No one can forget the awkwardness of middle school gym class: the drama, the deflated equipment and always being picked last. Now grown-ups in Wichita can relive the games and forget the gawkiness with fitness classes that reflect the pastimes of childhood.
Here are three ways adults in Wichita are stepping back into their youth for fitness and fun.
Most adults only encounter hula hoops off the playground at performances, where dancers twirl flaming rings and show off tricks. Christina Duncan, owner of alternative fitness center Flow Foundry, uses this form of object manipulation as a workout.
“This style of movement keeps you engaged because it’s fun,” said Duncan, 33. “You’re not dreading going to the gym or meeting with a trainer; it’s just fun.”
Participants pick out a hoop for the hour-long class, then the fun starts. Duncan teaches the basics and keeps the group flowing between hoop transitions, turns and tricks, while upholding core strength and balance.
These aren’t the hula hoops you remember. The hoop glides between arms and cycles through different movements, like a dance, instead of staying at the waist.
The hoops are slightly heavier than playground hoops, but this aids balance. People who can’t keep a plastic hoop up can have Duncan’s handmade hoops circulating the whole hour.
“People don’t come with the goal in mind to burn calories, they come with an open mind to try something that catches their attention,” Duncan said. “I think it makes a big difference when people come because it’s fun.”
Most of Duncan’s students join after seeing a performer execute tricks, so the classes help them learn and practice at each level.
“The whole time we’re processing tricks, our bodies are moving and our minds can rest while our bodies work on something else. Hoops can burn around 300 calories an hour, but it more or less depends on the person,” Duncan said. “It’s called flow art, and it requires you to have life and movement so you can give life to these objects. This hoop keeps me busy; it’s like a dance partner who’s always available.”
There are more health benefits than at first glance. Duncan has been working with hoops for over five years and still loves watching people grow.
“There’s amazing transformations of people weight-wise or muscle-wise. Even for skinny people with little muscle or balance, hoops can develop them. But for me, the opportunity to quiet my mind has helped the most, it helps me focus and think clearly.”
Michelle Thomas, 48, has worked with hoops for three months.
“I’ve been just walking for a while and wanted more upper body strength, and hoops help with that,” Thomas said. “But it’s fun because you learn a skill and a new trick to show off.”
Thomas initially joined the classes for fitness, but returns each week for the community that develops between class members.
“I’m new to (hoop classes), but I see it as very welcoming and loving. We encourage each other in class and on Facebook,” Thomas said. “You don’t find people being negative to each other.”
Thomas’ positive community supports her commitment to fitness, which pays off physically and mentally.
“My arms are getting stronger, I have more balance in my life and I feel a lot more self-confident. I’m free to be myself there, and they encourage that.”
Students at Flow Foundry range from children coming with moms to people in their 50s. The community meets at parks and Final Fridays in Wichita to hang out and share hoop tricks.
“There’s no cap on how many tricks you’ll learn through life,” Duncan said. “Once you nail a trick there’s always another trick or combination to work on. That’s the real reward.”
Hula hoop movement classes are taught from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights at Flow Foundry, 3135 W. Maple, for $10 a class.
Dynamic workouts can bounce both athletes and beginners out of gym ruts with a little creativity. Trampoline fitness classes for adults are migrating to Kansas in two trampoline parks, first at Get Air Wichita, which opened in May, and at Urban Air, which is scheduled to open in December.
“This is just a different way to do a workout because the class is up to the instructor, so they can do glow-in-the-dark fitness or ’80s themed. Yes, we’re working out, but they put a spin on it to have fun with your friends,” said Jon Becker, 39, owner of Urban Air. “You smile and work out really hard, but you don’t stop laughing the whole time.”
Trampoline classes, like at Urban Air franchises, push participants to lift medicine balls or pull bungee cords while on individual trampolines, which are safer than large trampolines that risk double bouncing others, Becker said. Participants perform high jumps, squats, pushups and lifts with foam cubes, but the environment is unstable the whole hour.
“Most people can burn close to 1,000 calories an hour since it’s a fine motor and fine muscle workout with cardio,” Becker said. “You use the bounce and spring of the trampoline.”
There are no limitations in classes other than the individual’s abilities. “My wife and I are getting older, but we’ve done the boot camps and 5K classes” at Urban Air, Becker said. “You’re sore in places you didn’t realize you had muscles, but it’s much less stressful on joints.”
Other Urban Air franchises see sports teams that work out together away from the gym, or parents who bring their kids to jump while they exercise.
“Coaches are more interested in the team building aspect, but we’re disguising the workout with a lot of fun and camaraderie,” Becker said. “There’s always a lot of chatter on Facebook, so people will get a group and go together. It’s a great social environment.”
Instructors utilize the variety in trampoline fitness – they take requests and tailor to specific needs.
“A lot of workout classes in regular gyms are geared toward females, but these classes aren’t restricted like that,” Becker said. Urban Air facilities “have flat screens around the space, so we can watch WSU basketball or the Royals while we work out. Dads that want to selfishly watch sports can bring the kids or the guys can come watch the game in a fun way.”
Get Air, 130 N. New York, opened in May and offered trampoline fitness classes earlier this year; they will start again soon. For more information, visit www.getairwichita.com.
Urban Air, 8545 W. Irving, will open in early December with classes starting soon after opening. For more information, visit www.urbanairtrampolinepark.com.
What do you get when you mix together flag football and Frisbee golf? Ultimate Frisbee.
“If you can throw and catch a Frisbee, you can be good at it,” said Travis Cook, 27. “It doesn’t require a lot of skill so it’s pretty easy to have teams made of varying skill levels and still be fun.”
Cook started coordinating Ultimate games on Mondays in the fall of 2012. The game started socially between coworkers from Koch Industries, but ended up as a workout in disguise.
“I can share the sentiment of wanting to get exercise without sitting in a gym,” Cook said. “It’s more fun to play a game than work out by myself.”
Ultimate Frisbee is simple with little skill necessary: Players toss a Frisbee between teammates to score in the end zone without tackling or dropping the Frisbee.
“It’s low-impact, non-contact, and it’s a game that lends itself to being co-ed if enough people play,” Cook said.
The group meets at 6 p.m. at the grass field south of Koch Arena. Usually eight to 12 novice and intermediate players show up, but the group can play with more.
“Ultimate has the same benefits as running. We’ve put on pedometers and somebody wore a running-tracker and we ended up doing about 3 miles of sprints during the evening,” Cook said. “And it obviously improves Frisbee throwing technique.”
The Ultimate Mondays group is open to the public and meets on Mondays at 6 p.m. at the field south of Koch Arena, corner of 21st and Hillside. Visit www.pickupultimate.com for more information.