Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
When Angelenos want to hit a beach, many of us think we have to choose between a spot that's close but gross, or a clean spot that requires an hour's drive. Not so with Playa del Rey Beach, which is right here within the L.A. city limits and absolutely sparkling. The amenities are top-notch: Volleyball courts, a great running path and first-rate restaurants, coffee shops and bars are all within walking distance. But the best part is that it's not usually crowded, and you often can find free parking. If it's a gorgeous day and all the spots along the beach are filled, use our secret spot: South Vista del Mar Lane, just south of Culver Boulevard and up the hill from Tanner's Coffee. That stretch almost always has spots, especially as you head up the hill a ways; just promise us you won't tell anyone! —Ben Westhoff
Culver Boulevard and Pacific Avenue, Playa del Rey, 90293.
The same folks who decided that people should be able to ride a Ferris wheel where they fish have come up with, arguably, an even better combination. The Santa Monica Pier offers ROGA — running plus yoga — workouts on Saturday mornings for free at various times throughout the spring, summer and fall. Come at 8 a.m. to warm up with a two- or five-mile run and stay for yoga at 9 a.m. Yoga is led by a rotating list of Santa Monica's best yoga instructors. Friendly volunteers will hold onto your yoga mat and cheer you on while you run, then offer you refreshments from sponsors such as Clif Bar or Honest Tea when you need a boost of energy. Check the Santa Monica Pier website, sign up for the email list or "like" the Facebook page to make sure you're in the know. It's always nice to wake up to the waves, but having your workout done before brunch is another kind of heaven. —Eve Weston
200 Santa Monica Pier, Suite A, Santa Monica, 90401. (310) 458-8901, santamonicapier.org/roga.
A yoga studio for the real Eastside was embraced almost as the second coming. Finally, yoga for the people. And that's almost what Leah Gallegos and Lauren Quan-Madrid call their new space: People's Yoga. Bringing the chi to Chicanos means "Yoga y Luz" classes in Spanish, prenatal yoga, yoga for "baby 'n' me" and family yoga sessions, Gallegos says. For two years the pair traveled around the Eastside and other underserved neighborhoods to bring the practice to the working-class masses. Then, in June, $10,000 — raised in just 60 days with a crowd-funding campaign — allowed them to open the doors of a dedicated studio. So, uh, do Mexican-Americans do the downward dog? "We're seeing new people every day," Gallegos says. "It's going really good." —Dennis Romero
5161 Pomona Blvd., #209, E. Los Angeles, 90022. (323) 739-4018, peoplesyoga.org.
An entertainment producer and mother of three, Antonia King was startled to realize that L.A. had no yoga studios for children. So in 2012, she launched Zooga Yoga, a studio offering yoga classes to kids of all ages, from babies to teenagers. Naturally, the younger ones are not adept at concentration or mindfulness, so the instructors offer something they call "playful yoga," which involves a lot of motion and activity. Before you know it, your toddler will be showing you how to do tree pose and downward dog. Zooga has been so successful that King plans to expand, with two new storefronts opening soon. —Gene Maddaus
4311 Overland Ave., Culver City, 90230. (310) 839-6642, zoogayoga.com.
Joe Wolf, a massage therapist and nursing student by day, fills the Hollywood Wilshire YMCA's spin studio Tuesday through Thursday evenings with a crowd ready for a fast, fun and absolutely grueling workout. When he's not making the rounds to personally pump up participants, he seems to channel Andre the Giant's Dread Pirate Roberts from his bike, tracing his finger around the room and challenging the class to "Add more!" in a deep bellow (more resistance, that is). The workout is simple, no gimmicks and little chatter, just steady climbing or quick pedaling to an eclectic playlist — epic heartland rock, swampy industrial trip-hop, classic soul and funk, Top 40 R&B and electro-pop. Even gritty grunge ballads. Whether it's Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" or Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," the right song always hits the speakers just as the crowd is wilting, and the hour simply speeds by. —Jessica Langlois
1553 Schrader Blvd., Hlywd., 90028. (323) 467-4161, ymcala.org/hollywood.
Located in downtown's Arts District, just off the Sixth Street Bridge, L.A. Boulders has become a top destination for bouldering — otherwise known as rock-climbing without ropes. The gym opened in January in a vast warehouse next door to a shooting range in the up-and-coming neighborhood. Inside are three massive walls — "the Barrel," "the Alcove" and "the Wave Wall" — which together offer more "problems" to solve than any other gym in the city. L.A. Boulders also has weights and exercise machines, a good enough assortment that some customers use it as their primary gym. Business is so brisk that the owners expect to open locations in Culver City, Pasadena and Hollywood next year. —Gene Maddaus
1375 E. Sixth St., #8, dwntwn., 90021. (323) 406-9119, touchstoneclimbing.com/la-boulders