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Shake It Up: How Non-Mainstream Workouts Can Train Your Body and Your Brain

When it comes to working out, it can be easy to get into a rut, forgetting all the possibilities that are out there. But how you move can be a way for you to do what you love, or to challenge yourself in ways that go beyond the physical. So if you find your workouts feeling a little stale or your motivation dwindling, it may be time to try a non-mainstream exercise or try working out with new people. In this article, we dive into how shaking things up in your fitness journey can pay dividends for your mental, physical, and social health. 

First, new workouts can feed your mind. Maybe when you think of school, you think of an endless cycle of reading and testing. But a 2008 psychological study found that when people were taught about topics in multimodal ways (AKA auditory, writing, or other methods that go beyond simply reading and studying) they scored higher, including in areas they didn’t receive direct education on. This suggests that learning new things can make us better at other things. And it turns out that the same goes for our bodies: trying new movements can be stimulating for our brains and for our muscles, which can improve our athletic performance and fitness across the board.

Hit House Instructor Tobias Wong wearing the 7" Mako Shorts and Reign Short Sleeve.

Photo by Louie Herman

What are the ways that exercise deviates from the mainstream? For example, you’ve probably heard of, or maybe even tried kickboxing. But why not look into Muay Thai? Muay Thai uses a different stance, footwork, and employs hips and hands differently than other types of more mainstream MMA. And while this approach to fighting is valuable on its own, it can also stimulate the mental and physical gains that can elevate your game as a boxer or even in other sports. And it may surprise you how accessible it could be to get started with a non-mainstream workout like Muay Thai. Tyler Scott, the founder of Hit House Muay Thai gym in New York City, said of his spot, “my wife and I wanted to create a beginners’ Muay Thai class centered around striking and bag work.”

Cross Training, or engaging in a sport that’s different from your main sport, can result in huge physical benefits. Tobias Wong, an instructor at Hit House, says “you never know how another movement or technique from another sport or exercise will enhance your current skill level.” Science bears this out: in addition to reducing injury from repetitive motions, cross training can help you train new muscle groups and fight boredom in exercising. And when you choose a group exercise class as the place to do your cross training, the benefits can increase even more.

According to NorthWestern Medicine, exercising with a buddy or group can be more effective than exercising by oneself. Having a community can help you learn more about technique, enjoy the challenge of performing, and even make friendships that help make the exercise a bigger part of your routine.

As noted in Rhone’s article with VRB Labs, “The VRB Labs Guide to Maximizing Mental Health,” Harvard’s well-known Study of Adult Development demonstrated that close relationships are more important in lifelong happiness than money, class, IQ, or genes. However, according to a study by Cigna Health, Millenials and zoomers report high amounts of loneliness. But fear not–your fitness routine can be a place to combat this loneliness.

Hit House Instructor Tobias Wong wearing the 5" Mako Tech Shorts and Reign Short Sleeve.

Photos by Louie Herman

Another group fitness class that is as amazing for the community aspect as it is for cross training is climbing. RiseNation, a class that uses an upright cardio machine called the Climber, can be a great place to try something new. Climbing can be easier on your bones and joints than other exercises while still providing a tough workout. Or maybe you miss your childhood sports league. Find a workout that is as fulfilling socially as it is physically through ZogSports, an intramural adult sports league that has soccer, basketball, cornhole, and more. ZogSports can be an incredible way to combat loneliness and get yourself out of your comfort zone. If going out of the house to go out of your comfort zone doesn’t feel (or maybe isn’t) feasible with your lifestyle right now, there are ways to reach new muscles and incorporate these challenges at home. The Hydrow machine is a way to do just this. Rowing is a true total body sport, and getting some hours in on the Hydrow will undoubtedly up your game in other exercises.

Hit House Instructor Tobias Wong wearing the 7" Mako Shorts and Reign Short Sleeve.

Photo by Louie Herman

You have the power to choose a fitness routine that not only makes sense with your life but enhances it. Hit House instructor Tobias C. Wong says, “Never say, “no” until you try it! It’s always good to diversify your workouts. You never know how another movement/technique from another sport or exercise will enhance your current skill level.”

So, the next time you’re feeling a little stagnation in your fitness routine, we challenge you to try something new. You never know…you just might make some new connections, strengthen your body and mind, and maybe, you’ll even grow a little as an individual.

Hit House Instructor Tobias Wong wearing the 7" Mako Shorts and Reign Short Sleeve.

Photo by Louie Herman


Author: Dana VanPamelen is a co-founder of Hit House, a Muay Thai influenced fitness studio in Manhattan. She's been training since 2011 and her favorite move is the teep.

Editor: Maggie Norsworthy is an audio producer and writer based in Brooklyn. Her favorite exercise is running and her favorite color is orange.

Photographer: Louie Herman, based in Brooklyn, NY

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