Best Intense Workouts
From flying trapeze in Hartsdale to striptease in Yonkers, we discover lively, daring, and fun ways to stay fit.
Photography by John Fortunato
If you think exercise is a yawn, you’re either stuck in a rut or haven’t found your passion. We scouted gyms, clubs, studios, and outdoor venues throughout Westchester for fun ways to stay fit and, wow, did we hit the mother lode! Here’s a sampling of the offerings— some quirky, some conventional—but definitely not boring.
In a room dimly lit in purple, amber, and red, women in high heels lunge to the floor, then slowly snake their way up. They fling off their tops (worn over sports tanks or tees) and tease the garments through their legs. By the end of the hour, they’ve crawled, thrust, and bent their way through a perfectly choreographed piece. These aren’t professional dancers. They’re college students, mothers, daughters, and, yes, even school teachers angling for a different workout experience. “You don’t even know you’re working out because it’s so hot and sexy,” says Jacqueline Bouet, owner of The Loft Dance and Fitness in Yonkers. Dancer Michelle Seabreeze, who appears in Whitney Houston’s 2009 video, “Million Dollar Baby,” leads the class. Never been to The Loft? Try a class for free. After that, pay $17 a class or $120 for a month of unlimited classes. Or pay just $95 a month for unlimited classes with a 12-month membership. The Loft Dance and Fitness, 92 Main St, Yonkers (914) 751-6240,.
Love the hard court but hate your soft, flabby mid-section? Cardio tennis, a program developed by the Tennis Industry Association, just may get rid of your love handles. At Grand Slam Tennis Club in Bedford, up to six people take the court at a time for a high-impact workout that includes ball hitting, lap running, and jumping rope. This isn’t a class for honing your backhand, but you’ll burn calories like crazy and improve your agility and speed. Says Manager Margee Aldrich: “It’s not for the soft-hearted.” Classes are $25 an hour. Grand Slam Tennis Club, One Bedford-Banksville Rd, Bedford (914) 234-9206.
Adrenaline junkies, unite! Here’s a class that will arm you with the same street-fighting skills used by U.S. law enforcement personnel. Krav Maga, the official defense system of the Israeli military, is unlike most other forms of martial arts. The drills are real-world oriented. You’ll learn to defend yourself against a gun or knife attack. And in the throes of punching and kicking, you get an awesome cardiovascular workout. But don’t count on taking a break to catch your breath—it doesn’t happen in a real attack, so it doesn’t happen here. Steve Sohn’s Jujitsu Concepts Krav Maga Worldwide Regional Training Center Northeast, 79 Montgomery Ave, Scarsdale (914) 723-7818.
Here’s an activity tailor-made for outdoor lovers who can’t bear to leave their electronic gadgets at home: “geocaching,” a high-tech form of hide-and-seek using a GPS device to locate a hidden “treasure” or “cache.” Some locations have multiple caches, typically plastic containers, each consisting of a log book (to record your name, the date, etc.) and trinkets (like bubblegum-machine prizes ). Know: if you take a treasure, leave an item to replace it. Recent college grad Ian Bunk, who launched Westchester Geocaching last August, says it can be a great way to stay fit because “you can go out for a hike and keep yourself engaged.” It doesn’t cost a thing to join the group, but you’ll have to buy, borrow, or share a GPS receiver. meetup.com/NYGeocaching.
Get your booty in gear and bring the baby, too! Lee Sandford, a certified personal trainer, leads stay-at-home moms, women with flexible schedules, and the occasional brave spouse in a fat-burning, muscle-toning, core-strengthening outdoor workout. No fancy equipment is required. Boot campers’ varied regimens consist of lunges, squats, push-ups, and running drills performed on the hills, sandy shoreline, and stone walls of Rye Town Park. Classes run 45 or 60 minutes three to five times a week and start at $14 a class for the entire four- to five-week session. The drop-in rate is $17 to $20. Boot Camp by the Beach, Rye (914) 473-3790; ryebootcamp bythebeach.com.
Consider skipping the fancy club membership and let your iPhone or iPod Touch be your gym. iFitness, a popular “app” available through the iTunes store, provides instructions for performing hundreds of different exercises, suggests workout routines and allows you to track your progress. For only $1.99, you’ve got nothing to lose. itunes.apple.com.
When Circus Arts Camp held flying trapeze lessons for children last summer, their parents looked on in awe. This year, the adults will get their shot. For one week in August, a team of instructors led by Mary Kelley Rayel of Fly School Circus Arts in Pennsylvania will hold evening lessons—first come, first served. With only 10 to a class ($65 per class), we suspect this’ll be one hot ticket! Why swing from the sky? “I think it breaks through your fears, and a lot of people feel transformed after the experience,” says Chris Glover, the camp’s co-director. Circus Arts Camp, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, Upper School Campus, 555 W Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale (914) 923-4650; circusartscampny.com.
