Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Holidays 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve: the holiday trifecta that goes hand-and-hand with binge eating and drinking.

Before you make a New Year’s resolution to pound the treadmill or take a spin on the exercise bike consider these more contemporary — and imaginative — alternatives to shaping up and shedding those holiday pounds.

Barre: A hybrid workout that combines ballet-inspired moves with elements of Pilates, dance, yoga and strength training using the ballet barre.

“I love this class,” said Jamie Beck, a student in Mirabel LaLonde’s Total Barre Endurance class at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. “I took ballet one year as a child but my mother was mad because we didn’t have a recital so we didn’t go back. Now I feel like I’m taking some kind of ballet again.”

The retired public health nurse from Traverse City signed up for the fitness class – her first – to lose weight, but soon discovered she loved its exercise routines, music, and its social aspects. Now she takes three barre classes a week.

Besides the barre, LaLonde’s students use equipment like fitness balls, resistance TheraBands and hand-held weights to improve balance and stability, build strength, increase flexibility and burn calories.

Barre fitness is a good option for beginners, said the instructor, who encourages students in her class to do as much – or as little – as they’re able to while building up to the full 50-minute workout.

More basic and advanced barre classes also are offered as part of the college’s Forever Fit program. Students can sign up for from one to six hours a week and mix and match the classes.

“The first class is free so you can try it out and see if you like it,” LaLonde said.

Cardio drumming: A workout that consists of drumming with drumsticks on a set of fitness balls on stands, in movements choreographed to music.

“We use three balls on buckets so it’s actually like a drum set,” said Cheryl Send, a personal trainer, Zumba and Drums Alive — Cardio Drumming instructor, and owner of Bodies in Motion in Traverse City. “It’s a good upper body workout, and if the drumming is simpler you might add feet (movements).”

Send teaches three morning classes a week and said no experience is necessary. But beware: drumming to music by the likes of Electric Light Orchestra, Rihanna and Fleetwood Mac can occupy the mind so intensely you might forget you’re getting a physical workout.

“It’s just fun,” said Jo Crampton, one of a handful of women dubbed the “varsity team” who have taken Send’s classes since they began in 2018. “Cheryl picks out some great music, some you haven’t heard for years, and you find yourself singing along.

“And it’s a bunch of great ladies. You may go in in a bad mood but you don’t come out that way. It’s a great hour of the day and a great start to the day.”

Crampton, owner of Willow Vineyard in Suttons Bay, joined her first class to build up her middle-age arms, shoulders and upper body. Now she takes classes all three days.

“I tried to do some stuff at home, like aerobics, but I’m definitely one of those people who needs a group,” she said.

“It’s definitely made a difference and it helps you shed pounds. It’s an aerobic exercise so your heart is going and you work up a good sweat.”

First-timers can try a drop-in class for $15 and then purchase a punch card for either six or ten sessions. The cards also are good for the studio’s Zumba classes.

Aerial arts: A workout that combines artistry with acrobatics on a variety of aerial apparatus including silks, hoops and trapezes.

“People see it on TV, they see the Cirque du Soleil and then they start to research it and find it’s a great form of exercise, of expression,” said Beckey Burden, owner of Water’s Edge Gymnastics in Traverse City, which offers an adult aerial arts class one evening a week.

“Aerial silks is the most popular — what people think of when they see Cirque du Soleil.”

Hopefuls take a one-time, one-hour class that covers safety issues, like how to get on and off the equipment. Then they can take individual classes for $20 each or enroll in a six-week session.

“Some people think, ‘I’m not going to be strong enough’ or ‘I’m not going to be able to climb this.’ But we have women in their 50s who do this,” said Burden, adding that the ceiling to floor apparatus can be raised and lowered to accommodate students at all skill levels.

Advanced classes are scheduled periodically, as are special workshops in expanded acrobatics like juggling, stilt walking and partner acrobatics. Students also can take advantage of weekly open gym sessions to get their exercise fix.

But it’s not just exercise, Burden said.

“I see the women and they’re very encouraging of each other and they’re making friends,” she said. ■

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