and for Perth folk, Bold Park is a good choice.

Bouldering Gyms

The 9 Degrees bouldering gym in Sydney. Photo: 9 Degrees

Enjoy climbing rocks but can’t face the cliffs? (Hey, even Stallone had a fear of heights – Cliffhanger notwithstanding). The good news is you can still get your thrills without the risk of spills – commonly an outdoor affair, bouldering might involve rock climbing without ropes or harnesses, but the indoor version offers a fun, social and decidedly less deathly alternative, with all the same muscles flexed, skill deployed and sweat secreted. Bouldering centres are popping up left right and centre these days, so it’s definitely still having its moment. Relish in its blend of adrenaline, endurance, problem solving acumen and good old-fashioned thrills.

Five Tibetan Rites

I first got onto the Tibetan Rites when a pal of mine confided that her grandfather – an eccentric Hungarian man in his late 70s – spent 15 minutes each morning spinning about like a Dervish in an anti-clockwise loop to, conceivably, stem the inevitable effects of ageing. A photo revealed a fella barely beyond 55, which impressed me so much that I got on board for a while too (until the dizziness became too much). As it turned out, my pal’s Hungarian pop was in fact riffing on Tibetan Rite #1 which, combined with four other 2500 year old yoga-like motions, are reputedly the closest thing to a ‘Fountain of Youth’. I often wonder what he might have looked like if he did the rest too.

Shake it

Like a Polaroid picture. If rumours are true, a mere 30 minutes of dancing like James Brown will not only tone your muscles and strengthen your core, but it’ll help you rid your spare tire of around 300 calories (while helping hone some serious moves). Combine with housework or gardening chores for a unique all in one booty shaking sweat session.

Better yet, have more sex. As well being considered generally rather pleasurable for all parties concerned, a half hour of the horizontal shuffle stands to rid a commanding 150 calories off your bits, while toning and working muscles you probably didn’t even know you had.

Qi Gong

Let’s iron out the linguistics: it’s pronounced “Chee Goong”, and you might think of it as Tai Chi’s slightly cooler, lesser-known cousin. Like Tai Chai, Qi Gong is an equally ancient Chinese health care system that comprises a range of beneficial postures, breathing techniques and mental intentions. In the words of the Australian Institute of Medical Qi Gong, the ‘Qi’ relates to ‘life force’ or ‘energy’ that flows through everything in the universe, while the ‘Gong’ refers to accomplishment or skill that’s cultivated through steady practice. In short, it’s all about cultivating your internal energy (and feeling mighty good about yourself for having done so).

Though a decidedly lower octane choice compared to common Western alternatives, Qi Gong offers a variety of vital benefits including muscles loosening, power building, strengthening the organs and nerves, improving cardio function, and easing stress. Sign up to a class and learn the ropes for real, or get a few tips online and head for a solo session in the park.

(Lead article image: Bondi Icebergs)

Published 04 August, 2017