Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published April 15th 2012
Most doctors agree that exercise is preferable to stewing in your own filth. Right, you might think, that settles it – time to get on the internet and find out what this thing called 'exercise' is. After a few minutes' research, though, it can be hard to choose between the thousands of varieties of physical activity. Common stuff like 'running' and 'going to the gym' is way too hard, and 'bicycling' – 'cycling', as it's called by enthusiasts – is the exclusive province of strange men in lycra. Luckily, there are much more fun ways to work up a sweat in Melbourne. All you need is a pair of shorts, an adventurous spirit, and a fair amount of money.
First up is dancing, whimsically called 'dancercise' by people with a very strange sense of humour.
The Space Dance & Arts Centre offers a huge variety of beginner dance classes, including Hip Hop, Cheerleading and Ballet. There's no need to book, so just show up fifteen minutes before the class starts and pay then. Beginner classes are aimed at people who have never danced before, so it shouldn't be too embarrassing – and if it is, just take a friend who's even worse than you are.
Tired of dancing? Sweating too much on the dancefloor? Head on down to the Icehouse, Australia's largest 'ice sports venue', located in the heart of the Docklands. You can rent ice skates and be on the rink in ten minutes, drunkenly stumbling in circles like everybody else. Beginner skaters can take a free fifteen-minute lesson that basically amounts to 'stand up straight, don't fall over', but those who know what they're doing can head straight to the centre of the rink and start twirling.
There's a St Moritz Bar and an Igloo Cafe for when you feel the need for some calorie-dense refreshment, but remember: ice skates can be sharp and dangerous, so don't try that double axel drunk. Unless you're really sure you can stick it.
Ice skating is fun, but there's nothing better than wrapping your hands around some hard rock at Hardrock climbing centre in the CBD. It's totally safe – the climbing ropes can handle several tons of weight – and great fun, if a little physically intense. Don't worry if you're not the greatest climber, though. Hardrock has walls graded from around 8, which feels like climbing a ladder, all the way up to the high twenties, which feels like climbing a ladder with no arms.
Some of the walls on offer at the CBD. Image courtesy of the The Hardrock Climbing Company website.
You can rent a harness and shoes for twelve dollars, and there's no time limit: if you arrive when the centre opens in the morning, you can climb until the centre shuts at 10pm (but unless your arms are literally made of steel, you'll give out after a couple of hours.) You'll need a partner to belay you from the ground, so bring your friends. They can shout advice at you when you're on the wall, and you can grit your teeth and swear at them.
Popularised by monkey-like French free runners, parkour is more a way of life than a form of exercise. It combines gymnastics, dance and athletics into an eye-catching way to get around urban spaces, vaulting over obstacles and climbing sheer walls. Unlike rock climbing, where success is about slowing it down and having patience, parkour focuses almost exclusively on leaping and performing dynamic moves. The movements tend to be explosive – perfect practice for people looking to get into a team sport.
The Australian Parkour Association offers classes almost every day, either outdoors around the city or indoor at the Trace Centre in Coburg. Outdoor classes cost ten dollars, indoor classes cost fifteen dollars. You can turn up for either on the day, so there's no need to book.
Know a way to do any of these things that's easier and cheaper than the entries in this article? Think you can find a better way to make exercise fun? Tell us about it in the comments, and we'll all be rocking washboard abs in no time.