Not so many years ago, the term “fitness class” generally indicated a sparse hodgepodge of sweaty so-and-sos huffing and puffing amid a sea of “How-much-can-you-bench” bros and treadmill denizens.
The gym was a chore, outdoor exercise meant jogging or riding a bike alone (or pushing yourself up after a fall) and yoga was a secretive practice, occasionally misunderstood to be a cult focused on flexibility and chanting “ommm.” In recent years, however, the phenomenon of the key chain membership card to an all-inclusive gym largely has been replaced with more specialized gyms, and more and more people are enjoying a broader variety of outdoor activities targeting specific health needs, interests and fitness goals.
Now, finding a fitness activity that suits you is considered a part of living your best life, and evidence of this healthy-minded ethos is popping up citywide, both indoor and out. With boutique fitness classes such as all-encompassing body workouts – or treadmill- and Pilates-centered regimens – Okies are burning fat and increasing their muscular and cardiovascular strength, leading them to get out and do more. Outdoor-minded folks can be found participating in running groups, cycling en masse, testing their limits in Olympic training facilities and discovering plenty of new opportunities to get fit, get healthy and enjoy a more active, well-rounded life – why not give these suggestions a try?
► Outdoors and Outdoor Activities
Flat Tide Stand Up Paddleboarding
With Hefner, Arcadia, Draper and Thunderbird, central Oklahoma has no shortage of blustery lake acreage (lakreage?) where stand up paddle boarders might find themselves exiting the water an unintentionally great distance from where they entered it. That’s one of the drawbacks to Oklahoma’s frequent winds. However, it’s not the case in Bethany, where stand up paddle boarding is rapidly becoming a main draw. North of Lake Overholser off Route 66, you’ll find more than four and a half miles of the Stinchcomb National Wildlife Reserve, a beautiful gem of still water, perfect for this increasingly popular activity. You needn’t even own a paddle board to explore this wild stretch of glassy wilderness; simply find the retrofitted FedEx truck with Flat Tide splashed across the side, and rent one of their 40 stand up paddle boards for an hour … or bring a picnic and make a day of it. One of the coolest things to do in Oklahoma City.
Lake Overholser, 3901 E Overholser, Bethany
Martin Nature Park
This pastoral OKC staple offers trails that zigzag several creeks, wandering through a thin forest and out onto open meadows. On weekday afternoons after school is out, Martin Nature Park is a great spot to trail run. On weekends, Martin Nature Park is packed with families looking to take a walk, and who might want to spot a grazing white-tailed deer or a great horned owl.
5000 W Memorial, OKC
Red Coyote Running Groups
Most nights, more than a hundred folks will turn out to participate in one of Red Coyote’s now famed weekly runs. There are several, but none quite as fun as the Wednesday night Deep Deuce Dash and Draft. During the three-mile run that begins at 6 p.m. on the corner of Second and Oklahoma, runners burn enough calories that they can justify at least a free beer or two upon returning to Anchor Down. And that’s just Wednesdays. To learn more about Red Coyote group events, visit redcoyoterunning.com.
5720 N Classen, OKC
Threshold Climbing and Fitness
Just off the Turner Turnpike looms one of the country’s newest and most state-of-the-art climbing gyms. Featuring bouldering, rock climbing and even crack climbing, this impressive facility is targeted toward all levels of climbers and mimics any imaginable rock climbing scenario. And if that isn’t cool enough, they also feature yoga classes, a fitness room and a mind-blowing Ninja Warrior training course – if you’ve always wanted to train for “American Ninja Warrior” but didn’t know where to start, this is the spot.
6000 NW 135th, OKC
Riversport Adventure Park
New as of last year, Riversport Adventure Park instantly became one of the city’s premier attractions. For some, including slalom kayakers, this center is an Olympic Training Facility. To others, it is a high-octane amusement park complete with whitewater rafting, ropes courses, a climbing wall and much more.
New this year, the park offers river kayaking lessons for beginners – done in groups or privately, these classes put individuals in sporty little river kayaks, where they will learn whitewater safety, how to read the waterscape and paddling technique to make the most of the facility’s roaring rapids. Once they have mastered the basic skills, guests can take on the rapids as often as they please with a day or a season pass.
800 Riversport Drive, OKC
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
This year, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area – which covers almost 10,000 acres, contains two lakes and is Oklahoma’s only park in the National Park system – is participating in ReBoot: Healthy Parks, Healthy People. The program is designed to demonstrate the power of National Parks and public land to promote health and wellness, while drawing attention to the beauty and importance of the surrounding environment.
Located only an hour and a half south of Oklahoma City, The Chickasaw National Recreation Area boasts countless waterfalls, more than 10 miles of trails and even a bit of elevation (hey, it is Oklahoma). It’s as lovely a hike as you could ask for in the Plains.
