A blend of hula-hooping and strength exercises, the Hula Hoop Fitness class at Quest Fitness in Kennebunk is a hoot, even if it’s been decades since you’ve tried to hula hoop. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)
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When you were 8 years old, I’m guessing you didn’t begrudgingly wake up to a pre-dawn alarm so you could burn some serious calories on the pogo stick before a long day at school.

And you probably didn’t talk to your pals at lunch about how you’re totally going to start playing kick the can three times a week for at least an hour, starting right after the New Year (and also you’re going to lay off the Lunchables – all that sodium is making you bloat). 

As kids, we just played when we felt like it (which, as it turns out, was most of our waking hours). We jumped rope in the driveway, rode bikes all over the neighborhood, and sprinted for our lives to reach “glue” before getting tagged.

We did this for fun, simply because we enjoyed it. 

But then we continued aging. And somewhere between “who wants to play red light, green light?” and “can anyone recommend a good mold-remediation company?” our enthusiasm for physical activity waned dramatically. 

We got busy. We got responsible. We got tired and started making frequent references to our sore backs and aching hips. 

Nowadays, when we are active, we call it “exercise,” which feels similar to playing – but with most of the fun removed. We don’t like it much, but as grownups, we must exercise (at least four times a week for 30 minutes a pop, because our watch tells us so). 

It’s true that moving our bodies is essential (and yes, probably lay off the Lunchables). But the belief that no fun can be had in the process – that exercise must feel miserable the entire time – is complete hogwash. While we do have to work a little harder to squeeze it in between all the very important things we do every day (and yes, we’re still going to sweat and pant and push ourselves), being active can be enjoyable. Really. 

So go ahead, I double-dog dare you: Find an activity you actually like. Maybe you love indoor cycling or weekly jogs with a local running group. Maybe you’d prefer to climb things, dance, or roller skate. My point: There are so many cool ways to work out in greater Portland, it’s highly likely you’ll find something that piques your interest and keeps you coming back.

And if you’re not sure, try something new. Challenge yourself in interesting ways. Be that person who shows up to work talking about that dance roller-skate class you took last night. (Yes, dance skating exists in Portland. More on that below.)

To help in your quest, here are a few ideas. 

Hula Hoop Fitness

Back in the day, most of us were pretty adept at hula-hooping, moving our hips and keeping that hoop rotating for a long while. But as grownups who probably haven’t even been in the same room as a Hula Hoop in decades, the idea of a hoop workout sounds simultaneously fun and “are you kidding?” Not to worry, you can pick it up again (or for the first time). This class also blends in some strength exercises.

Tuesday, 9:35 a.m., Quest Fitness in Kennebunk; $20 day pass/five-visit pass for $75. questfitnessmaine.com

Fly Bungee participants bounce and jump while attached to a bungee cord from the ceiling during a Fly Bungee class with Hyper Fitness in Topsham. It looks like fun because it is. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Fly Bungee

During Fly Bungee, you’re attached to the ceiling by a bungee cord that lets you bounce and leap around like a newly born Peter Pan. There’s no denying it looks fun. But all that running forward and back, jumping up and braking against the resistance of the bungee is genuinely exhausting. You don’t quite realize it at first until, between sets, you register your heart rate, your panting, your sweat. Oh yeah, this is a workout.

Thursday, 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Friday, 7:30 p.m., and private classes by appointment. Hyper Fitness in Topsham; $25. novayogatrapeze.com

Dance Skate Club

Harken back to the skate parties of your youth with the Dance Skate Club. This new class runs in six-week sessions, and while you should be able to stand up, move around, and stop (without slamming into the wall) on roller skates, no dancing experience is necessary. You’ll learn all the moves. 

Tuesdays, 5:30-7 p.m. starting Feb. 25 at Riverton Elementary School in Portland; $78 for the six-week session, registration required at facebook.com/DerbySkateClub or [email protected].

The trampoline fitness class at Fitness Factory in Portland is equal parts bouncing around and heart-pounding cardio. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Trampoline Fitness

While the first minute or two of bouncing feels like pure childhood joy, you’ll quickly discover that your endurance for the trampoline arts isn’t what it used to be. Giana offers modifications for most of the exercises, so you can work out to your level, but your heart rate will be up and sweating will happen.

Monday, 9-10 a.m., The Fitness Factory in Portland; $7 drop-in, memberships available. fitnessfactorymaine.com

Swing dancing 

Thursday Night Stop with Portland Swing Project starts with a half-hour beginner lesson followed by a couple of hours of open dance to the swing tunes of a live band. Beginners can try out their newly learned moves and more experienced dancers can do what they like to do: swing! It’s a welcoming crowd, and dancing (which has been at Mechanics Hall in Portland) is moving to Big Babe’s Tavern in South Portland in February.

Second and fourth Thursdays of the month, 7:30-8 p.m. lesson, 8-10 p.m. dancing at Big Babe’s Tavern in South Portland; $10 suggested donation. portlandswingproject.com

Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.

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