Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Step into an era when Los Angeles kids didn't get fat and stupid spending weekends indoors in their Gunnar gaming eyewear entranced by Call of Duty: Black Ops. Once upon a time, young kids had natural hard bodies, twirled on monkey bars, learned half-twists on the trampoline and showed off to their parents by standing on their hands in the kitchen. This era lives on at Nikki's Gymnastics. Located on the second floor of a nondescript building in Woodland Hills, Nikki's offers a three-hour parent night on Fridays where you leave the kids to tumble on mats and learn the balance beam while you catch dinner and a movie. Other sessions each week teach kids tricks and expertise on the rings, ropes, balance beam, trampoline and vault. It's $66 for a child age 3 to 12 to attend a tumbling or other session once a week for one month. That's quite a bargain. Drag your dazed kid out of the bedroom and watch him or her burn off energy and achieve memorable personal gains. 20855 Ventura Blvd., #5, Woodland Hills. (818) 888-7604, nikkisgymnastics.com.
Until I joined Breakthru Fitness, the most challenging exercise I had put my body through was bending to find the remote control under the couch. Its greatest asset — among the 70 classes a week in a fully equipped center with big-screen TVs always airing the Food Network — is the Adult Total Conditioning class. ATC is meant to make an athlete of anyone, regardless of level of fitness: It's great for those who are in shape but looking for something new, and perfect for those who break a sweat brushing their teeth and require a Rosetta stone just to understand exercise lingo. (Seriously, what are burpees?) Unlike any other method, ATC delivers some major results. The cunning use of weights, climbing rope, giant rubber bands, kettle bells and sandbags not only brings out your inner model, but also increases your endurance, metabolism, flexibility and speed. Noel, one of the trainers, who is part stand-up comedian, part fitness gestapo, will make sure you don't finish without drowning in your own sweat. (Which reminds me, ladies, if you're there to meet a guy, don't bother. Your makeup will melt like a pack of crayons left on the dashboard in August.) The workouts are always different, and they beat striding aimlessly on the machines like hamsters. Breakthru is a far cry from the overcrowded gyms that smell like an indoor kiddie pool, and instead of employing high school football jocks has compiled a group of fantastic professional fitness artists who will take the shapeless blob that you are and sculpt you into a thing of health and beauty. 345 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. (626) 396-1700, Breakthrufitness.com.
Fourth-generation circus performer Richie Gaona has been flying the trapeze since he was 5 years old. He moved to Los Angeles in 1988 to put his circus tricks to use as a stuntman, teaching actors and fellow performers how to fly on the side. Gaona's Trapeze Workshop now has a devoted following of diverse students who attend his trapeze classes, offered three days a week out of a facility boasting a trapeze hung 20 feet high where he, his girlfriend and his son teach thrill seekers how to perform like a pro. Fifty bucks gets you a two-hour group lesson with the flight guru. By the end of the first day, you'll not only be able to soar above the ground without screaming, you might even be willing to let go of the slim wooden bar and let your partner catch you mid-air. 5702 Lubao Ave., Woodland Hills. (818) 710-8191, richiegaona.com.
Believe it or not, for as big and abundantly sunny as L.A. is, it's a town seriously lacking in good options for lap swimmers who want smooth water, regulation-size lanes and backstroke flags. One excellent solution to this problem is the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, where parking is free and the two Olympic-size pools are a welcome sight, especially when you discover that one is kept at a toasty 87 degrees — perfect for chilly nights in the colder months. The center also offers a top-notch master's program, swim lessons, lifeguard training (bonus points if you get asked to pretend to drown during one of the drills) and an on-site pro shop in case your goggles break. Even more amazing to someone who has Googled "seriously Los Angeles rec swim where" is the well-organized website, which offers comprehensive lap swimming and lane-change calendars, closure notices and even a live webcam, in case you want to watch people exercising in lieu of actually doing it yourself. 360 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 564-0330, rosebowlaquatics.com.
You might expect a belly dance class in a yoga studio to be impossibly new agey, or to skimp on the high-velocity, highly specific muscle moves that make the dance such a killer ab workout. But Shannon "Shea Butter" Lewallen's Shimmy Shape-Up at Swerve Studio on Third Street strikes the right balance. Described as a "newly innovated full-body medium-low-impact cardio workout," Shimmy Shape-Up offers solid instruction on the basic elements of belly dance — arm movements, hip and rib cage isolation, traveling steps and, of course, the shimmy — at a pace that's slow enough for beginners to follow, but not so snail-paced that you won't break a sweat. 8250 W. Third St., Mid-City. (323) 782-0741, swervestudio.com.
Funny thing about place names around L.A. — they vary wildly in descriptive accuracy. Studio City does have movie and TV studios nearby, but Panorama City lacks any obvious panorama. While City of Industry does possess a lot of light industry, much of the municipality looks pretty tame, and parts of it are rather leafy and scenic, like the Industry Hills Golf Club, attached to the Pacific Palms Hotel & Conference Center. All in all, it's a spiffy and relaxing suburban resort occupying a commanding, rolling hill in the close-in Inland Empire. The Golf Club has won numerous awards from aficionados and features two full courses: the Ike (Eisenhower) and the Babe (Didrickson), with 160 sand bunkers, eight lakes and access to the resort's spa and two restaurants. 1 Industry Hills Pkwy., Industry Hills. (626) 851-4653, ihgolfclub.com.