Wild and Wacky Sports

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Austin Fit Magazine asked readers to tell us about the fun and unusual activities they utilize in order to stay fit. Here, in their own words, are some of the interesting ways our readers work out.

Hula Hoop: Jackie Dobson

Some may say my twin Jamie (in front, in photo at right) and I share a brain, but we like to think that we double the fun. Jamie and I love to hula hoop; we think it's a fun workout, and it makes us feel like kids again. We can do it for hours standing still; if we are at each other’s house or at a family members’ house, we break out the hoops as we chat. We especially enjoy a nice glass of wine while hooping. It is our relaxing time. If we had to, we could go hours hooping.

Last fall, we decided to take it to another level by hooping it up on a 5K (3.1 miles), so we did the 5K at the Run for the Water. Our next goal is to complete a 10K (6.2 miles). While Jamie and I may look like total goofballs running and hooping at the same time, it sure made us laugh. And I know we made some runners/walkers speed up because they didn't want the twins with the hula hoops to beat them. Unfortunately, it's a bit harder to keep the hoop up while running, so we had to do a bunch of walking. Hopefully, with some more practice, we will get running and hooping at the same time down. Jamie and I hooped the entire way through the 5K with weighted hula hoops (we have all different kinds of hoops, but our favorite is the weighted Acu Hoop, which is the colorful hoop I'm using in the photo. They weigh 5 pounds, and they break apart so we can travel with them). Truth is, we haven't grown up; we’ve just gotten older but we continue to laugh like we did as kids.

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Girevoy Sport: Henry V. Marshall

I compete in Girevoy Sport (also known as Kettlebell Sport), which is a beautiful and sophisticated art. It is a highly challenging power-endurance feat that combines skill, endurance, flexibility, and mental focus. Each lifter has ten minutes to complete as many repetitions of the determined lifts as possible without setting the kettlebell(s) down. Although points are neither awarded nor deducted for style, it is mandatory that the knees and elbows are straight at the top of each lift and that the bell(s) is (are) stopped overhead in order to receive a count from the judge. Girevoy Sport is an Eastern European, cyclic weight-lifting sport, and it is growing very fast in America. As a matter a fact, there is a big competition coming up in Austin on July 6 (Wild West Open).

I have a coach from St. Petersburg, Russia (multiple World Champion and World Class Master of Sport, Denis Vasilev) who does all of my programming. I usually train three times a week for my event (Longcycle); I often work out alone in my garage in order to focus but, sometimes, I get together with other gireviks (Russian for “kettlebell lifters”) in the Austin area at Luke's Barbell Club. I also have a team of lifters I coach, The Girya Courage Club; in Russian, girya means “kettlebell,” and kettlebell gyms are called “courage corners.” It is a Russian-dominated sport, and I have learned from the best Russian athletes, so I like to honor my schooling.

This photo shows me competing in the 2012 World Kettlebell Club Championships in Chicago with a 28-kilogram (62-pound) bell. I came in second place in 28-kilogram Biathlon (Jerk and Snatch) behind a very strong former professional rower from Moldova.

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Ping-Pong: Bob Sherrif

Seth Green once wrote: "All of my activities are so pedestrian. The extreme sport I play is Ping-Pong. And we play it hard. If any of you suckers want to step up to the table, be ready."

It's that attitude my friends, coworkers, and Austinites take when we take to the streets for a ping-pong match. We’ve found that we can mix exercise and a night out into one activity at many bars downtown. Whether it’s a quick game or a four-hour tournament, ping-pong keeps us active and allows us to stay fit with a beer in hand.

The greatest aspect of ping-pong is how “in the moment” you have to be when you play. It reminds me a lot of yoga in that all the things you're dealing with in the day are forgotten. It's fast paced and heavily reliant on natural instincts. Whether or not you win a match, if you are playing an equally good player, there is a lot of enjoyment in a great point. You also meet a lot of people you wouldn't otherwise meet and find an immediate common ground.