You don’t have to be built like New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees to work out like he does. That’s the beauty of “suspension training,” an exercise system that consists of nylon straps anchored to an elevated fixture. Brees became a fan of the TRX Suspension Training system while recovering from a devastating shoulder injury in the last game of the 2005 season and, in 2009, became an investor in the company that markets the system. TRX uses gravity to leverage the user’s body weight, and that’s the key. You control the amount of resistance depending on how you position your body in the straps. “Anybody can do it, from beginner all the way up to extremely advanced athletes,” says Scotty Millan, a trainer at Mamaroneck’s LA Boxing, who uses the system with clients for core strength, stability, flexibility, and cardio conditioning. It’s also fun because most people have never used their body that way before, he says. LA Boxing, 300 Waverly Ave, Mamaroneck (914) 835-4269; laboxing.com/mamaroneck.
Even if it’s been ages since you mounted a bike, you know what they say. If you’re reasonably fit and willing to invest in a decent road bike and a helmet, the Westchester Cycle Club may be your on-ramp to many enjoyable and physically challenging miles ahead. Riding through Westchester’s scenic, tree-covered terrain (some of the best riding in the country, says Bruce Wells, the club’s membership director), you may push farther and go faster than you ever thought possible. Membership is $20 a year; additional contributions are requested for food for social events. Don’t miss the club’s July 5 Independence Day Ride and barbecue-style lunch. Westchester Cycle Club (914) 721-6018, westchestercycleclub.org.
Attention treadmill-weary readers: Why not mix up your exercise regimen and wake up muscles you never knew you had? “With Muay Thai—Thai kickboxing—you’re punching, you’re kicking, you’re kneeing, and you’re elbowing,” says Peter Belmar, owner of Belmar’s Muay Thai Kickboxing and Fitness in White Plains. “You’re getting an overall workout.” A six-week beginner’s course ($160) teaches the fundamentals of boxing and kickboxing. Belmar’s Muay Thai Kickboxing and Fitness, 5 Prospect Ave, White Plains (914) 426-0359; belmars.com.
Punch up your kickboxing routine with a spicy twist. Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco weaves basic kickboxing moves (great for your glutes, quads, and hamstrings) into an hour-long Zumba class in which you’ll shimmy to salsa, samba, reggaeton, and merengue. “It’s really kind of a Latin-inspired kickboxing class,” explains Kathleen Goldring, group exercise and yoga director. Memberships range from $100 to $299 a month; call for a free trial. Saw Mill Club, 77 Kensico Dr, Mount Kisco (914) 241-0797; sawmillclub.com.
Ain’t nothin’ sexy about a kettlebell, a cast-iron weight resembling a cannonball with a U-shaped handle. But this centuries-old Russian strength-training tool, available in a range of sizes, is powering up even the most très chic exercise routines. Anthony Renna, owner of Five Iron Fitness in White Plains, likes to use them with his golfing clients because, unlike a dumbbell, the center of gravity in a kettlebell lies outside the hand. “It really helps you focus on grip,” he says. A kettlebell workout boosts muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. Plus, the calorie burn is equivalent to running at a six-minute-per-mile pace, says a recent study published by the American Council on Exercise. A six-session starter package, including a golf fitness assessment and personal training sessions, costs $795. Five Iron Fitness, 188 E Post Rd, White Plains (914) 948-3549; fiveironfitness.com.
Melt away dangerous abdominal fat and smile while you’re doing it. Instructor Nabila Salama says hula-hooping uses the same hip action as belly dancing but is less intimidating. Working with special hoops that are heavier (and easier to maneuver) than the plastic children’s version, her students learn how to keep the hoop from falling and, once they’ve mastered the hooping motion, perform to Puerto Rican and Mexican music. The six-week course of 1½-hour sessions costs $80. Hoops are $30. Westchester Community College Continuing Education; (914) 606-6600; sunywcc.edu.
Indulge your inner Martha Graham. At Briarcliff Manor’s Club Fit, instructor Liz Mallon’s modern dance-based workout includes a smidgeon of ballet and a dash of “Lotte Berk Method” (similar to yoga and pilates). Much of the hour, though, is devoted to “standing/floor barre” exercise. “The focus is really on balance and flexibility and, of course, core strength because you can’t do any kind of balance work without keeping the core engaged,” says Karen Cornetz, the club’s group exercise manager. Club Fit Briarcliff, North State Rd, Briarcliff Manor (914) 762-3444; clubfit.com.