901 W First, Sulphur
► Boutique Gyms
Beyond Fitness Studios
New to the metro and located in the heart of Automobile Alley above Cultivar, Beyond Fitness offers a great way to increase cardiovascular and core strength in a spacious exercise room overlooking downtown OKC. While all the classes at Beyond are challenging, its “Beyond PHIT” combines Pilates-inspired smart movements (EXO Pilates chair), cardio intervals (Woodway treadmills) and strength exercises (kettle bells) to ensure a caloric burn high enough that you’ve earned the right to consume whatever burrito from Cultivar you choose after class.
714 N Broadway #200, OKC
Western Avenue Boxing and Systema Gym
While there is no shortage of very good Mixed Martial Arts gyms across the city, this is one of a kind: Its two-level gym functions as a training facility for fighters but also hosts some of OKC’s most challenging and most fun workouts. The trainers combine hitting heavy bags with high intensity cardiovascular and body weight exercises so expertly that when you leave, you not only feel healthier, but more powerful.
4408 N Western, OKC
Now with three locations in the metro, the high-energy Orange Theory has rightfully earned its place among the toughest workouts in Oklahoma City. This 50-minute grind combines cardiovascular training (treadmill, glider or spin bike, your choice) with rowing, weightlifting, TRX straps and body weight exercises to ensure a full-body workout. Members are given a monitor that tracks the heart rate on an LCD screen in the workout room, allowing them to get a sense of how hard they are working to ensure the greatest caloric burn.
3 Metro Locations
Located in Classen Curve among such fitness staples as Barre 3 and Red Coyote, Cycle Bar is the latest to grace Oklahoma City’s spin scene. And a scene it is. Every hour, in a studio more akin to a theater, 50 individuals mount up on state-of-the-art spin bikes and – as a carefully selected playlist begins to blast from the DJ booth – embark on a journey in physical fitness. Each 50-minute class leaves participants breathless and happy. The experience is enhanced by outstanding amenities, including free water bottles, fresh fruit and your choice of cold or room temperature water.
5730 N Classen, OKC
YogaLAB and Spirit House Yoga
While there are now more than 30 yoga studios in the metro area, Spirit House Yoga is where it all began. Before the days of lululemon and 138-degree rooms of sweaty stretching, Spirit House sought to make the practice of yoga available for everyone. They have continued this tradition while taking the mission statement of “Yoga for everyone” a step further: At YogaLab, based in the Plaza District, a “Pay It Forward” program encourages donations to allow those who cannot afford to take a yoga class to take it for free.
YogaLAB, 1745 NW 16th, OKC; Spirit House Yoga, 5107 N Shartel, OKC
► Cycling in OKC
While fitness overall is on the rise in Oklahoma City, cycling might be growing the fastest, and nowhere in the city does this seem more evident than on Tuesday nights at the Wheeler Criterium, sponsored by DNA Racing. The Wheeler District is literally turned over to the wheels as street cyclists take to the old airport runways in a high-intensity training race, while their supporters enjoy food trucks, beer and the OKC skyline.
If you’re not quite at the racing level, consider one of these spirited cycling events brought to you by the Oklahoma Bicycle Society to get the hang of taking two wheels to the street. All you need is a bike, a helmet and some ambition, and you’ll have a blast.
Pizzeria Gusto Tuesday Night Social Ride
2145 N Walker, OKC
6 p.m. Mondays
Distance: 16 miles
Elemental Early Riser
815 N Hudson, OKC
7 a.m. Saturdays
Distance: 40 miles
Bluff Creek Dirt Crit
Bluff Creek Trails, near Hefner and Meridian
7 p.m. Thursdays
If you love cycling but street bikes aren’t for you, Charley’s Bicycle Laboratory hosts the Bluff Creek Dirt Crit. This event, which runs through the summer, brings together some of the city’s best mountain bikers to explore through the ups and downs of the Lake Hefner’s famed Bluff Creek Trails. This 45-minute race features both single and double tracks, and is open to all levels of mountain bikers.
► A Note From the Author
Last year, I did a story on destination dining in the towns surrounding Oklahoma City. The research involved eating some of the finest and fattiest cheeseburgers, French fries, fried chicken, fried okra, chicken fried steaks, pasta, tacos, brisket, ribs, pie, fried pie and every other delicious artery-clogging, night-sweat-inducing delectable that the Sooner State had to offer. So enjoyable was the gluttonous, sodium- and sugar-packed expedition that even after the story’s publication, what I now ruefully refer to as “The Year of the Cheeseburger” continued. “I’m just enjoying myself,” I’d think in some far-flung, neon-lit burger shack, before popping another onion ring or 12 into my mouth. “The food in Oklahoma is really good … [slurp of soda] What’s this place got for dessert?”
