Sure it’s prudent to work yourself up to an exercise routine, slowly building the intensity and frequency of your workout times. This is probably a very safe and intelligent way to start integrating exercise into your lifestyle. But truly, who has the time or patience? Human beings, especially those of the “have” generation, are not practiced in delayed gratification. If we want to get in shape, we want to see results NOW.
We don’t want to take time to “learn proper technique” and “maximize our workouts.” We want something pre-fab, with loose boundaries, that is fun and can get us into shape practically immediately. It is in this spirit that I have compiled a list of sports that you can join to get your can off the couch and into that Speedo pronto.
Kickboxing is a martial art that takes itself very seriously. Do not confuse it with Tae Bo or any of the bastardized aerobic rip-offs that promote flimsy wrists and half-baked kicks. Kickboxing is like boot camp. Repetition of kicks and maneuvers will quickly build the muscles in your thighs and butt. Because these muscles are some of the largest in your body, by building lean muscle tissue, your metabolism will rise helping your body to burn energy more quickly and efficiently.
Cardiovascular health, flexibility, stability, coordination and balance are also improved through the gruelling workouts. Don’t plan on using the lower half of your body for anything beyond a slow shuffle for the first couple of weeks of training.
Field Sports: Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Rugby
While these three sports are different in their rules and execution, the benefits are largely the same since they are played on the same type of field and the goal is to get the object in question from one end of the field to the other. Soccer is an incredible sport for improving your cardiovascular health. If you are inclined to run, then soccer is a great way to get in an hour of running by chasing and being chased by others.
Ultimate is a combination of soccer, basketball and football that also requires running like a maniac back and forth the length of a field. The only drawback to Ultimate is the amount of injuries, minor and major, that can be caused by the fast paced running and pivoting required.
Rugby is another field sport that is not for the weak of heart. Not only does the play remain fairly continuous, as opposed to football where the play lasts 15 seconds and then players meander over to strategize and regroup, rugby will build not only muscle, but attitude and testosterone.
Court Sports: Squash, Badminton and Tennis
Court sports require explosive movements and lightening fast reflexes. This builds cardio and muscular strength, especially in the legs, butt and abs. Both badminton and squash build upper body and core strength (using your abs every time you hit the ball/bird) by using a projectile that is not bouncy or responsive to the racket.
The dead thud of the squash ball requires your to rethink your normal reaction time, as you expect the conditions to create a fast game, but find your self rushing for the drop ball in every corner of the court. A good badminton opponent will have you running from the front to the back of the court, covering all four corners of play.
Upper body strength in tennis is developed by the strength it takes to hit the tennis ball, and, like badminton, your fitness level will skyrocket if you play with an opponent who is capable of making you run the court.
Skiing: Cross Country or Downhill
Cross country skiing is one of the most complete workouts you can find in a sport. You use every muscle group in your body to project yourself forward: arms, back, chest, abs, glutes, legs, feet. By using all muscle groups you will burn energy and fat at an extremely efficient pace. You heart will get an incredible workout. One of the safest aspects of cross country skiing is that, while the intensity level is high, the stress on your joints is low, especially compared to something like jogging or court sports.
If you have ever spent an isolated day downhill skiing or snowboarding, you know that the power it takes to fight gravity and keep yourself upright is a workout that will leave your thighs, butt and abs trembling by the end of the day. Pray you have a hot tub for a good soak those first few days on the hill and then reap the benefits of fast lower body conditioning.
The swimmer’s body is a lean, beautiful thing. Swimming is something that can be done year round, indoor or outdoor, and requires very little equipment. Swimming is low stress on the your joints, builds full-body strength, lean muscles and cardio health. Once you have built up your strength swimming, you can move up into pool sports.
Before Aqua-cise, there was water polo, a real man’s sport. Water polo is fairly non-stop action in which player must not only keep themselves above the surface of the water, they must be able to explode out of the water in order to catch, pass and score. Meanwhile, opposing players will be trying to pull you under, push you under and manipulate you into losing focus on the play.
All of these activities are great ways to get your butt off the couch and into cruise-worthy shape. Just because something is called a sport, however, does not mean it is going to give you many health benefits at all. While an argument can be made that any activity is good, and that the benefits of sports are not just physical, but social, the sports in this article are focused on getting your can into shape.
Therefore, volleyball, softball, bowling, fishing and curling, while fun, and conducive to drinking, are not going to help to rid yourself of that gut any time soon. And while throngs of golf enthusiasts will probably write and decry my next statement, I will risk it: unless you are power walking between strokes or playing 36 holes in a day, golf is not going to get you in shape anytime soon either. Sorry, it’s true.
Joining a sport can get you into shape fast and can keep your interest for longer than the boring old work out at the gym. There is extra pressure to keep up the participation and improve your skills as soon as you play with other people, so you will find that you will push yourself further due to competition than you would just motivating yourself to stay on that treadmill. If you are interested but don’t know how to get involved, contact your local community centre or go online to find the local sports associate for more information about local opportunities to join.