It takes a steely disposition to thrust a sword at your opponent, but that’s what fencing is all about. “You have to be a fighter if you want to win,” says two-time Olympian Slava Grigoriev, the head coach and director of the Fencing Academy of Westchester. Beyond the sport of it, he says, fencing’s a great way to build endurance and burn calories. Private lessons are available to adults at $40 per 20-minute session. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can buy an individual membership ($700 a year) and square off against other members. Fencing Academy of Westchester, 40 Saw Mill River Rd, Hawthorne (914) 345-5005; www.fence westchester.com.
Fill your weekends with a greener workout. Members of the Westchester Trails Association are on a mission to hike 100 of the County’s hiking areas and trails, a project called Westchester 100, launched last fall. Check out hikes on the club’s summer schedule, maybe a three- to four-miler over easy terrain, particularly if it’s been a while since you’ve laced up a pair of hiking boots. Club President Eileen West says members range in age from their 20s to their 80s; the oldest member, a woman, is 87! An annual membership is just $7. Westchester Trails Association, westhike.org.
Popular with military and law-enforcement types, CrossFit strength and conditioning program is quickly gaining ground with fitness buffs. “We’re teaching people how to squat, how to dead-lift, how to pick things up from the ground, how to lift things overhead,” says Chris Guerrero, owner of CrossFit Westchester in White Plains. You’ll use barbells, free weights, pull-up bars, and Atlas stones, and you’ll train in small groups. Beginners participate in an introductory class ($150) consisting of three 60- to 90-minute sessions. CrossFit Westchester, 300 Hamilton Ave, White Plains (914) 497-6229; crossfit westchester.com.
Here’s a way to squeeze your abdominal, strength, balance and cardio workout into a single one-hour class and feel like a kid again. The BOSU (“Both Sides Up”) is a springy rubber dome on a solid base with a plethora of training possibilities. It can be a step for jumping, a platform for push-ups, or a base for lunges. Turned upside down, it becomes a balance board. “You see results pretty quickly with it.” says Diane McCarthy, fitness coordinator at the Family YMCA at Tarrytown There’s a $100 initiation fee to join the Y; membership is $52 a month. Family YMCA at Tarrytown, 62 Main St, Tarrytown (914) 631-4807; ymcatarrytown.org.
Take two fitness crazes, fold them together, and what do you get? Seventy-five minutes of body strengthening, heart-pumping exercise designed with women’s bodies in mind. Melanie Danza, group exercise director and programming specialist at APOGEE Pilates & Wellness Centers, created the class after discovering that pilates (a core-strengthening method) boosted her endurance in spinning class. “The core is really what holds you up on that bike,” she says. She also wanted women to get a heart-healthy dose of cardiovascular exercise since heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. APOGEE is offering a three-day, free trial membership. APOGEE Pilates & Wellness Centers in Bedford Hills, 170 Harris Rd, Bedford Hills (914) 244-1606; apogeewellness.com.
If you’d rather be on the water this summer, the New Rochelle Rowing Club can teach you to scull (using two oars) and sweep (with one). After eight weeks of two-hour sessions, you’ll be ready for a rowing adventure on the Long Island Sound. Jennifer Palermo, the rowing director, says that rowing really works the entire body—legs, core, back, and arms, “and it is a great workout.” You don’t have to have your own equipment but you must be able to swim, and remember to wear sunscreen. The introductory class is $450 for eight two-hour sessions. New Rochelle Rowing Club, 99 Hudson Park Rd, New Rochelle; (914) 715-6006;
Aquatic Tai Chi, Yoga & Pilates
“Fusion” classes—a sizzling-hot trend in the fitness world today—are shaking up old routines by integrating two or more exercises. Often, the new combinations work body, mind, and spirit. Harriette DeCarlo’s class at Premier Athletic Club in Montrose fuses tai chi, yoga, and pilates—and all of it’s done in the pool no less! Supported by the buoyancy of the water, almost anyone (even non-swimmers) can perform the slow, graceful, arm and leg movements. Her class is a mix of men and women in their 40s to 80s. The exercise combo promotes balance, core muscle tightening, and controlled, deep breathing. At the end of the half-hour session, students massage necks, shoulders, and temples. “You visualize any blockage in the body as a block of ice and you visualize the ice melting and the body healing,” she says. Premier Athletic Club, 2127 Albany Rd, Montrose (914) 739-7755; premierathletic.com.
If working out at home is what you prefer, you may find that the new generation of “exergames,” like Wii Fit Plus, leaves exercise bikes and treadmills in the dust. These systems allow you to tailor a fitness routine to your specific goals. As for the fitness benefits, the science is still in its infancy. A 2009 pilot study by Australian researchers found that women ages 30 to 58 significantly increased their balance and leg-muscle strength after using the Wii Fit twice a week for 10 weeks, although changes in weight, cardiovascular endurance, and overall well-being were not significant. But for a one-time investment of roughly $100, we think it’s a worth a whirl, especially if it gets you moving on a regular basis. bestbuy.com.
