Forget yoga, never mind Spinning—try returning to the exercise of the past.

Forget yoga, never mind Spinning — try returning to the exercise of the past

I wasn’t sure I would recover from my last gym slump. The cardio machines looked like rows of torture devices to me and I swore if one more person waxed poetic about yoga, I was liable to rain all over their prana parade. Then I saw them: roller skates, the real four-wheel deal. And I knew it was time to revisit the joy I felt in my youth—those years when I had fun first and exercise was a pleasant byproduct. It was time for a little retro-cise!


Rollerskating • AerobicsBalletBowling



Visions of disco ball-lit skating parties resurfaced when I met Alyson McMullen, owner of Toronto’s RollerBug Skate Co., and captain/founder of the Smoke City Betties Roller Derby team. After one loop around the rink, my ’80s buzz was full-on.

Getting started: Compared to inline skates, some find roller skates are easier to control. McMullen, 25, who only started a few years ago, says that the feminine, sexy side of skating appealed to her. “I was not particularly sporty and roller skating was an activity to do in my free time, or on my way somewhere.”

Skate along your local boardwalk or give indoor skating a whirl. The Yahoo Canada Directory lists rinks in your area, but call first to ensure they are still operating. Rink fees are about $6, plus rentals (another $1–$3).

Most rinks offer skating lessons, says Heino Themann, coach, former competitive skater and co-owner of Coachlite Roller Gardens in Oshawa, Ont. He recommends novices sign up for five group lessons at $35 total (if you prefer private lessons, they’re $24/hour).

Equipment: Check out the pro shop at your local rink or order your skates online through RollerGirl Rollerskates Inc. or RollerBug Skate Co. A quality recreational pair costs about $130. Indoor and outdoor wheels can be switched with a ratchet. Shock-absorbent wheels for outdoor skating cost, on average, $30–$70. Skates can be customized with designs and colourful wheels and laces.

Safety: You’ll likely take a tumble, so wrist guards are necessary (and a mouth guard for Roller Derby). A helmet and knee and elbow pads are also recommended.

Benefits: According to Roller Skating Association International, “Roller skating is equivalent to jogging, in terms of health benefits: caloric consumption, reduction of body fat and leg-strength development.” But it’s easier on the joints than jogging. A quick warning: the benefits match the intensity of your workout—a lazy skate is a lazy stroll.

Roller Derby: With the release of A&E’s Rollergirls (a reality show that follows a five-team all-girl league in Austin, Tex.), Roller Derby teams are springing up in Canadian cities. “It’s an outlet for women to compete and express an aggressive part of their personality while still being presented as sexy and feminine,” says McMullen. If you’re interested, ask around and check in with your local rinks for more info.

Rollerskating • AerobicsBalletBowling
Rollerskating • Aerobics • BalletBowling



When I purchased Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout (circa 1989 and recently rereleased on DVD), I was not nearly prepared for the time travel. Big hair abounds, as do scrunch socks and really bad music. But once you get past the cheese, you’ll definitely sweat.

Getting started: Eighties high/low aerobics involved marching, running, kicking, jumping jacks and moves such as the pony, the twist and the shuffle, says Taj Harris, a group fitness manager for Crunch Fitness in NYC. “Today’s aerobic classes are more centred on equipment or they are dance-based, such as hip-hop, Latin, ballet and Broadway.” Shop online for ’80s workouts; videos cost as little as $8.

Equipment: A mat/towel, ankle weights or dumbbells. Spandex optional.

Safety: “High-impact aerobics can put a lot of stress on your joints and back,” warns Harris. Your heart rate can often go above its maximum for extended periods of time, putting you in an anaerobic state. Low-impact uses a gentler approach. Pay attention to your body, vary your schedule, rest between workouts and drink lots of water.

Benefits: Aerobic exercise helps protect you against health problems, improves your mood and manages stress, says Harris. You’ll shed pounds and tone up. For best results, do 30 minutes of cardio three times a week.


Rollerskating • Aerobics • BalletBowling
RollerskatingAerobics • Ballet • Bowling



My first foray into athletics—a year of dance lessons that led to 12 years of white tutu’d recitals—came in 1977. Yet, as I paid for my pre-beginner class at Toronto’s Dance-Teq, I was shaking. Luckily, after 45 minutes at the barre it all came back. Here’s how to tendu your way to getting tone:

Getting started: “An aerobics instructor making up a fitness ballet class after taking a course is not the same as an established instructor with a ballet background,” says Dance-Teq’s Melissa Bierstock, a ballet teacher and ex-professional dancer. Contact your local ballet company (check the listings at the Yahoo Canada Directory) and ask for recommendations.

Lessons with a start and end date are best for beginners. At drop-in studios, start a pre-beginner class in January or September, when most students are new. Lessons cost $14–$20 for 90 minutes. Once a week is good, says Bierstock, but twice is effective.

Equipment: Socks and workout clothes are adequate for your first class. Afterward, leggings or classic pink tights paired with a leotard or exercise top cost $60–$100. Ballet slippers are $25–$45.

Safety: “You need to be in a healthy place to start ballet because the positions are difficult,” says Bierstock. A good instructor adjusts your positioning and ensures you’re at the right level. Expect to feel soreness but not pain. Stretch 10 minutes before and after class. And make sure you ask questions if anything is unclear.

Benefits: Ballet involves cardio, balance, control, flexibility and strengthening, along with a weight-bearing element, says Bierstock. “You’re upright and moving through space, standing, jumping and turning.” Results? Lengthened muscles and a streamlined appearance.

DIY: The New York City Ballet Workout is an at-home alternative for those with some ballet knowledge. For newbies, Bierstock cautions that “you may be doing incorrect positions and hurting yourself.” Since videos don’t give feedback, she suggests checking in regularly with an instructor.


RollerskatingAerobics • Ballet • Bowling
RollerskatingAerobicsBallet • Bowling



During Disco Friday at World Bowl in Richmond Hill, Ont., my two-handed roll-the-ball-from-between-my-legs stance wasn’t cutting it, so I took a one-hour lesson with coach Eric Yuen. Here’s the scoop:

Getting started:Proper equipment and technique are key. If you’re bowling beyond the odd walk down memory lane, take a lesson. A one-on-one at $35–$75 an hour will give you an overview, but Yuen recommends four lessons to cover the basics. Lane time costs about $3.50 per game or $15–$28 an hour.

Equipment: Bowling shoes look cool, but rentals can be smelly. Also, your game will improve with your own ball. Here’s what to expect when stocking up at a pro shop: Shoes: $50–$350 Top-of-the-line shoes are leather, breathable and feature different soles. A right-hander slides with the left foot and vice versa, so the sliding side sports a buckskin leather bottom. For beginners, a basic same-soled pair will do.

  • Wrist device: $30 (for a basic one). It reduces injury and helps preset your hand position.
  • Ball: $95–$300 A ball should weigh 10 percent of your body weight (balls range from 6–16 lb.). The conventional fit for beginners: the thumb goes all the way into the hole and the middle and ring fingers to the knuckle joint with the palm flat on the ball’s surface. The holes should fit like rings. Strain or stress on your hand signals an incorrect fit.
  • Bag: $35–$60 Durable, with enough space for one ball and one pair of shoes.

Safety: A sore neck, shoulder or back can result from incorrect positioning and the wrong ball. If renting, try to find the best fit.

Benefits: Recreational bowling is neither a major cardio nor muscle workout, but it gets you active and builds balance, focus, concentration and coordination.

Finding a coach: Inquire at a pro shop or a reputable bowling centre or try the online United States Bowling Congress.


RollerskatingAerobicsBallet • Bowling