Looking for a new adventure this summer? Use our list to get active
Trail running? Workout classes? Or something a bit more exciting? As summer looms and thoughts turn to physical activities, open-minded adventurers can find unexpected challenges in unusual corners of the List.
Run for it!
Cassandra Wyzik, owner of highly rated Fit With Cassandra in Satellite Beach, Florida, says unusual physical activities help with motivation and growth. “Most of us just want to be healthy and don’t want to be bored,” she says. “It needs to be mentally stimulating, to make you think outside the box a bit.”
In addition to traditional fitness training, she offers group classes in parkour (outdoor free running) and barre (a combination of Pilates, ballet and yoga) for $10 per session.
Wyzik says parkour, which introduces students to the rolling, vaulting and urban running reminiscent of action movies such as “Casino Royale” or televised obstacle courses like “Ninja Warrior,” provides an entertaining but vigorous workout.
“We start in a really safe environment in the gym and then move outside,” she says. “I’ve got people from 6 [years old] to 60 doing it. You have to be a little bit sane; it’s not like those YouTube videos of people doing backflips off buildings. But you learn to focus on where you are and where you want to be, building an awareness of your surroundings and your own body.”
Parkour doesn’t encompass just leaps and climbing. It also emphasizes subtle and stealthy quadripedal movement on all fours. “Your whole body is working very hard to do that,” she says. “All the movements become purely functional because you’re using your own body weight. Anything you’re doing is customized to your body because you’re used to carrying this weight around all the time and now you’re challenged to use it in a novel way.”
Climb the walls
Tom Rosecrans, president and owner of highly rated Rocksport in Queensbury, New York, says indoor rock climbing offers a tremendous boon to participants, whether they’re beginners or experts.
“There’s a threefold benefit: the mental game with yourself, the challenge against the route you’re on, and the obvious physical benefit, which I call vertical yoga,” he says.
“We have routes that 5-year-olds can do and routes that 75-year-olds can do,” he adds. “The beautiful thing about indoor climbing is that it’s a great way to introduce people to the sport without traipsing through the woods or mountains. People can get a lot of climbing done in a few hours on a Sunday morning.”
His gym charges $10 for all-day climbing and $6 for shoe and harness rental.
Most climbing requires a partner to handle the safety rope, or belay. Climbers who prefer to go solo can use a route that features an auto belay, a self-retracting safety system that’s becoming more common in gyms. Rocksport offers one auto-belay wall.
Solo climbers can also try their hand at bouldering — challenging, low-height routes. “That’s becoming more popular, because all you need is a pair of shoes and a chalk bag,” Rosecrans says. “It’s usually very difficult, with overhangs and super-hard grips.”
He says gym-based climbing frequently acts as a gateway to a wider world. “It’s a great introduction to the sport, but it’s not the end-all,” he says. “The best thing is when you take those skills outside.”
Go down under
Lyn Fishman, owner of highly rated Mid-Atlantic Scuba Center in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, says she sees more and more families learning to dive together. “We have third-generation families where the grandchildren are getting certified,” she says.
“Diving is different from most other recreations because it’s not competitive,” she adds. “A 12-year-old and a 65-year-old are on the same playing field. You slow down on a dive, and it’s something families can do together.”
She says her shop offers two options for newcomers: a $49, single-day pool experience or full certification, which costs about $600.
“Our one-session Discover Scuba experience takes a few hours and lets people see what it’s like to breathe underwater,” Fishman says. “It’s sort of a try-before-you-buy thing. A lot of people do it in anticipation of taking a full class.”
She also offers diver certification via the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, which she says is recognized worldwide. A diver earns the PADI certification after three sessions, which can be combined into a single weekend. The sessions include classroom instruction, pool training and an open-water dive. Rates vary depending on whether you take the classroom training in person or online, but it generally costs about $600 for the full certification, which includes all equipment except personal snorkeling gear.
“Most people, because they’ve never done it before, think of it as fun or alien,” Fishman says. “Quite often, they worry they’ll be claustrophobic and won’t be able to deal with it. But once they relax in the pool and breathe through their regulator, they realize it’s not that big of a deal at all.”
In an era where “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers” and “Brave” refocused renewed attention on the age-old art of archery, shops such as Chicago Archery Academy in Elmhurst, Illinois, give prospective shooters the chance to take aim at a target … or, under very controlled circumstances, each other!
Chicago Archery Academy owner Casey Fuller says his traditional target archery classes range from $25 to $30 per session, which includes all gear.
“You don’t need experience or your own equipment,” he says. “You only need to bring a good attitude and a readiness to learn. We’re teaching people to pick up a bow and arrow and learn to use it safely and properly, and fine-tune their focus.”
Fuller says the sport recently expanded with a new approach called “archery tag,” a combination paintball/dodgeball game with bows where participants shoot at each other across a field using heavily padded arrows.
“It’s only been around a couple of years, but it’s really going to take off,” he says. “Unlike paintball, you don’t have to wear multiple layers. You can wear shorts and a short-sleeve shirt and not worry about getting big welts.”
Players wear protective masks and use bows with low-draw weights to slow down the arrows.
“It’s “The Hunger Games” put into reality, where you’re trying to hit each other with the foam-tipped arrows or knock down certain targets,” he says.
Reach for the sky
More and more parks are offering zipline or rope courses, says Patrick Noonan, owner of highly rated Dagaz Acres in Patriot, Indiana. They allow adventure seekers to cross 40-foot-high rope bridges, and then slide down ziplines hundreds of feet long.
“You’re out there, really being one with nature, which is something people don’t get to do very often anymore,” Noonan says. “It’s grown rapidly in the past few years. We opened in 2008, and since then there are five or six more just in this tri-state area. It’s a fun family activity. When you’re out here, you can’t hear anything except people screaming as they go down the lines.”
His park offers two courses: a seven-zipline run for $45, and an extended two-hour $70 tour that includes all the ziplines, a few bridges, and three ascents into the trees.
“Our biggest zipline is 500-feet long, where you’re going about 30 miles an hour,” he says.
Ziplining parks take safety very seriously, Noonan says, with clients linked to the lines on two different points. “It’s a bucket-list item, the kind of thing people want to do instead of just sitting in front of the TV,” he says. “A lot of people do this and then say, ‘Now I can try skydiving!’”
Speaking of which …
Jump out the window
Bob Feisthamel, owner of highly rated Skydive Missouri in Mount Vernon, Missouri, and a veteran of 10,000 jumps, says his only regret is that he can’t experience his first jump again. “Making your first skydive is probably going to be the most exciting thing you’ve done or will ever do in your life,” he says. “I’ve seen a skydive do great things for people, with an adrenaline high that lasts for hours.”
Feisthamel and many other skydiving services around the nation offer a variety of options for adventurous souls seeking that rush. The most popular option, he says, is a tandem skydive where a student and instructor are connected together for the jump, fall and landing. This generally costs between $170 and $250, he says, and involves between 20 minutes and 2 hours of training before boarding the plane.
For students interested in more advanced experiences, “accelerated free fall” training begins with several hours of training and progresses into solo jumps at a rate of between $260 and $300 per jump, he says.
Mastering the skill of skydiving brings with it not only increased confidence but other mental benefits. “I can’t have that first-jump feeling again, but even now, it’s the best stress reliever I know,” Feisthamel says. “When I make a jump, I can’t think of anything else but the jump. So if I’ve got other issues in my life, they just go away for a while.”