Finding a fitness activity you can stick with is no small feat. While it’s tempting to dive into the latest workout craze or take up running just because your best friend does it and has killer legs, the key is choosing an activity you actually enjoy. Like finding the right partner in life, there may be some hits and misses along the way, but once you discover your exercise match, motivating yourself to work out stops being such an uphill battle laden with a million excuses of why you should just camp out on your couch instead.
We share our all-time favorite fitness activities, which keep us coming back for more. Maybe one of these workouts is the one you’ve been searching for.
Kickboxing: Amanda Schupak, YouBeauty Research Editor
I hate the gym. Running and biking hurt my knees. I’m not a strong swimmer. And my once-a-week yoga schedule has deteriorated into once-in-a-while. I’ve just never been able to find a form of exercise I could stick with. Until now.
A few months ago I started doing kickboxing with iLoveKickboxing.com, which has locations all over the country. It’s neither a dressed-up aerobics class nor a hardcore training dojo, but it gives me the benefits of both—serious cardio plus no-joke heavy-bag work—without the stuff that totally turns me off, e.g. a severe sensei or sexily clad gym rats.
These kickboxing classes strike the perfect Goldilocks balance for me. They’re fun and incredibly challenging. The instructors are at once friendly and tough, pushing me through a 30-minute boot camp warm-up that I can’t believe I’m able to complete.
Then there’s the punching and kicking, which is basically just badass. Within weeks I could see improvements in my strength, endurance, speed and form. I love being able to track various measures of progress as proof that the (really, really) hard work is paying off.
Yoga: Courtney Dunlop, YouBeauty Executive Editor
I did ballet, so I resisted yoga for a long time because the breathing (into the belly) and stance (toes forward) are completely different than exercises I’m used to, which is frustrating. But knowing all of the amazing potential benefits of yoga made me try it again and again, even when I thought I'd never "get" it. I'm so glad I kept with it because I find the meditative aspect of yoga to be life changing. My stress levels are lower (science proves this is a benefit of yoga), and there's no better sleeping pill than a relaxing yoga class. I even find that I can draw on the breathing and mental exercises to control my anxiety in tough or painful situations, which is exactly what helped me get through Lasik eye surgery.
Personal Training: Rachel Grumman Bender, YouBeauty Health Editor
I get bored easily when it comes to fitness. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve sworn that indoor cycling/yoga/Pilates is the best workout I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine giving it up. Cut to a few months later, and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge. Then two years ago, I met Kelvin Gary, a personal trainer and owner of Body Space Fitness in New York City. He mixes up every single workout, from kettlebells to cardio drills to resistance bands to planks, so I never know what to expect when we workout each week—and it keeps me coming back, rain or shine.
I even stuck with our sweat sessions throughout my entire pregnancy, which kept my weight in check and maintained my strength so now I can easily scoop up my twin girls. And because Gary is one of the nicest human beings on the planet, he lets me talk his ear off, which distracts me from counting (and groaning about) those last difficult reps—and before I know it, the hour is up, he’s high-fiving me, and I walk away feeling accomplished and energized.
Ballet Beautiful: Laura Kenney, YouBeauty Editor-in-Chief
I was a mom of two on the fast track to belly fat until I met Mary Helen Bowers and became obsessed with her ballet-inspired workouts. A professional ballerina with the New York City Ballet for 10 years, Bowers—who trained Natalie Portman for her Oscar-winning role in “Black Swan”—created Ballet Beautiful, a program of ballet-inspired fitness moves that magically cram the end result of 18-hour day trainings—long, lean legs, perky bum, open chest, perfect posture—into streamlined routines for regular women who don’t have hours to spend on workouts.
Ballet Beautiful is literally (and sadly!) the first regular workout I’ve done since the birth of my first son over three years ago. But I’ve stuck with it because you see and feel immediate results, and Bowers’ mastery of technology makes my “but I’m too busy” excuses impossible: her workouts are accessible wherever and whenever—as long as you have a computer. You can take a real-time class online via BB Live, or buy her 15-minute Blast Streaming Videos ($8 to $10).
The workouts target muscles you didn't even know existed (did you know there’s a muscle in the upper corner of your inner thighs that, when toned, prevents jiggle? I didn’t, but now I have one!). The tightening and toning effects are immediate and put me on a domino effect to a healthier lifestyle. It’s this convenience, paired with the amazing results, that makes it impossible for me to stop. No more lame “mommy” excuses: I am now a fit person!
Biking: Valerie Fischel, YouBeauty Photo Editor
When it comes to clearing my head and exercising, biking is my solution. As soon as I get outside, I'm excited to be on my bike, with no particular path and the open sky all around me. It's like sightseeing—I can go anywhere! Since it's not a high intensity workout, I try to make the most of it by pushing myself in spurts and then enjoying the resulting acceleration. After a 30 to 35 mile ride, I get home sweaty (but not sore), relaxed and completely free of negativity. I track my rides using an app that tells me my average speed, distance, personal records and elevation, so I can see my progress. But I also have fun with it—there's nothing quite like speeding down a hill with a big smile on your face (always wearing a helmet, of course!)
Running Outdoors: Julie Giusti, YouBeauty Social Media Manager
I like to fly solo when I work out, so running outdoors with my music is always my first choice. I don't get the same sense of accomplishment from classes or group workouts. I prefer to set and execute my own goals rather than follow someone else's! I like running because it lets me zone out more than anything else. My body can be fully engaged in a workout and my mind can be somewhere else entirely. And I like that there's no equipment required—just me and the pavement.
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