Six months later, I found myself in the lobby of Edmond’s popular fitness class Orange Theory, talking with one of their cheerful instructors. “How can we help you?” he asked enthusiastically. My sweatpants cinched at my waistline like a noose. I was out of breath for no reason and where once there was hair, I feared that I’d soon be growing French fries.
“I’ve been eating …” I said. He simply nodded, giving me space to continue. “… A lot.”
The trainer put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder and assured me that they’d get me back in shape. If I could savagely chomp my way across the state, then so, too, could I hike, bike, run, row, spin and stretch my way back into my old sweatpants – and more importantly, to a state of health suitable for a man a year shy of 40. I don’t recall much about my first Orange Theory class; only that at some point, I’m fairly sure I “saw the light.” After the class was out, it took quite a while to formulate words. I was on my way. “The Year of the Cheeseburger” had come to an end.
For two months, I took on fitness classes and outdoor activities across the metro. And like our dive-iest restaurants, each has something that makes it special. The Pilates chairs at Beyond Fitness worked my core so intensely that for two days, my lower torso ceased to function. At Western Boxing Gym, I learned that there is great catharsis in punching a heavy bag, but punching a heavy bag for an hour makes you feel like you’ve been punched. At Cycle Bar, I learned that if you push yourself hard enough, you won’t even notice Justin Bieber playing through the sound system, and at Orange Theory, if you make yourself uncomfortable as they encourage you to do, eventually you will be able to fit into your old sweatpants. I learned that outdoor activities in Oklahoma, such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and hiking, are a lot more fun if you can do them without wheezing. And most importantly, I learned that nothing tastes better after a Saturday morning workout than a cheeseburger and a beer. Especially since you’ve earned it.
Gear Up Your Game
Ready to “grip it and rip it”? Then grab your bag and head for the course! But if you want a tune-up before you tee off, follow these tips from some of the 405’s top golf pros and get your gear, and your game, ready for the course. – Bill Wasinger
“No matter the skill level, a little work with a teaching professional can help every golfer improve,” says Steve Ball, owner of Ball Golf. To get your game in shape, individual lessons, swing analysis or a group clinic can improve your play off the tee, on the green or out of the rough. Individual Lessons, $85-$125; Group Clinics, from $140. Available at Ball Golf, 7501 N Robinson, OKC
A laser range finder can help with club selection on the course, while also improving your consistency on the practice range, according to McCollom. “You can use a laser range finder anywhere you can play golf,” he says. “Simply aim at a target, whether it’s a pin, tree or hazard, and you instantly get an accurate distance to that point.” Bushnell Tour V4, $299. Available at Edmond Golf, 243 N Broadway, Edmond
A round of golf means exposure to the sun, and every golfer, regardless of skin type, should apply sunscreen before a round. And, Elafros says, “Given the heat, wind and humidity in Oklahoma, golfers need an easy-to-apply sunscreen that’s non-greasy, sweat resistant and at least SPF 30 with UVA and UVB protection.” Voila! SKIN Sunscreen, $13.49. Available at The Greens Country Club, 13100 Green Valley, OKC
While today’s putters can be ordered with a range of customizable options, Golf USA owner Brad Bowen says that some features are more important than others when buying a new flat stick. “As the most used club in the bag, it’s vital to find a putter that provides confidence and solid results,” he says. “Make sure your putter is dialed in with the correct loft, lie, length and weight to match your game.” Odyssey O Works Putter, $229.99. Available at Golf USA, 1612 W I-240, OKC
For most golfers, choosing the right ball depends on their swing speed and handicap. Edmond Golf owner Todd McCollom said that the ball you use should come down to what part of your game you want to improve. Look for a Surlyn ball to get more distance and accuracy off the tee, he advised, and if you want more spin and greater control around the greens, opt for a urethane multilayer ball. Titleist Pro V1, $47.99/dozen. Available at Edmond Golf, 243 N Broadway, Edmond
Far from the flash and flair of 1970s fashions, today’s golf apparel mixes style and performance, according to Mike Elafros, assistant golf pro at The Greens Country Club. While there are looks to suit any style, Elafros recommended golf-specific apparel that will wick moisture from your skin to help keep you cool on the course, while at the same time providing added protection from the Oklahoma sun. SanSoleil UV50 Golf Shirt, $79.99. Available at The Greens Country Club, 13100 Green Valley, OKC
Most golfers want to bomb it off the tee, so they need a driver that provides both distance and accuracy. Bowen said that – thanks to modern materials, technology and design – it’s easy to improve your game from the tee box. “A professional driver fitting can make a world of difference if you get the correct spin rate and launch angle, along with flex and kick point to match your swing,” he says. Callaway Epic Driver, $499. Available at Golf USA, 1612 W I-240, OKC