Find Your Perfect Workout Routine
When we were kids, we had no problem finding fun ways to burn calories, blow off steam and stay fit--whether it was wielding field hockey sticks or splashing in the pool. It was only once we became grown-ups that exercise turned into a chore, a necessary evil that's all about plodding up stairs to nowhere and getting thin. Unfortunately, taking the fun out of exercise is a big mistake, according to Liz Neporent, co-author of "Fitness for Dummies." "It's much easier to stay in shape when you feel passionate about what you're doing," she says, "That goes for both kids and adults."
If you've forgotten which activities once got your juices flowing, find the personality type that best matches your own--and find out which workouts will be so fun for you that you won't even notice all of the calories you're burning!
Which describes you best?
The Cut-throat Competitor: "Every sporting event is a chance to beat the person next to me!"
The Peacenik: "Sports should relieve stress, not increase it."
The Nature Lover: "Don't cage me up in a gym. I go crazy!"
The Social Butterfly: "Sports are all about socializing and spending time with other people."
The Solo Flyer: "I'd rather be sweating away on my own and letting my mind wander."
The cut-throat competitor
For some people, sports are serious business--every game of ping-pong, or even cards, is tantamount to a declaration of war. If winning gets your adrenaline pumping and losing makes you mad (and itching for revenge), try fast-paced, score-based games like squash or tennis. You'll get to confront your opponent head on and you'll always know who's on top. You'll also burn up to 390 calories per half-hour (all calorie counts are based on a 137-pound woman), and get a great full-body workout. For a cheaper, less structured alternative, hang a basketball hoop over the garage and challenge friends, foes, and neighborhood kids to some one-on-one. All that jumping will tone your legs, and the quick cuts and turns can blast your belly flab. (Count on burning about 260 calories per half hour.) For all of these sports, itís essential to stretch beforehand so you don't end up sidelined with a strain or sprain.
You're a lover, not a fighter. Try a non-competitive Eastern-influenced sport like yoga or tai chi. Both are gentle on the body and the soul, in addition to being boons for posture, flexibility and strength. Another benefit: "You build a really great fitness base that translates into graceful everyday movements," says Neporent. Worried that you'll never be able to twist yourself into those pretzel-like contortions? "The teacher really makes the difference," says Neporent. "A good one won't push you beyond your limits." You can also protect your dignity and try a beginning yoga video in the privacy of your own home. One caveat: A basic yoga class burns just about 110 calories per half hour, so add on a few cardio workouts during the week for extra fat-burning.
The Nature Lover
If you love the great outdoors, consider sailing. Handling a small craft like a Sunfish or Laser does wonders for developing upper-body strength, and allows you to become one with the wind and waves.
Back on land, rock-climbing or its less vertiginous cousin, scrambling, (which Neporent describes as halfway between rock-climbing and hiking) offer excellent full-body workouts, since they use arms and legs in tandem. (You'll also tone your abs, which are your body's balancing point).
Bouldering, a lateral version of rock-climbing, is also gaining popularity. "You move along the rock rather than up," explains Neporent. All of these sports burn a whopping 360 calories per half-hour.
The Social Butterfly
If you live to dish with friends and meet new people while you're sweating, try an activity with a built-in social component. Golf gives you lots of time to chat while shuttling between holes, though you'll probably only burn about 145 calories each half hour. The best way to maximize golf's built-in fitness benefits--toning the arms and back--is to leave the cart at the clubhouse and shoulder your clubs as you stride from hole to hole.
Another sport to consider is softball. You'll probably only burn about 150 calories per half hour, but you'll build upper body strength with all that hitting and throwing, and hopefully get in some good sprints between bases. To boost the sport's calorie-burning potential, volunteer to pitch; it's the most active position on the team.
The Solo Flyer
Individual sports like running, walking, cycling and swimming are great for people who want to get away from it all. "Swimming is particularly
Running boosts endurance and tones the legs, abs, and upper body, burning about 300 calories per half hour. To crank up the intensity, add sprints to your usual route (aim to run as fast as you can to the next telephone pole, for example). Walking will burn 170 calories in a half hour; for more intensity, just head for the hills. Cycling offers a great lower-body and abdominal workout. A typical spin burns a hefty 260 calories per half hour; for a more intense workout, set the bike to a low-tension or seek out rolling terrain.