AustinPUG Health

AustinPUG Health

Summer is officially here, and it’s going to hang around for quite a while. If you haven’t yet thought about your winter beer gut and how it’s going to look in your speedo or bikini, there’s still time to tone up and slim down before taking the plunge off the diving board in front of other, perhaps more svelte swimming companions. Forget about boring old crunches and routine pushups; there are plenty of unique, fun and unusual sports to enjoy which can get you in fighting shape for parading around the pool or looking buff in a business suit. Here are the top five craziest sports to stay fit:

Urban Golf: You may never have heard of it, but it’s rumored to have started way back in the 1700’s in Scotland. Urban golf enthusiasts enjoy pelting golf balls and sometimes tennis balls through cities, town squares, parks and other community spaces. From the sunny shores of California to the streets of New York, urban golf is growing in popularity in the United States. It’s even more well-established in the UK, where large organized tournaments take place regularly. The sport involves using standard golf clubs and hitting a golf or tennis ball into nine targets. Instead of landing in neat round holes embedded in rolling green fields, the balls get lobbed into trash cans, rivers, rooftops and even cop cars (though we don’t recommend that as a target of choice.) Urban golf is great for working out the major muscle groups in your arms, legs and abdomen. Social media is a perfect way to meet other urban golf enthusiasts, and there are several organized clubs on the West Coast and in New York.

Chess Boxing: If you’re a cerebral, intellectual type, this is the sport for you. It works all of the major muscles in the body and gives your brain a major workout too. Alternating rounds of chess and boxing make this sport an excellent overall mind/body exercise. It was originally conceived in a French comic book and today, the World Chess Boxing Organization governs tournaments, which include strict standards for participants. To join a tournament, you must meet minimum requirements in both boxing and chess. This is definitely a sport for the Renaissance man or woman who enjoys being both physically and mentally fit. If you think you’ve got what it takes, contact the World Chess Boxing Organization for more information on how to get started.

Parkour: The French have always tended toward the avant-garde, so it’s no surprise that parkour was born among them through a series of documentaries about the men who developed the sport: brothers David and Raymond Belle, and S├ębastien Foucan, who viewed it as an art form that explores environments through motion. Parkour involves jumping, balancing, running, flipping, twisting, climbing, swinging, rolling and other movements in between and around existing obstacles. It combines the concept of a military-style course with creative maneuvers and is non-competitive. A long, rich history precedes the modern practice. Similar movements and concepts can be found in traditional French military exercises dating back to the early 1900’s, when a French naval officer named Georges Herbert conceptualized a new training system based on his observations of African tribal communities and their interaction with the surrounding natural environment. Parkour is an excellent choice for those seeking a major full-body conditioning exercise. Getting started requires no special equipment. It’s as simple as finding a suitable space and letting your imagination do the rest. Some people enlist a small group of friends or even hire a parkour coach, while others fire up YouTube and learn on their own.

Martial Arts Tricking: The extreme athleticism involved in martial arts tricking is breathtaking as it combines ancient, traditional forms like Taekwondo, Capoeira, Kung Fu and Mixed Martial Arts with the more recent sport of Parkour. Watching a tricking tournament is as impressive as being a spectator at an Olympic gymnastics competition. Incredible gravity-defying stunts involve the tricker? soaring through the air at amazing heights, sometimes throwing kicks and punches mid-flight. This sport delivers a major full-body workout, and a certain level of fitness is required before beginning due to its highly athletic nature. It’s been recently growing in popularity all across the US and worldwide but still remains largely unstructured, with no formal rules and few official organizations. It doesn’t take much to get started; in fact, most trickers began by watching YouTube videos of others, calling some friends and gathering in backyards to participate. There have been numerous official tournaments, including a world championship in Las Vegas hosted by Red Bull in 2012. A gathering in 2014 will be hosted by EPIC Worldwide Apparel.

Slacklining: Primarily a balancing exercise, this casual sport can be practiced almost anywhere. It involves stringing a piece of webbing between two trees, poles, or commercial slacklining posts and performing feats ranging from walking to complicated routines that involve tricks. Since the webbing is positioned low to the ground, no net or other safety equipment is used underneath. Because it’s so easy to set up and execute, it’s swiftly growing in popularity. Some often confuse it with tightrope walking, but there are several key differences. Where tightrope walking involves the rope being very taught between two anchors, slacklining utilizes a slack, bouncy, flat piece of webbing that can be altered according to the slacker’s? needs. Some slackers do tricks in the air such as summersaults, twists, flips and kicks, very similar to what gymnasts do on the balance beam, except with the added element of landing on a trampoline-like surface. Recently, professional slacklining tournaments and organizations have sprung up all around the country. It has also given rise to additional forms of the sport, including waterlining, where the webbing is set up over a pool or lake; freestyle slacklining, in which the line has no tension, allowing it to swing back and forth; slacklining yoga, where the practitioner performs yoga moves on the line, and highlining, which allows the participant to perform tricks and stunts on a line raised up in the air while wearing a harness. Slacklining provides a full-body anaerobic workout and is a great choice for overall fitness. There are numerous companies that sell commercial kits to get you started.

Whether you’re looking for a total body workout, a thrilling challenge full of difficult tricks, a competitive group environment or a sport that conditions your brain as well as your body, one of these crazy sports is sure to suit your needs. An added bonus: you’ll impress your friends and family with your newfound skills!

Gary Hamilton is the president and the founder of InteliChart, a health IT company that connects healthcare organizations, providers, patients, and communities through integrated solutions. Visit for more information.

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