I hate gyms. Not honest gyms in honest neighborhoods, local Ys, rec centers and the like. I mean those vacuum-sealed, 24-hour Temples of Fitness, crowded with clinical weight machines manned by beefy guys with thick brown leather belts strapped around their waists, lined with treadmills and Stairmasters dutifully overseen by serious-looking women with razor-sharp ponytails.
So, early last year I tried something new. Acrofit. It's run by Alvin Tam, a former Cirque acrobat, in a yoga studio at Town Square's Whole Foods. Acrofit is a deceptively simple mix of acrobatics and cardio. Some of the moves are child's play - literally. Cartwheels and forward rolls. Leaps in the air. Hopping on one foot. And yet, very quickly, Acrofit becomes challenging. When you try to turn a forward roll into a pushup, when you try to elongate your legs upside down in mid-cartwheel, when you try to quiet your breathing after an ab-busting set of gentle boat rocks, suddenly you're sucking wind.
Acrofit activates a kid's desire for uncomplicated play, but it appeals to the adult's - this adult's - need for focus and discipline. I may not be ready to take the stage with Cirque du Soleil, but I've found something immeasurably more valuable - the feeling that I am more fully awake, more settled in my own skin.
I tried it. Verdict: I like it. - T.R. Witcher
EA Sports Active for the Wii
Oh god. Please let this be the last rep.
This jump infernal jump machine jump says there are only four more exercises before I can flop down in a sweaty heap. Jump! Oh god. That last leap was only two inches off the ground. Huff! If only this Polly Pocket of a virtual trainer weren't so perky and positive. Lunge! I hate her. Lunge! Isn't there a hunky man trainer? Lunge! Can't we get him on here? Lunge! But I am lunging properly! This thing is so insensitive. Lunge! Really?! Stop telling me I'm not lunging! This is me lunging! Heave! OK, I can shoot some baskets. I like that. Huff! Jump shots? Huff! Jumping will be the death of me. Whoosh! Jumping lunges. Whoosh! Jumping squats. Whoosh! Jumping jumping jumping! Whoosh! But I bet that really tones my butt. Whoosh! Resistance band? Lift. This thing doesn't work. Lift. I should shorten the band. Lift. That would make it harder. Lift. Nope. Lift. Still doesn't work. Lift. These are the weakest back rows ever. Jog jog jog. Great. I got a trophy for a journal entry. Huff. That reward feels as empty huff as my carb-starved stomach. Huff Oh god.
I tried it. Verdict: I like huff some of it; other parts lift not so much. - Maureen Adamo
raw food diet
When I have money to spare and am running low on impulse control, I'll drop by the Go Raw Café in Henderson and drop nine dollars on a pack of raw curry sticks. That's right: nine bucks on a few ounces of uncooked crackers. I would buy a box of saltines if they were equally delicious and good for you. Maybe.
This is not a diet for the lazy and undisciplined eater. In addition to feeling mentally energized and alert, I also felt neurotically preoccupied with what I was going to eat next - the raw diet requires a tremendous amount of preparation and planning. And eating such light fare means eating more often to feel satiated. Without an apple with raw almond butter in tow, I'd get hungry, and my resolve would melt at the mere glimpse of a Doritos bag.
I lasted two and a half days before surrendering to a convenient, delicious - and filling - slice of pizza. But oddly, I missed the grace of uncooked ingredients: massaged kale salad tossed with lemon tahini, ginger miso dressing with unpasteurized soy sauce, chilled avocado and tomato soup.
Not cooking your food is surprisingly time-consuming - not to mention expensive. It takes eight, patient hours to make those addictive crackers they sell at the Go Raw Café. And while raw pad Thai is, indisputably, tastier and more dynamic than the kind you can heat up in a microwave, peeling zucchini into noodles is no 15-minute meal.
I tried it. Verdict: I like it. My wallet and schedule: Not so much. - Sarah Kokernot
About 15 minutes in to the Lohan School of Shaolin's chi gung class I'm doing pretty good, proud of myself for keeping up with the 70-year old man in front of me. Then the instructor says we're done stretching and will now begin the actual chi kung.
