5 Ways to Get Fit in Philly Without Going to the Gym

If going to the gym is your idea of torture, these fun (gym-free!) activities — that double as workouts — might be more up your alley.

You’ll have so much fun doing these six activities around Philly — from rock climbing to axe throwing (yes, axe throwing) — that you’ll forget you’re even getting a workout. (Don’t worry: Your muscles will make it clear that you did, in fact, get a workout later.) Bonus points: You won’t be forced to step foot inside a boring ol’ gym for any of them.

Throw axes
Where: Urban Axes, 2019 East Boston Street, Kensington. 

The axe-throwing trend hails from the original lumberjack haven, Canada, but much like heavy beards and everyone wearing flannel shirts, it’s made its way over to the U.S. Philly’s axe-throwing outpost, Urban Axes, is in an old warehouse in Kensington, and it’s actually the first U.S. throwing gym in a major American city. The idea is to throw a 1.5-pound axe at a wooden target marked with a bull’s-eye — which takes some serious strength and precision, by the way — and add up the points based on where it sticks, just like darts. Urban Axes has walk-in hours where you receive a session with a coach before you start throwing, but you can also join a serious, competitive league — they’re part of the National Axe Throwing Federation.

Jump and jump —AND jump
Where: Sky Zone, multiple locations. 

When you go for a “jump” on trampolines at Sky Zone (locations have around 20,000 square feet of the bouncy stuff), you’ll feel both like someone gave you permission to be six years old again AND like you got the full-body workout of a lifetime. (Can you think of a better combination? I can’t). It’s $15 (plus sky socks) for an open jump, and you can dunk a basketball, do flips into a giant foam pit, or try your hand at dodgeball with friends (or frenemies). Multiple locations make it easy to check it out: there are outposts in Maple Shade, New Jersey, the Northeast, and Glen Mills. (Side note: they also have actual fitness classes, if that’s more you’re style. Read about our experience trying one here.)

Take your run from the treadmill to the trails
Where: Anywhere you’d like! (The Wissahickon is an easy-to-get-to place to start.) 

This isn’t your your typical (let’s face it: boring) jaunt on the treadmill, or even along Kelly Drive: When you trail run, you’ll be so busy watching your feet (and stray branches and stones), and feeling adrenaline, that you’ll forget you’re even out for a run. For trail-running newbies, the group Chasing Trail, which meets at 8:30 a.m. at the Valley Green Inn every Sunday, will help you find your footing with group runs through the Wissahickon. It’s right in our backyard, but you’ll feel like you’re miles away.

Climb some rocks (well, rock walls)
Where: Go Vertical or Philadelphia Rock Gym, multiple locations.

Rock climbing works perfectly as a not-your-typical-gym-workout workout—as long as you’re not afraid of heights, that is. Combining, cardio, strength training and problem solving (like, um, how do I get my hand to that next grip without falling?), you’ll build up your muscles in a totally out-of-the-ordinary way. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can join the Rock N’ Run running group — they run to go rock climbing in Northern Liberties, and then they refuel with Friday-night drinks.

Join the circus — er, well, a circus class
Where: Circus Arts, 5900 Greene Street, Germantown. 

Welcome to your own version of Cirque du Soleil. Circus Arts takes a lot of strength and grace to do right, but it feels kind of like playtime. The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts offers beginners’ classes in everything from aerial yoga to trapeze, and they’ll have you flying through the air with the greatest of ease (er, maybe not with the greatest of ease — but ease) in no time. You’ll have a great time while building your muscle strength in a totally new way — and I don’t know about you, but I’ve wanted to join the circus ever since I saw Big Fish and cried for about four days.

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