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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Jessica Ledbetter exercises on the Cyr Wheel. The Cyr Wheel is a new form of exercise at Chattanooga Aerials. The class led by Daniel Buniak was photographed on Dec. 13, 2020.

With new found time on my hands as a result of working from home for the past nine months, I've taken the opportunity to try new things.

And to keep the existential dread — not to mention office chair spread — at bay, many of those have centered around new ways to get active.

I've always wanted to take a hip-hop class (and trust me when I say I needed a class for that), so when my 12-year-old sister expressed a desire to take her TikTok videos to the next level, I signed us up at Karen Horton's School of Dance. For the next few months, I learned a choreographed routine alongside a handful of other tweens — capped at around a dozen to allow for social distancing — which culminated in a small recital for family.

Meanwhile, one of my girlfriends asked if I'd take a pole dance class with her, so I signed up for that, too. There were a half-dozen of us in each class, and we all had different body types, sizes and abilities. It was empowering to see so many women owning their bodies while being vulnerable as they (OK, I) muddled through the moves while (re)connecting with their sensuality.

As my calendar filled, so did my spirit. But that's not all.

Trying new things helps build new neural pathways. "Cognitive and social engagement have been shown to be protective against cognitive decline," Harvard neuropsychologist Dr. Kathryn Papp says in an article in Harvard Health.

Here are five new workouts to help you build a healthier body and brain.

 

SPENGA

What it is: A signature sequence of spin, strength training and yoga, in that order, this hybrid workout addresses each of the three pillars of fitness: cardio, strength and flexibility. The instructor will move with your class through 20 minutes of each. The bikes' "Sweet Spot" technology provides performance-based feedback after every ride, while the strength moves that ensue off the bike are designed to help you develop and tone lean muscle, and the yoga portion transitions from strength-driven poses into deep flexibility and, finally, a well-deserved recovery.

Where to try it: SPENGA Chattanooga, 1705 Market St. (Set to open in mid-January)

Cost: Memberships from $69-$129 per month (discounted prior to opening), with your first session free

 

Ninja Warrior

What it is: Based on the NBC show "American Ninja Warrior" — of which gym co-owner Isaac Caldiero is a champion — this obstacle course-based workout promises you won't get bored. Challenge your mind (not to mention every part of your body) as you swing, climb, run and, let's be honest, probably fall your way through obstacles like trampoline jumps, rope swings, monkey bars and more.

Where to try it: Synergy Climbing and Ninja, 427 E. Main St.

Cost: $30 for adult class or $25 per day, with punch cards available

 

BUTI yoga

What it is: A combination of tribal dance, interval training, plyometrics and yoga, these classes will strengthen and tone every inch of your body. The hyped-up flow moves seamlessly through traditional poses and dynamic movements in a sequence that is guaranteed to make you sweat and smile.

Where to try it: Peace.Strength.Yoga, 3800 St. Elmo Ave. #122 (virtual classes available)

Cost: $14 for drop-in, with various membership specials available

 

Cyr wheel

What it is: Using a giant hula hoop, you'll combine the flow of new-age "hooping" with the dynamics of a giant hamster wheel. Made of lightweight steel, the cyr (pronounced sear) wheel is large enough for you to stand inside like DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man," yet can be spun like a quarter. Using the hoop's momentum as it circles upright around the floor, the dancer can interact with it — stepping in and out or rolling it off their chest, for example — or climb inside and perform acrobatics or just hold on for the ride. No matter what, expect a core and upper body workout like no other.

Where to try it: Chattanooga Aerials, 2315 Cannon Ave.

Cost: $25 for drop-in, 2 classes for $45 or 4 for $85

 

Pole dancing

What it is: Not much explanation is needed here — but a surprising amount of strength is. Just ask the bruises on my inner thighs. Each class starts with a warm-up followed by a series of basic moves that work up to you climbing, hanging from and throwing yourself around the pole, though floor work is included. At the end of each session, you'll make a personal video so you (and your S.O.) can see your progress.

Where to try it: Party Girls Dance and Fitness Studio, 1101 Hixson Pike, Suite A

Cost: $20 for drop-in, 6 classes for $50 or 10 for $75

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