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ANNUAL MANUAL '12: Alternative excercise guide

Beyond the weight room. Alternative ways to get fit in Rochester


You may not be a health nut, but the thought of joining a gym or participating in some sort of physical activity has probably crossed the mind of even the laziest of couch potatoes. There are a slew of gyms and fitness clubs in the Greater Rochester area offering up a wide range of facilities and health options. Still, only 16 percent of Americans had memberships to a health and fitness center as of September 2011, according to a quarterly report from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. With such easy access to gyms and fitness clubs, why do so few people actually have memberships?

            Frequently cited reasons include costs, motivation, and sometimes even a dislike of fitness machines. Gym memberships in Rochester often run $30 and up per month for a single membership, and can easily hit $100 per month or more for a family. While there are more affordable options at certain national franchises, those facilities are known for being bare bones -- no classes or extras.

            Thanks to many local resources and groups in Rochester, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get fit. Nor do you have to spend your free time reluctantly running on a go-nowhere treadmill to lose some pounds. There are plenty of alternative fitness options out there that might appeal to your brain and your wallet.

Rochester is home to the only Parkour gym in the state. You may have heard of Parkour via ridiculous online videos of people doing crazy stunts, like hopping down flights of stairs, or vaulting from one building to another. Charles Moreland, co-founder of Rochester Parkour, describes the Rochester Parkour gym as a movement facility where you can perform creative expression using your body -- and he discourages trying dangerous stunts.

            Classes and tools at the Parkour gym, located on Lincoln Avenue, aim to improve coordination, balance, fluidity, and spatial awareness. Moreland says that classes are intended to help adults "find that playful instinct that is lost from childhood," which can allow them to interact with an environment in unusual ways, he says. Equipment at Rochester Parkour includes poles, ropes, platforms, rails, ramps, and other interesting obstacles and tools. Many are movable, and capable of being arranged into an obstacle course of sorts.

            Classes are small, generally three to seven participants, allowing for more one-on-one training. There are classes for kids, teens, adults, and for those who need more low-impact options. Costs vary between pay-per-class, open-gym memberships, or a monthly membership that includes everything. For more information visit rochesterparkour.com.

            Another alternative gym option is ROC Boxing & Fitness, a boxing gym on Atlantic Avenue. Popular programs include a five-level boxing set that starts with basic boxing techniques and ends with full-contact sparring in the ring. For more information visit rocboxing.com. If getting punched in the face isn't your thing, consider another unique area gym, Crossfit Rochester on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford. Crossfit focuses on community fitness and adaptability. While the programs at Crossfit can indeed be intense and similar to police, military, or Olympic-style workouts, there are options for beginners as well. For more information visit crossfitrochester.com.

Alternative gyms aren't for everyone, or might just sound too out-there and intimidating for others. Thankfully there are plenty of free or cheap physical-fitness options in Rochester. Area libraries often have fitness events, such ballroom-dancing classes at the Henrietta Public Library (hpl.org), or an introduction to Tai Chi at Brighton Memorial Library (brightonlibrary.org). A big plus for these programs is that classes at area libraries are almost always free. However, a negative for regular fitness is that most classes are not held on a weekly basis. But they remain a great resource for trying new fitness techniques, and could open doors to other local recreation opportunities. Check the Monroe County Library System website (www3.libraryweb.org), or keep an eye on your local library's schedule for upcoming fitness events or classes.

            Additionally, almost all of the Rochester suburbs and townships -- including the city of Rochester itself -- offer a slew of fitness options through their respective parks and recreation departments. Programs offered by nearby townships include zumba, yoga, open basketball, open floor hockey, pilates, or kickboxing. There are also dancing classes like line dancing, square dancing, salsa, ballet, tap, and more.

            Some require a fee for a certain amount of attendances, more formal classes, or if you join a local adult sports team (softball and basketball are popular, but other sports are available depending on the township). Outside of those, there are more free options than not. Keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to live in a specific town to take part in its fitness programs. It may still be free for you, or you may need to pay a small fee as a guest. Check your town's website or recreation department for schedules and information, or keep an eye out in the mail for your town's program brochure.

There are also many local clubs, groups, and sports leagues in the area that cater to a variety of interests. Cyclists should look into groups like the Rochester Bicycling Club (rochesterbicyclingclub.org) and R Community Bikes (rcommunitybikes.net). The RBC hosts events like weekend rides, social dinner rides, time trials, and road and mountain biking. You can also visit the Genesee Transportation Council (gtcmpo.org) for maps and information on local trails and bike-related locations in Rochester.

            Rochester is home to a handful of running groups, including the Greater Rochester Track Club (grtconline.org), Genesee Valley Harriers (gvh.net), YellowJacket Racing (yellowjacketracing.com), and Fleet Feet Racing (fleetfeetrochester.com). All of these groups and clubs offer communities for training, resources, and events for those who favor running or jogging as a healthy outlet.

            For something more social, consider one of the alternative sports leagues in Rochester. The area is home to two different kickball leagues, the Kickball League of Rochester (rockickball.net) and a local chapter of the National Amateur Community Kickball of America (nackakickball.com), giving you plenty of opportunities to relive elementary school all over again (but with more beer). There are also a slew of volleyball leagues and facilities in Rochester like Hot Shots Volleyball (hotshotsvball.com) and the Main Street Armory Volleyball Club (rochestermainstreetarmory.com), which offer co-ed leagues, games, and tournaments year-round, or the girls-only VolleyFX club (volleyfx.com).

            If you like to play rough, there are three rugby leagues in Rochester. For men there is the Rochester Aardvarks Rugby Football Club (rochesteraardvarks.org) and the Rochester Colonials (rochestercolonials.com). Don't feel left out, ladies, because there's a women's rugby team as well -- the Rochester Renegades Women's Rugby (rochesterrugby.com). Ladies who like to skate might want to check out Rochester's growing roller-derby scene. The Roc City Roller Derby (rocderby.com) is the place to go if you're ready to get into the ring and join some of the toughest chicks around.

Did we leave out your favorite alternative fitness option in Rochester? Post a comment on this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.

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