The summer after my freshman year of college, I was in the worst shape of my 19 years so far. I grew up dancing, but once that stopped, I went down a dark hole of unhealthy habits which included a complete lack of exercise, poor food choices and a lack of confidence. It wasn’t until I started going to a trainer that I learned how much better I would feel and how much fun exercising would be. Six years later, I am in the best shape — although it naturally fluctuates — and I love so many forms of exercising and trying new ones. I am a huge lover of yoga, but it’s time to let the other exercise practices shine.
Here are some exercises that can take you into the new year and your new lifestyle goals, whatever those may be.
People either love or hate running — nothing in between. Running is an intense cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise that you can do indoors on the treadmill or outside in nature. It’s an accessible, inexpensive (even free) exercise. The main muscles that running targets are the glutes, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves and the muscles in your core. But it’s important to keep in mind to start off slow and then build your way up when you’re first beginning. Don’t run 2 miles on your very first day with no preparation. Always warm up before and cool down afterward.
Where you can do it: Trails in Bangor (a list can be found on bangormaine.gov), Planet Fitness, YMCA and at home.
Barre classes are all level with low-impact movements that are great for those with injuries. Classes are a balance of strength training and muscle toning, and the barre is used as a balance point as you hold your body still while targeting specific muscles. You work on your triceps (lighter weights are used for curls), glutes and calves (from plies and leg raises), chest, abs and back, in addition to smaller muscles you may not have heard of. Kara Cyr, trainer at LA Training and BarSculpt instructor at Om Land Yoga, said barre also targets the psoas muscles that run through your hips and lower back, the transverse abs that act as your “corset” muscles, your obliques along your side and your rhomboids in your upper back. Cyr said a barre class is great for the elderly because you create bone density with light weights and your own body weight. Athletes such as runners and skiiers benefit from the class because it helps build muscles slowly without putting too much stress on the knee, and builds those small muscles in the ankles and legs. There are different forms of barre like BarSculpt which vary in structure and tempo but are all based on the same movements.
Where you can do it: LA Training, Om Land Yoga (Brewer location) and Gold’s Gym.
According to Amy Pozzy, certified Stott pilates instructor and owner of Beyond Movement with Pilates, Pilates works your whole body “in every plane of motion.” Pozzy said Pilates works your core and stabilizing muscles, helping you stay upright and improve your posture. Similar to yoga, Pilates requires you to be mindful of your body’s movements and increases focus and awareness. As I wrote in our March issue, mindfulness can help induce relaxation and reduce stress. Different forms of Pilates are done with reformer machines or chairs to increase resistance to strengthen muscles and work on your balance.
Where you can do it: Beyond Movement with Pilates, Body Wise Pilates, LA Training and Bangor Region YMCA.
Zumba is an aerobic interval exercise inspired by various types of Latin American dance. Zumba combines cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility through a series of choreographed steps and twists, according to Zumba Fitness. Classes are a mix of low-intensity and high-intensity slow and fast rhythmic moves with result in a total workout for the body. An alternative to Zumba is STRONG by Zumba which combines body weight, muscle conditioning and cardio moves Each move goes to the beat of the music. According to the STRONG by Zumba official site, polymetric moves such as high knees, burpees and jumping jacks are interchanged with isometric moves such as lunges, squats and kickboxing. Although it can be a more intensive workout than a regular Zumba class, both are equally rewarding.
Where you can do it: Sunshine’s Fitness Studio & Wellness Center and Bangor Region YMCA.
Circuit and Interval Training
Circuit training is targeted toward getting more of a full body workout. Usually a circuit training session consists of 10 to 12 exercises with eight rounds each with cardio, usually at the end. Miles Gagnon, performance and movement coach at Hybrid Health & Performance, said most people can do circuit training, and most exercises can be modified. Some exercises he suggests are goblet squats (quads), chest press (chest muscles), biking (quads, hamstrings) side planks (obliques, shoulders and upper back) and rows (biceps, middle back and shoulders). Gagnon said interval training is more high intensity, and cardio is usually involved. You will typically do 10 seconds of intense exercise such as sprinting, jumping rope and aggressive bicycling followed by a rest that’s at least 20 seconds or more. It’s more about the exercise being short and intense and doing as many as you can and requires more demand on the cardiovascular system. Interval training is more designating toward athletes or those preparing for a fitness competition.
Where you can do it: Hybrid Health & Performance, Wilcox Wellness & Fitness, Bangor Region YMCA, Union Street Athletics and LA Training.
I cannot make a list without adding some yoga. What’s so wonderful about yoga is that it’s easily accessible to everyone at every age. Some yoga classes are higher intensity, but then you have restorative and yin, which really help you stretch out and get centered after a stressful week. Holly Twining, owner of Maine Yoga Adventures and teacher at Om Land Yoga, said beginners should start with gentle classes and work their way up to more challenging classes over time. She said for older yogis who have trouble getting on and off the floor, chair yoga is a get alternative, but the most important piece is to just start. Aerial yoga is another great type of yoga practice because you are working with a hammock and gravity will help with stretches that you can’t get on the mat. The same applies to partner yoga which helps expand muscles that you can’t normally do yourself. Some poses Twining suggests are figure four laying on your back or bringing our knees toward your chest to open up your hips. Practicing cat and cow (which you do on all fours and requires you to round then arch your spine) helps with taking tightness out of the back (as long as you cushion your knees). Forward fold is also great (and one of my personal favorites) for releasing your hamstrings and torso. Also, yoga is great for doing at home as well as outdoors. Twining — who does many of her adventures outdoors — said it helps you to connect with nature as well as aids your deep breathing, mind clearing and balance challenges.
Where you can do it: Outside in a park, at home, Gold’s Gym, LA Training, Om Land Yoga and Bangor Region YMCA.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s January/February 2020 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.