8 Indoor Sports to Keep You Warm When the Temperature Drops
Bored at the gym? Try these indoor workouts instead.
The days are short, and the temperatures are diving. The last thing you want to do is exercise outside. So we came up with a few new ways to break a sweat, all from the comfort of the great indoors.
You ever wake up in the middle of the night and think, “I gotta play ping-pong right now!”? Well, neither have we. But for folks who have, Trolley Car Table Tennis Club in East Falls is the cat’s meow. This 24/7 club is open to the public for just $5 a day during open play hours — or become a member for $40 per month. (In an effort to attract a new generation of players, youth memberships are only $90 a year if a parent also joins.) Once you get your spin down, sign up for the twice-weekly league, which rotates between Trolley Car and PingPod in Old City. East Falls.
It’s not just for scout camp anymore! Yuan Jie Wen opened Callowhill Archery in 2021 in the building that used to house his parents’ tofu factory; following the closure of Tacony’s B&A Archery, it stands alone as the city’s only indoor archery range. Start with a 90-minute basics course — everyone’s gotta take it — before moving on to the open range or themed events like Halloween’s zombie hunt. Looking to impress someone special? Book the range’s “Love and War” date night. Callowhill.
Okay, we see you rolling your eyes. Hear us out. When West Philly’s Arlen Specter US Squash Center opened in 2021, it created a community fund that allows any kid from Philly to come and learn to play squash for free. The goal is to make the sport more accessible to everyone; monthly memberships are super-duper low-cost (as squash memberships go) and are underwritten by donors. Interested but concerned about the start-up costs? The center also hosts free adult clinics throughout the year and offers loaner rackets, goggles and shoes. West Philly.
Skiing and Snowboarding
These probably aren’t the first two sports you think of when you want to stay indoors, but thanks to Doylestown’s 4SeasonAlpine, that’s changing. Skip the lines and lifts (and jackets) and head to the simulator here, which mimics the sensation, force and speed of the slopes without all that pesky winteriness. While pro skiers and snowboarders use the simulators for off-season training, they’re also helpful for learning technique under the guidance of the staff. Doylestown.
Climbing can be intimidating: the ropes! The heights! Not so at Movement at Callowhill (f.k.a. the Cliffs), the region’s biggest and (in our expert opinion) best climbing gym. Monthly meetups — for new members, BIPOC climbers, queer climbers, adaptive climbers and many more — help participants forge relationships off the walls that build confidence on them. Kids are not only welcomed but encouraged, with classes for little ones as young as five. Newbie adults can begin with the gym’s Learn to Climb program: intro classes, free gear rentals, and a month of unlimited climbs. Callowhill.
When Chad Dravk was a kid growing up in the Harrisburg area, his mom would sometimes drop him off at his grandparents’ shop for the day. It was a knickknack shop, and Dravk would sit among the odds and ends and bits and bobs and think about how wonderful it would be to open a place of his own. He’d doodle little comics imagining it — an art store, maybe. As he got older, he started skateboarding, and the idea shifted and morphed. The final version of his dream is Fishtown’s Zembo Temple of Skate and Design.
It’s a small space, just a few ramps and kickers and street elements, but most importantly: It exists. Zembo is one of only two indoor skate parks in the city — the other is Skate the Foundry, in West Philly — and in a city renowned for skateboarding, it’s proven vital. A lot of that stems from Dravk’s welcoming ethos; he sells roller skates at the shop, too, and encourages quad skaters to “come on in, have fun, as long as you’re not a kook or making a mess or being a dick.” The venue has become a hub not just for skateboarding and roller-skating, but for concerts, comedy nights and, starting this month, yoga.
“We wanted to build something kind of mellow and small, not only for the quad skaters, but for young beginner skateboarders.We didn’t want anything too big,” Dravk tells me, before hinting that he’d like to build out a more substantial park someday. Memberships are cheap: $10 a year, and then just $5 to skate whenever the place is open. The store feels like a fulfillment of that childhood vision, its walls covered in decks and roller skates and pens and video cameras. Odds and ends — his grandparents would be proud. Fishtown.
Great on Skates roller-skating troupe owner India Bernardino recommends Philly SkatePlex and Rolling Thunder, both in the Northeast, or a quick hop across the bridge to Camden’s Millennium Skate World, which attracts skaters from around the world. “Even the kids there compete,” she says. “The kids were, like, born on skates.”
Ready to glide on eight wheels? Here are some tips from Bernardino on getting started.
First things first. Anyone can skate, Bernardino says, but start small. “Go to a family skate night,” she says. “You see the joy from the kids.”
You’re laced up but haven’t skated since fourth grade; now what? Look down. Are your legs as straight as tree trunks? Start there. “I try to make sure they’re bending their knees and using their arms,” Bernardino says. “A lot of times, they’re standing too straight up, and they’re not bending. They’re scared, frightened, like a deer in headlights. And if you don’t bend your knees, you’re not closer to the ground, where you have your balance better.”
After that? “Don’t be afraid, no matter how old you are,” she says. “If you want to try, just come out and try. That’s the start. Take a beginner skate class, and don’t be afraid to fall. You can’t be scared to fall. You’re gonna fall. We’ll teach you how to fall. It still happens to the best of us.”
Okay, now you’re into it, so you’ll need some skates. Bernardino recommends the Riedell, Moxi and Sure-Grip brands. And make sure the leather boot gives you some flex.
You’ve mastered the oval; you’re bending your knees. Let’s pick it up. “Everyone skates in a different style and moves at a different pace,” she says. Some people might skate a little bit slower, and there’s a style called “slow-walking” for that. Skate a little faster? There’s a style called “fast-backwards.” There’s a different style for each different piece of your skate journey. And there’s footwork, for people who like to do dance moves.
A few options for a mental workout:
Main Line Chess Club
The longest-running chess club in the western ’burbs meets every Tuesday night at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Ardmore. All ages and abilities are welcome, but remember to bring your own board.
Bridge Club of Center City
Why wait till you’re retired to learn bridge? This club offers beginner lessons every Tuesday evening at Kennedy House in Logan Square and has duplicate bridge games throughout the week for more experienced players.
Penn Go Society
Learn how to play the world’s oldest board game at Queen & Rook Game Café in Queen Village every Monday. The group also meets and plays online on Discord on Wednesday nights. Beginners welcome!
Published as “Stay Inside!” in the December 2023/January 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.