Healthy Outlook: Have fun to get fit

And what’s even better than fun? Free fun.

It’s never easy when the time comes to say goodbye and move on. It’s difficult letting go of what you’ve come to know so well; what you’ve built a life around.

When you resolve to cut ties with your couch, or at least spend more time apart, it’s not always easy to stay away. That’s why it can be so helpful to get started with a fitness routine that’s actually fun.

If I’d attempted to start with the fairly strenuous, focused cardio (translation: boring, by comparison) that I’m hooked on now, there is no way I would’ve succeeded.

Instead, I began throwing parties — Zumba cardio parties for one, that is. Luckily, the kindhearted souls who were my downstairs neighbors never filed a noise complaint about me as I eventually picked up on the motions of those super-athletic Zumba instructors. (If you’ve ever heard this, I’m so sorry.)

In this file photo from July 2012, Susan King, a fitness instructor with Lawrence Parks and Recreation, leads a group in a Zumba in the Park event amid triple-digit temperatures.

Yes, it was quite a hilarious image — me hopping around while a video played on the laptop perched on my kitchen counter — but Zumba was right up my alley. The fast-paced dancing was so much fun that I didn’t feel like I was actually working out, and before I knew it, I was losing weight and feeling fabulous.

If you’ve tried and failed to get into the habit of regular exercise, evaluate: Have you jumped on a treadmill for a half-hour a few times, gotten bored and stopped trying to do it consistently? Yeah, so have I.

Break the cycle. If you can find a way to get active that is also fun, you’ll begin to feel the incredible emotional, mental and, of course, physical benefits of regular exercise — and I’m convinced that once you’re really into it, you won’t want to quit anymore.

• The Lawrence Parks and Recreation department has a variety of classes available, most of which sound like fun ways to get moving. There are lots of dance options, different forms of yoga, martial arts, strength training and you could even try Yamuna body rolling, which I told you about last week.

Share your thoughts

What fun ways have you found to get fit in Lawrence? Share them with me, and I’ll share them in a future column. Email, tweet at me at @mclark_ljw, or tag me in an Instagram post, mclark_ljw.

According to Jo Ellis, recreation programs supervisor with LPRD, most of those are about $3-4 per class, or $70 on average for a 13-week session (though a quick glance at listings shows many of them are quite a bit cheaper).

What’s even better than cheap fun? Free fun. The department offers free demo classes on occasion. Ellis said she has a couple of those coming up this week: Buti yoga. Ellis said it’s a blend of power yoga and cardio-intensive tribal dancing. Those free classes will be from 6-7 a.m. Tuesday at Sports Pavilion Lawrence, 100 Rock Chalk Lane, and 7-8 p.m. Thursday at the Community Building, 115 W. 11th St.

Ellis said the winter sessions are close to wrapping up, but if you’re interested, you can pay to try a class once and decide if you want to sign up for the next sessions, which start in January. An updated Activities Guide comes out Nov. 26.

LPRD also has plenty of options for seniors, plus a 10 percent discount. Ellis said Senior Strength Training is very popular.

“That’s very important for seniors because it helps their balance, their flexibility,” she said.

A big aspect of LPRD’s classes is the community element, Ellis said — some groups even go for coffee or lunch after classes, on occasion.

“Everybody’s in there for a different reason but they all want to stay healthy, and everybody goes at their own speed,” she said.

Of course the rec centers themselves, scattered around town, are free for resident use.

There’s a massive, free gym for Douglas County residents — are you using it?

• There are plenty of other fun and free opportunities to get fit in this community. J. Jenkins, owner of Ad Astra Running at 734 Massachusetts St., holds a free fun run at 6 p.m. every Thursday that leaves from the store. Participants go at their own pace, and he’s told me no matter how fast or slow you want to go, there will be someone at your level.

This week, the store is holding its annual Thursday-Before-Thanksgiving Bash — after the regular 6 p.m. run, Ad Astra will have refreshments and a raffle.

• There’s also the longtime community staple Red Dog’s Dog Days, free group workouts. The winter schedule starts Nov. 28: they’ll meet at 6 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Community Building, and 7:30 a.m. Saturday fun runs will continue to meet each week at the parking lot on the northeast side of Ninth and Vermont streets.

The possibilities are endless — there are so many free groups to join in this town.

• The Lawrence Bicycle Club has multiple weekly rides.

• Be Moved Studio offers free community yoga each week, and the Lawrence Public Library has a couple free monthly yoga sessions.

• The KU Tango Club offers weekly lessons free to KU students or for a suggested $5 donation for community members.

These are just to name a few.

If you’re not ready to go out into the community to get fit, that’s fine. Do what I did and find a fun video or two that you can follow, on a consistent basis, in the privacy of your own home.

The key is to do it. Make it fun and laugh at yourself, if you’re so inclined — but be proud and confident in the fact that you’re making a hugely positive change in your life.