Überpong is new way of looking at the second most-popular sport in the world. Our goal is to add creativity and passion behind a beloved game through selling custom paddles with artistic designs and by hosting events around Austin to promote the sport. We just had a huge event at Easy Tiger called “Mortal Pongbat” that showcased how fun a ping-pong tournament can be.

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Pétanque: Arsene Dupin

The game of pétanque is played by over 17 million people, young and old, in France alone. The game goes back as far as ancient Greece and Rome and is a sport as well as a casual game. In Austin, we opened a club in 2008 called The Heart of Texas Pétanque Club. Mayor Lee Leffingwell recently inaugurated the new pétanque courts at Paggi Square Park.

Pétanque is a great sport for kids as well as elders to get and stay in good shape. How? First of all, you get to throw several balls made of stainless steel, each weighing about a pound. The game requires constant bending, standing, kneeling, and head and neck motion, as well as flexibility, rotation of the shoulders, and a sharp mind to stay up with the strategy of the game. Most of the games last at least one hour, and we do play several games, one after the other. Come and play with us to stay in shape in an unusual way.

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Rock Climbing: Nikolette Garcia

Until now, I had never been a part of a sport that requires every portion of your body. Rock climbing is that sport. Along with the obvious fitness benefits, I love this sport because the girls can be just as good as the guys. We go just as hard! There aren't any limitations between the sexes. It's a fair and equal sport where the guys and girls compete side by side. I want more women to become exposed to rock climbing and not be intimidated by the sport because, aside from the literal strength that you build, you also gain inner confidence. My favorite spot in Texas to climb is definitely Reimers Ranch right here in Travis County; it has amazing walls and lines to climb.

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Aerial Silks: Christine Perez

Leave it to the great city of Austin to offer so many different ways to stay fit. I've recently discovered an amazing, challenging way to exercise while having as much fun as I did when I was a kid. I started aerial silks classes a little less than a year ago and have been captivated ever since! This is an incredibly demanding art form that requires a high degree of strength, power, flexibility, courage, and grace to master. Aerial silk artists climb, wrap, twist, spin, suspend, swing, drop, contort, and spiral the body into and out of various positions on fabric curtain sheets that hang from the ceiling.

When I first started, I had absolutely no experience whatsoever. My first class at Sky Candy was “Introduction to Aerial Arts,” where you have the opportunity to sample several apparatuses. By the end of that class, I knew silks was what I wanted to learn. I signed up for my first six-week series and have been taking classes ever since. Workouts utilize your entire body, each muscle playing its role in keeping you balanced, stable, sustained, suspended, and (most importantly) safe. I love the incessant challenge of pushing my body to the next level in order to accomplish feats that once felt impossible and, throughout it all, still feeling that child-like amusement brought about by the simple act of playfulness that, unfortunately, we sometimes lose as adults.

My favorite part of aerial silks is running through sequences that can be used in a performance routine. It’s an opportunity to put together all the individual pieces I’ve learned into a choreographed combination while testing my limits on strength, stamina, flexibility, courage, and poise. I can assemble a variety of sequences that incorporate an array of choices in climbs, transitions, poses, drops, dives, and descents. These aerial compositions are as much fun as they are valuable, providing insight to weaknesses or limitations that indicate where I can strive to make progress.

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Endurance Horseback Riding: Jen Masters

I race my horse in 50-, 75-, and 100-mile races that take place on large ranches all over the United States. You have 12 hours to finish a 50-mile, 16 hours to finish a 75-mile, and 24 hours to finish a 100-mile race. The first horse to cross the finish line is the winner. There are many veterinarians there to make sure your horse is fit enough to complete the race, and you are disqualified if your horse does not pass veterinarian inspection. The sport is so difficult that the motto is, "To finish is to win."