Today's practice is baduanjin, or the "Eight Section Brocade." It's eight simple exercises meant to improve general health. We're breathing deeply, extending our hands over our heads or touching our toes. We do a posture called "Drawing the Bow," which requires standing in "horse" stance. (Mime sitting on an invisible chair while carefully aiming an invisible bow and arrow, and you've got it.) I go into a low horse stance to show I'm no newbie. I can feel the burn in my thighs but, otherwise, this is easy stuff.
Suddenly, about the fifth stance in, I start sweating. Soon, it's like someone opened a faucet on my head. I am dripping sweat onto the hardwood floor. I pull the instructor aside. "Look," I say. "I'm a writer. I'm not really supposed to sweat." He says this particular stance is good for people who spend too much time sitting, and gently pushes me back into position.
When it's all done, I feel great. My body is stretched and relaxed. I'm calm from the breathing exercises. I feel a sense of balance and equanimity, and things seem in perspective. The next day, my thighs are so sore that it hurts to move. Chi kung is subtle, but its effects are very real.
I tried it. Verdict: I like it. Ouch. My thighs. - John Hardin
P90X isn't your mother's "Sweatin' to the Oldies." It's a notoriously relentless, 90-day program that combines strength and cardio workouts you can do at home. The only equipment you need: hand weights, a chin-up bar or bands, a yoga mat - oh, and ibuprofen. And lots of courage. Strength workouts emphasize pull-ups and push-ups, done every other day, and yes, they're as intense as everyone says. Particularly intense is the 16-minute Ab Ripper X (which is scary even to say, let alone do). Not brutal enough? On the cardio side, there are plyometrics - imagine leaping around like a rabid kangaroo. The toughest of all the P90X workouts, plyometrics often left me in a puddle of sweat.
Advice: It takes about eight to 10 weeks to see results, so patience is a must. Patience definitely paid off for me. I'm now on my second, 90-day round of P90X - no small feat, considering that I'm the type to give up on a workout program within 2 weeks. I never looked forward to working out, and I do now. I sleep much better at night. I've lost 8 pounds, gained muscle and toned up in places I didn't think possible.
I tried it. Verdict: I [flex] like it. - Kim Taormina
I didn't know there was a name for the ascetic diet I put myself on about once a year, but there is: the "RAVE" diet. It entails going beyond veganism, eschewing all processed or refined foods, and even vegetable oils. It supposedly wards off cancer, heart disease and reality TV.
My regular diet is already about 75 percent vegan. But it includes a lot of breads, a lot of meat substitutes and an occasional night of binge drinking. So last holiday season, instead of partying until my liver shriveled and my stomach burst, I decided to detox. No alcohol, no soda, no dairy - only fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, all raw when possible, for 10 days. Despite early hunger pangs and a weird, dull headache at first, the benefits - increased energy, improved digestion, getting less fat - quickly became obvious. Of course, so was the decreased size of my wallet after every trip to Trader Joe's.
Will I ever go fully vegan? Hard to say, but so far, no cancer, no heart disease, and no "Real Housewives" to be seen anywhere. That's a start.
I tried it. Verdict: I like it. Once a year, anyway. - Pj Perez
After a night of suffering from yet another migraine that ended with a hip injection of Phenergan and Benadryl, I tried a holistic approach my mother had often suggested: acupressure.
In the 10-minute procedure, the acupressurist cleaned my ear and fitted it with brass "seeds" that corresponded with the pains in my body. Then she squeezed each of the seeds until my ear was hot and ringing. She smiled as she told me that I'd need to apply the same amount of pressure to my ear every three hours.
My initial skepticism and pain aside, the procedure did seem to begin to work about three days later. It's not perfect, and pinching the hell out of your ear every three hours is not fun. But, after a few weeks of using it, I've had only one headache.
I tried it. Verdict: My ear doesn't like it, but I do. - Maureen Gregory