People don’t stick with a physical activity they don’t enjoy, according to physical fitness and psychology researchers. But health improvements continue to be a popular New Year’s resolution. If working out at a standard gym sounds like no fun, why not learn how to be an ultimate fighter on the mat, a cool kid on the roller skating rink or a show-stopper on the dance floor? We looked around the Augusta area for some unique fitness opportunities and found quite a few, from axe throwing to yoga. Here’s a sampling for anyone looking to lose weight, build muscle or just get more fit in general:
The Augusta area has more than 20 dojos offering karate, boxing, jiujitsu and other martial arts. There are also some mixed martial arts businesses that teach multiple forms, like Premier Martial Arts whose head instructor Albert Cole is about to celebrate 37 years in the sport.
Cole explained that the programming is a great workout because “everything involves multiple muscle groups” which really works the cardiovascular system, and as those muscle groups continue to move “they’re gonna get stronger, they’re gonna become more flexible, which will allow you to be able to do more exercises for longer.”
There are options for all ages and levels of difficulty, and Cole urged anyone interested to go at their own pace and not worry about how often they have to stop or how high they can kick.
“It’s a progression,” he said. “Once you’ve been in it six months, you’ll see that ‘Oh, hey, I’ve got a better range of motion. I can go further. I can kick a little higher. I’m breathing better.'”
Premier has locations across the area. Some of the other local, popular trainers include Augusta Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Greubel’s Mixed Martial Arts in Martinez, Southeast Jeet Kune Do in Augusta and North Augusta Martial Arts and Self Defense.
Dancing is one of the most accessible sports being practiced today, with classes even for toddlers, and instructor Matt Watson of Ballroom in Motion with Teena Marie has danced with partners as old as 106.
“I’ve got people that are in their 90s now that I’ve known since I was five years old that have been dancing with us,” Watson said. “They come in every single week, and they look forward to it for the mental health, really, because it gives you a chance to get in, you keep the outside world out there.”
But make no mistake, whether it’s a waltz, cha-cha or swing, it is also a physical workout. Watson said the intensity depends on the skill level, with group classes generally burning 100 to 150 calories in 45 minutes, and competitive dancers burning 400 to 500 calories in 10 to 15 minutes.
“Fitness is a big component of life, and if you aren’t in a good state of mind and healthy and fit, life isn’t necessarily gonna be the best down the road,” he said.
Ballroom in Motion is at 231 Furys Ferry Road, S in Augusta. Some of the area’s other ballroom studios include The Ballroom Dance Center in Evans and Fusion Ballroom in Martinez. Traditional dance studios also offer adult classes. Cutno Dance offers ballet, Zumba and adult fusion classes for adults.
Lots of sports involve throwing balls, but few involve throwing weapons. Axe throwing has become a unique yet popular activity across the nation, and Augusta has its own provider: Source Code Escape Games, which operates The Broad Axe Throwing Room.
Assistant manager Nathanael Colbenson said, “It’s very just straight forward: you take an axe, you throw it, it sticks in the board and it feels good.”
Points are scored by landing the axe as close to the center of a painted-on target as possible. The throw involves a lot of shoulder work, and just before the axe is released, participants go into a deep lunge that works the hips, glutes and other lower muscle groups.
Colbenson has seen all kinds of people try axe throwing and have a lot of fun with it.
“I had a lady, she was an older lady, and she would just come back every couple of weeks, she’d come in and her big plan was she wanted to come in, throw for an hour, and just practice every week until she brought her husband in,” he recalled, laughing at the memory. “They came in and she kicked his butt!”
Aside from Source Code at 1025 Broad St., the closest axe throwing establishment is Woodchuckers Axe Throwing in Aiken.
Another unique way to get fit that is growing in popularity? Pole dancing. But while it may seem taboo, studios like Pole 4 UR Soul offer some real muscle-burning workouts for all body types, all ages and all styles.
“It’s for all shapes, all sizes,” said instructor Ayre Peoples. “I had a girl that could hold onto the pole after an hour with me. She could barely walk around that thing when she came in here. There is no limit, and definitely one of the things we focus on here is removing the limitations out of your own mind.”
There is a huge range in the possible movements involved in pole dance fitness, and they can be used for weight loss or weight-gain/muscle-building.
“It gives you stamina, it gives you posture, it teaches you how to carry yourself,” Peoples said. “You’re working everything. You got upper body, you got abs, you got lower body, you’re even getting some dance training, you’re getting strength and flexibility, and all the while, you’re definitely conditioning yourself internally.”
Roller skating isn’t just for little kids and birthday parties. Skateland of Augusta owner Kathy Nave said six laps around the rink equals one mile, and according to the Roller Skating Association International, one hour of skating burns 600 calories.
Instructor Brian Lewis said the moves and tricks do serious work to the legs and feet, and while the muscle burning is good, for him, learning the tricks is just a ton of fun.
“After you know that, do it, and you can do it on a consistent basis, it’s like a big exhale,” Lewis said. “After you get done doing it, you wanna learn more and more, and you wanna be able to push yourself to do more stuff.”
Skateland, at 2451 Windsor Spring Road, is the only rink left in the area. They offer classes for all ages, and while some adults may be scared of falling, Lewis reassured that balance and stability are the first lessons and advises nervous skaters to go at their own pace.
“Don’t go too fast, take your time, and be easy with it,” he said. “How you skate is not how everybody else is gonna skate. You gotta go at your own pace. So, if you take it slow and slowly increase, you’ll better yourself.”
One exercise is not enough to achieve peak fitness, which is why many people have taken up what Space Yoga Studio instructor Luna “Nuke” Tracey calls a “complimentary exercise” like yoga.
“While there’s plenty of people that do just yoga, you can really excel if you compliment weightlifting or cardio practices with yoga,” Nuke said. “Yoga’s an isometric strengthening practice, so it strengthens stability muscles. Instead of strength with the muscle moving, it’s strength with the muscle stable.”
The sport’s poses cover several other functions such as strengthening bones, improving joints and helping athletes get a better sense of the body’s signals. But while some think yoga is all boring music and impossibly complicated poses, Nuke plays heavy metal during her classes.
For all of those who are concerned that they cannot put their head between their legs, Nuke laughs and says “I can’t either. When I first started doing yoga, I was using a walker. I couldn’t touch my toes, let alone my knees … you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. You have to be aware of your own body’s limitations, and appreciate and accept your body’s limitations.”