My horse is a 10-year-old purebred Polish Arabian named Jose Baske. He has a 100 percent completion rate in the 50- and 75-mile distances. I have been competing on Jose Baske for six years and have over 1,000 race miles. I utilize interval training to keep him in top condition. I also ride with a heart rate monitor so that I can make sure he is in aerobic exercise for most of the workout. He is the ultimate fit horse!

My next big race is at the Davy Crockett National Forest in October. This photo was taken at a 50-mile ride in Dripping Springs called "Ride the Storm." We finished in seventh place with a ride time of 7 hours and 13 minutes.

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Running Tour Business: Lee Ackerley

Every weekend, I take out groups that range in size from two to over 20 people on running tours throughout the city of Austin. Not only am I staying fit by running 5Ks and 10Ks but I and the other group leaders are also learning a lot about the city through our knowledgeable guides. For example: We can taste the city's different brews on our beer tours, such as the Texas Beer 5K and Black Star 10K. I am a triathlete who has done 15 marathons, three Olympic triathlons, and one Ironman-distance triathlon, and I’m constantly in training. Running and drinking with tourists and locals alike through these unconventional and off-the-wall excursions is a perfect way to explore the city I love and stay fit.

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Strongwoman Competitions: Sarah Snyder

I am a counselor by day and a Strongwoman competitor by night. I used to weigh 300 pounds and, through the love I found in competing in Strongwoman competitions, I have lost 60 pounds. I plan to lose another 40 while doing everything I can to continue to grow my strength.

The short answer [to how I found Strongwoman competitions]is through social media. The longer explanation is that I played for the women’s professional football team the Austin Outlaws many years ago, but when I stopped playing, I gained weight and needed something to occupy my time. I started doing CrossFit, which I enjoyed, but it just wasn't the right fit for me. While I was doing CrossFit, I noticed there was a powerlifting class at the gym, so I started doing powerlifting as well. Eventually, I switched to powerlifting only, because I enjoyed it so much. While I was researching records and who the strongest women in the world are, I came across Becca Swanson, who in turn led me to Jill Mills. Jill lives in San Antonio and won the World's Strongest Woman Competition in 2001 and 2002. Jill was kind enough to invite me down to her ranch to try out Strongwoman events—and I was hooked. She invited me to a competition she was hosting and I’ve never looked back.

Strongwoman is not a popular sport in this area, so there are not enough women or men to have a class. Since June 1, I work out four days a week with a trainer at Woodward CrossFit; his name is Bryan Gordan, and he specializes in Strongman events. On my off days, I work out on my own and do cardio and kettlebells.

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Orienteering: Cyndie Saucer and Jeff Walters

My son and I took an orienteering class so that we would be more comfortable in the woods for trail running, travel, and so on. We then joined the Austin Orienteering Club (AOC) to practice our new map reading and compass skills. At the AOC meet-ups, we quickly fell in love with the sport of orienteering.

Orienteering is about finding your way, even when there is no trail. This basic skill of navigating on land is an important component of training for those who are going to be outside and away from "civilization," from Boy Scouts to adventure racers to military personnel. The sport of orienteering (which consists of finding predetermined points by using a map and compass) began as military training exercises in land navigation. The only required equipment are a compass and some decent trail shoes. This sport is appropriate for all ages, from children to senior citizens, and offers courses from beginner to advanced. While providing an important skill, orienteering is a great way to stay fit while enjoying the outdoors.

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Tandem Surfing: Kathleen Parker

A group of friends and I ski and surf Lake Austin almost all year. On special holidays, we dress for the occasion. At Christmas, we skied and surfed in Santa hats and beards.
On the 4th of July, we ski with flags and dress in our "Uncle Sam" costumes. On Halloween, we go all out in scary costumes!
We are always looking for new tricks to try, so we attempted tandem surfing. We got up on our first try and were able to surf without the rope forever! Who knows what we will attempt this summer? We have some ideas, though!
The surfers in the photo are Chay Newlin (front) and me (in the back).

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