Snowboard sans snow. Or wakeboard without water—whatever your board-sports fantasy, the Indo Board balance trainer provides some serious off-season conditioning or just a fun workout. At the class I took at Crunch Fitness, we learned how to balance the flat, egg-shaped Indo Board on what looked like a miniature Bosu ball, and then, in a leap of faith, to actually plant one foot on either side of the board and balance without touching the ground. Our instructor soon had us incorporating other pieces of equipment—a weighted body bar and squishy ball—to work our arms and upper body muscles even as our lower bodies were shifting to avoid tipping over. Even for the balance-impaired, most of the exercises, including squats on the board and sit-ups and push-ups putting one arm or leg on the board, could be picked up in a few tries. The only one that passed me by: standing on one leg while passing the squishy ball back and forth between each hand. My core and lower body got a fantastic workout, and at the end, when we replaced the Bosu-like fulcrum with a hard roller, I got a sense of what it would be like to actually take off down the trail or in the waves. Luckily, we could hang on to the wall.
Fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Specifically, like a member of Cirque du Soleil, which helped (along with Reebok) to develop the class called Jukari Fit to Fly that I took at Equinox Fitness. (It's at other gyms, too.) I've considered and rejected the idea of taking a real flying trapeze class because I'm sure I'd be too chicken, so I was pleased to realize that we would not be suspended many feet off the ground or hanging by our knees. Using a piece of equipment called the FlySet, basically a bar suspended by straps from the ceiling, we warmed up and performed modified pull-ups and other upper body and core exercises. The instructor then taught us how to catch some air in the segment of the class that lifted our heartbeats—we held on to the bar, first ran forward, then quickly backward, jumped up, and, for a few seconds, our feet left the floor before we landed gracefully. Later on we took the bar away, hit the floor, and used the contraption's loops for push-ups and lower-body work—including doing an abs-busting plank with our hands on the ground in a push-up position and our feet in the loops. The high point was the chance to simply spin 360 degrees in the air, around and around, before the class ended.
Practice like an athlete. I never particularly envied my high school football team's late-August workouts; those conditioning programs frankly looked punishing. But I found my inner halfback at Velocity Sports Performance, which aims to develop overall fitness, including speed, strength, and agility, to improve performance in youth, college, pro, recreational, and even armchair athletes, whatever the sport. In the class I took, whose participants included a 10k runner and a squash player aiming to improve his footwork, we used a 35-yard indoor track straightaway to warm up and then build intensity over the course of an hour. That included agility work (quick footwork through a rope ladder placed on the ground and hopping over minihurdles), sprints up and down the track, and, toward the end, working with a partner to push a 45-pound weighted sled. Our coach said he matches difficulty to participants' abilities; he rated our class a 6 on a 1-to-10 scale of intensity. (That 6 was the hardest class I took in my sampling of fantasy workouts, so I have plenty of room to improve.) I took a class in Manhattan; find locations at velocitysp.com.