Jump into the egalitarian waters of “Westchester SwimFit,” where it doesn’t matter whether you’re chasing a competitive, recreational, or fitness goal—as long as you’re a competent swimmer. At White Plains Family YMCA, the adult aquatics fitness program attracts triathletes who need help honing their stroke and ordinary folks who may have competed in their youth and “just haven’t gotten back into it and maybe were a little afraid to,” explains Alan Mogridge, senior program director. Practices, which run 1½ hours, are held at 7 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. An eight-week session is $144 for members and $195 for non-members. White Plains Family YMCA, 250 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains (914) 949-8030; ymca-cnw.org.
Transform your body with short spurts of high-intensity exercise. Based on a Japanese interval-training method, “Tabata 2010” at Equinox Fitness Clubs is designed to increase athletic performance, boost aerobic capacity, and decrease body fat. The workout consists of 20 seconds of muscle-fatiguing exercise—say, push-ups, overhead presses, or bicep curls—followed by 10 seconds of rest. The cycle is repeated for a total of four minutes, followed by “self-myofascial release,” a technique that involves gentle self-massage of exhausted muscles using a medicine ball. The whole regimen is repeated multiple times over the 45-minute class. If you’re not a member, try a free class. Equinox Scarsdale, 800 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale (914) 472-9000; equinox.com.
Got game? Check out the Sound Shore Youth Foundation’s co-ed beach volleyball league, May 24 through Aug 23. With 44 teams and 11 nets, Oakland Beach in Rye Town Park may be the coolest place to be on sweltering Monday nights. Three divisions—one competitive and two intermediate (one more laid-back than the other)—will play this season. While there’s a waiting list for new teams, individual players are welcome ($90 per person). Women, in particular, are always in demand. The Sunday morning fall league ($60 per person) kicks off after Labor Day! Rye Town Beach Volleyball League, Rye Town Park; Contact League Director Tom Thogersen (914) 755-7436; eteamz.com/rtvb.
Tone your physique and put some zing in your nightlife. At Josie’s International School of Dance in Ossining, Founder and Artistic Director Josie Lariccia and Salsa Instructor Eddie Q teach two variations: salsa “on one” and “on two.” Beginners learn footwork patterns and how to dance with a partner. The steps are the same, but the club-style moves are smoother and sleeker. And it’s a workout. “We call it a three-T-shirt event,” says Lacriccia. Pay $150 for 10 sessions or $20 for a single class. Josie’s International School of Dance, 125 Main St, Ossining (914) 432-8502; josiedance.com.
Indoor Rock Climbing
Ever scaled a 14-foot-high boulder or clambered up a 40-foot wall? Take advantage of the $149 summer pass at The Cliffs at Valhalla. You’ll get a free class on climbing safety and controlling the ropes, two guest passes, and unlimited climbing from Memorial Day to Labor. The Cliffs at Valhalla, 1 Commerce Park (914) 328-ROCK; thecliffs climbing.com.
The Rye YMCA has a dual-level swim program designed specifically to help adult swimmers become stronger swimmers—perfect if you’re attempting your first triathlon. “A lot of people choose to do events as their motivation,” says Laura Tiedge, senior director of healthy lifestyles. “You see results pretty quickly with it.” The summer session begins June 26. The cost? It’s $100 for members and $125 for non-members. Rye YMCA, 21 Locust Ave, Rye (914) 967-6363; ryeymca.org.
Need a change of pace from spinning? Take a class that uses a “rebounder,” or mini-trampoline, to put some spring back into your cardiovascular workout. “It’s really like your old-fashioned aerobic class but on a trampoline, so it’s lower impact for the those with any knee issues, and it just makes it fun,” says Valerie Rosen, group exercise director at Mount Kisco Athletic Club. You won’t be air-bound the entire hour. The instructor weaves in intervals of exercise to strengthen and sculpt the upper body and core. An individual club membership runs $89 a month. Mount Kisco Athletic Club, 151 Kisco Ave, Mount Kisco (914) 242-9760; mtkisco ac.com.
Track & Field
If you ran track in high school, you may wonder whether your 100-meter dash is still up to snuff. (Or maybe you’d just like to try the shot put and discus for the heck of it!) Here’s your chance to show them what you’ve got. The Town of Cortlandt and Taconic Road Runners Club jointly sponsor the Westchester Summer Twilight Track & Field Series, held six Tuesdays this summer beginning July 6. The first three meets will be at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose; the final three at Somers High School in Lincolndale. The entry fee is $5 for a single event or $6 for multiple events. ny.milesplit.us.
Sore hips have yet to persuade Karen Pallarito to trade in her New Balance sneakers for a yoga mat. If you see her plodding around Port Chester’s Lyon Park, honk or say hello.