Bored of the gym - Plan your new years resolutions
Bored of the Gym? Get Extreme
Words by Mary Sweeney. Photography by Rob Grist
The start of a New Year is often synonymous with well-intentioned people arming themselves with a resolution to become fighting fit. A few months later, it’s less gym bunny, and more ‘mad as a March hare’ when you realise you were completely crazy to think you were going to become a fitness club fanatic. Consign the gym to the bin and usher in the dawn of a new decade with a fresh kind of New Year’s resolution: getting lean by being extreme.
Promoting health and fitness through extreme sports is an ethos that the entire SPIKED team believes in and practices, including myself – not only do I play roller derby, but I’m also a 1st Degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I think extreme sports hold their enthusiasts in thrall not only because they thrill, but also because they challenge your concept of fear, and help you to control it, and not let it control you.
Facing a challenge, working with it, and overcoming it is one of the most gratifying things you can do, and it pay dividends in other areas of your life. When you’re an extreme sports enthusiast, you’re not only getting physically fit, but you’re getting a mental and emotional workout too. It’s holistic – encompassing and strengthening all areas of a person. So, whether it’s on land, water or snow, there’s an extreme sport for all types - so check out SPIKED’s guide to the sports you should sample in 2010…
What is it:Put simply, the art of movement. Parkour, or l'art du déplacement, is a physical discipline that requires the practitioner to overcome obstacles in their path by adapting to the physical environment around them.
Participants - known as traceurs (male)or traceuses (female) – follow a route in the most efficient way possible, running and negotiating anything along that route through jumps, climbing, and other specific parkour moves – although the philosophy of the art would reason that there are no ‘set’ moves as such, as it depends on terrain and individual technique.
Then and now:If you hadn’t guessed already, it’s French. In the early 20th century, former French naval officer Georges Hébert travelled the worldextensively and was impressed by the skillful movements of indigenous peoples in Africa, saying, “Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, resistant and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature.” He developed his ‘natural method’ (méthode naturelle) of physical education, which became part of French military training.
Raymond Belle, a soldier, inspired his son, David, with his stories of heroism in his firefighter and military training. David Belle and childhood pal, Sébastien Foucan, took Raymond’s ideals of physical dexterity to the next level - and parkour is the end result. Belle and Foucan are considered to be the fathers of modern parkour– they started with the legendary Yamakasi group in 1997. The movement now has many talented traceurs and traceuses across the world.
Benefits:Practitioners have heightened spatial awareness, fluidity of body movement, and the ability to use their ‘bodymind’ to tailor their movements according to the obstacle en route.
Where can I try it?www.parkourgenerations.comis run by leading UK instructors and original parkour practitioners. They work with schools, social organisations, and councils all over the UK, offering indoor and outdoor tuition for all ages, levels, male and female.
What is it:A hybrid of surfing, water skiing, and snowboarding, this water sport involves riding a wakeboard across the surface of a body of water, i.e. a lake. Wakeboarders are towed along by a motorboat at speeds of between 18-24 mph, performing moves such as the ‘tootsie roll’, ‘batwing’, or ‘hoochie glide’, amongst many others.
Board design has evolved since the 1980s and tends to favour a twin-tipped design (rounded at both ends), as opposed to a traditional surfboard set-up, and have bindings for the wakeboarder’s feet, and fins.
Then and now:The sport’s original incarnation was ‘skurfing’, pioneered in New Zealand in the 70s by Allan Byrne and Kevin Jarrett. Australian surfing enthusiast Bruce McKee invented the first mass-produced board called the ‘McSki’, later known as the ‘SSS skiboard’, and finally, the ‘Wake-Snake’. McKee and his friend Mitchell Ross negotiated to bring the board to the US market, and it launched in 1984. San Diego surfer Tony Finn later launched a board called the ‘Skurfer’. Canadian and former pro Paul Fraser is unofficially credited with coining the name, ‘wakeboarding’. In 1989, The World Skiboard Association was founded, (later changing its name to the World Wakeboard Association) with Hawaii playing host to the first World Skiboard Championships.
Benefits:Wakeboarders develop improved hand-eye co-ordination, reaction timing, and versatility. The sport also gifts enthusiasts with increased flexibility, strengthened arm & leg muscles. Beginners should expect to take the odd tumble into the water, so you should be a competent swimmer.
Where can I try it?www.llski.com is home to the Liquid Leisure Waterski and Wakeboard School, run by former British wakeboard record holder, Stuart Marston, who has 20 years combined experience in wakeboarding and waterskiing.
What is it:You’d be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t know about ice hockey. Even though it’s a minority sport in the UK, its popularity in North American culture means Britons have come to see the sport through TV and film imports.
A contact sport played on ice skates, two teams play against each other to direct a puck into the other team’s goal using sticks. As it’s a full contact sport, protection is taken very seriously and players are kitted out to the max: helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouthguard, protective gloves, heavily padded shorts, athletic cup/jock strap, shin pads, and an optional neck protector. Men’s ice hockey has been a Winter Olympic sport since 1920, with the women’s game making its’ debut at the 1998 Games.
