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Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 03:50 pm

What can you do when you don’t do the gym?

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Sonali Patel works on her 10-week Ultimate Bodyshaping Course, a combination of kickboxing and resistance training.
PHOTO BY JULIE FLETCHER/MCT

Fitness professionals hear the same excuse many times: “I’d love to get in better shape, but I’m not a gym person.”

So, for people who don’t like conventional exercise programs, what else is there? The answer is simple: plenty.

At community centers, church gymnasiums, martial arts centers and the YMCA, there are many options for the sort of person who feels overwhelmed by walking into a gym.

“I read over and over about the latest exercise or fitness regimen and how it is the most effective exercise you can do,” says Janet Rankin, who has been teaching Jazzercise classes in Orlando for more than 20 years. “But the most effective exercise is the one that you’ll do.”

The key, say fitness experts, is finding an activity you like and sticking to it.

That’s easy to say but sometimes harder to do.

Myke Eggers, for instance, has dabbled in different exercise routines: yoga, weight training, running. He has joined gyms.

“I found some of them boring, or they weren’t very structured,” says Eggers, 28. Nothing struck a chord in him.

That is, not until he started a 10-week program at a martial arts center. The program, called Ultimate Bodyshaping Course, requires commitment. Classes are held six days a week for one hour each day. Three days are devoted to kickboxing. The other three days are focused on strength and conditioning classes, conducted with resistance bands and free weights.

The first week, says Eggers, seemed to stretch forever. But Eggers bonded with the other students in the class. And he quickly noticed the changes in his body. In five weeks he lost 11 pounds, and six inches from his waistline. He’s planning to sign up for a kung-fu class and a tai-chi course when his 10-week UBC program ends.

“Exercise isn’t always fun for people,” says instructor George Kee, who began teaching the UBC program in September. “If it was, everybody would be in shape.”

To keep students coming back, Kee gently prods and encourages, and tries to make the class members feel like family.

But the best motivation, Kee says, comes from results. And the intensive UBC program provides quick results.

“It’s a big kick in the pants for them. It’s a big jump start,” says Kee.

If your idea of fun isn’t kickboxing, look around.

In Janet Rankin’s Jazzercise Lite classes, the students are primarily women, many of whom don’t feel comfortable at a traditional gym.

“People who love dance love Jazzercise,” says Rankin. “That’s why it has traditionally drawn in women.”

Dancing has long held appeal for a small group of people. And after “Dancing With the Stars” became a television hit, dance classes — from salsa to ballroom — are hot.

If there’s a group that often feels left out at conventional, commercial gyms, it’s probably senior citizens. But at the YMCA, a number of classes are aimed at seniors or those who are new to exercise.

At the YMCA in Winter Park, Fla., students who have limited range of motion are encouraged to sign up for classes such as “chair aerobics.” During the class, the 28 students, one of whom is 106 years old, sit in chairs and use hand weights, exercise bands, balls and batons to exercise their arms and legs.

“The idea,” said Adam Klutts, executive director, “is to keep them active and to work on strengthening their muscles to allow them to continue to do their everyday activities.”

Sharon Dittmer, 65, has arthritis and two artificial knees. By taking the chair-aerobics class, along with a water-therapy class, Dittmer keeps her arms strong enough to pull herself out of her wheelchair and to use a walker. “I love the class,” says Dittmer. “And the instructors are wonderful. They make it so much fun.”

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune

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