Then and now:The origins of the game come from various games played in Canada by natives, British soldiers, and European immigrants - Scotland’s shinty, Ireland’s hurling, and native stick and ball games with exotic names such as tooadijikand wolchamaadijik. Try saying those with a mouthguard in. The first recorded ice hockey game was played in the 1850s, with Montreal students drawing up the first ruleset in the 1870s. The turn of the century saw the start of professional ice hockey leagues, and the National Hockey League (NHL) came into being in 1917. The two main competitive leagues in Britain are the Elite Ice Hockey League and the English Premier Ice Hockey League, and there are also a number of adult, youth, and junior teams across the UK.
Benefits:Agility, mental focus, teamwork, builds strength in leg and arm muscles, and gives you a confidence boost.
Where can I try it?Ice Hockey UK is the national governing body of the sport – contact them for information on how to get started with your local team: www.icehockeyuk.co.uk.
What is it:One of THE most popular snowsports out there. A fusion of skateboarding, skiing, and surfing, it originated in the US in the 1960s, and exploded in popularity in the 1990s. There are various styles in the fields of recreational and competitive snowboarding, but the main styles practiced are ‘freeride’ (simply riding down terrain, suitable for beginners), ‘freestyle’ (performing tricks), and the slalom-race form known as ‘freecarve’.
Then and now:The prototype snowboard was known as a ‘Snurfer’ and was devised by Michigan’s Sherman Poppen as a toy for his daughter. Inventors and pioneers of the first snowboards include Dimitrije Milovich, the late Sonny Sini, and Jake Burton Carpenter. 1982 saw the advent of the first Snowboard Race in Vermont, and the World Championship halfpipe competition took place in the following year. The International Snowboard Association was founded in 1994. It almost seems unthinkable that there was a time when snowboarders were not welcome – but back in 1985, a mere 7% of US ski slopes allowed snowboarders at their resorts. And it’s not just boys and their toys – a quarter of snowboarders are female.
Benefits:The sport uses various muscle groups that are underused in a typical Western sedentary lifestyle – so, all the more reason to try it! Core abdominal muscles are worked to provide stability while boarding, leg muscles get a workout to help steer or stop the board, while feet and ankles are used for balance. An hour of snowboarding burns between 200 – 600 calories on average – competitive snowboarding burns even more.
Where can I try it?John Nike Leisuresport run snowboarding centres around the UK and lessons are available for both juniors and adults - visit www.jnll.co.uk.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
What is it:MMA (sometimes called cagefighting) is a full-contact combat sport that incorporates grappling and striking techniques from the martial arts traditions. Practitioners must be able to fight in standing and on-the-ground positions – and because of this, mixed martial artists study techniques from various martial arts to become multidisciplinary fighters. Victory is usually declared through submission or knockout.
Then and now:The birth of MMA can be traced back as far the 1900s when various mixed style fighting contests took place in Japan and Europe. In the 1920s, the infamous Gracie family started their martial arts tournaments. A Japanese combat sport, Shooto, held similar contests in the late 80s, and the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) were founded in 1993, which brought MMA to a global audience. The term ‘mixed martial arts’ was coined by UFC commentator and former Greco-Roman wrestler, Jeff Blatnick. The sport is male-dominated, but does have its share of formidable female fighters. And you don’t have to be a competitor to practice MMA – supporters state that the training is suitable for everyone.
Benefits:Varied, as you would expect from such a multidisciplinary sport. Mixed martial artists work on stamina, speed, agility, and core muscle training, as well as sparring opponents, learning moves, and body conditioning.
Where can I try it?Staffed by instructors who have competed professionally in the martial arts world, the ZT Fight Skool is based on the South Coast and offers kids and adults classes in MMA as well as a variety of other martial arts - visit www.ztfightskool.com.
What is it:An all-female contact sport involving quad skating around a track. Matches (or ‘bouts’ as they are known) consist of two teams of four defensive ‘blockers’ and a ‘jammer’ – the point scorer. On the first whistle, the pack set off, and the jammers go on the second whistle. Jammers score points every time they lap the pack – it’s the pack’s aim to make sure the opposing jammer doesn’t get through. But it’s not a free-for-all – any savvy derby team will have plenty of strategies and tactics to use on-track. Players assume tongue-in-cheek trackside monikers, don individualised team costumes, and plenty of protective gear – helmet, mouthguard, wrist, knee, and elbow guards.
Then and now:Chicago entrepreneur Leo Seltzer drew inspiration from the bicycle marathons of the 1930s and day-long skating races, incorporating their entertainment elements into his newly created spectacle sport. New York sports writer Damon Runyon encouraged Seltzer to change the rules and make an entertaining endurance competition into a full-contact, team sport. The Texas Rollergirls pioneered the modern revival in 2003, and there are now hundreds of leagues across the US. The UK derby scene has exploded over the past four years – teams are starting up almost every month across the country, which ties in well with the sport’s DIY ethic. The first European derby tournament, Roll Britannia, took place at London’s Earls Court in 2009, and the UK derby calendar is already getting busy for 2010.
Benefits:Skating a track at speed (with a team!) provides players with great cardiovascular exercise, as well as strength, speed, agility, and the ability to teamwork. Like all extreme sports, a certain amount of fearlessness is involved – one of the first things players learn is how to fall safely. Perseverance goes hand-in-hand with derby – when you hit the floor, you have to get up ASAP. And of course, your skating abilities in general improve no end. Most derby players have a background of childhood recreational skating, but the sport also attracts former figure skaters, roller hockey players, and total beginners.
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