Personal Best: NYC Fitness

Jonathan Zeller

For the many of us who have resolved to get in shape in 2011, the good news is that there couldn't be a better place to do it than New York City. Indeed, despite its vast opportunities for indulgence, debauchery and excess, the City also offers an equally impressive menu of possibilities for self-improvement through physical fitness. If you hope to work off those extra holiday pounds and detox from copious quantities of New Year's Eve adult beverages, look no further than the activities below.

Fight your way to fitness this winter through the ancient art of swordsmanship, as taught at the New Amsterdam Fencing Academy and the Fencers Club. New Amsterdam charges just $20 for three introductory classes and has equipment available on-site.

If you'd rather not wield an épée, the City offers another antiquated mode of warfare to aid in your betterment: archery, which can be fun and improve one's coordination, even if it's of questionable cardiovascular benefit. Pro Line Archery Lanes and Queens Archery both feature eminently affordable open shooting along with equipment rental and lessons. Those who need no weapon but their own two fists, meanwhile, may want to take up boxing. Both Church Street Boxing Gym and Trinity Boxing Club proffer lessons and welcome novices—in fact, Church Street hosts a sharply discounted $5 Friday class for newcomers. Finally, the City is also a hotbed of martial arts instruction. Premier Martial Arts, Shotokan Karate Dojo, Asphalt Green, Jet One Academy of Martial Arts and World Martial Arts Center all offer instruction in various martial arts that help tone the body and focus the mind.

Maybe you're like us, and fighting doesn't appeal to you as much as fleeing. Worry not—NYC has you covered with numerous athletic activities that develop speed and agility. Running, of course, is humankind's most enduring mode of fast movement, and New York Road Runners, Brooklyn Road Runners Club and Niketown Running Club all offer free group runs throughout the week. New York Road Runners also has a long list of races to join once you're in game shape. The New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory is a great place to train indoors on a state-of-the-art track, but you'll have to sign up for a seasonal membership.

The City also boasts a number of excellent lap pools, notably at Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex, Asphalt Green and the Community Center at Stuyvesant High School. Chelsea Piers' pool has incredible views of the Hudson River, Asphalt Green's is truly Olympic-size (50 meters!) and Stuyvesant charges just $12 for a one-day pass.

Other training options that may prove useful in fleeing pursuers include rock climbing at Chelsea Piers (which boasts a new bouldering cave), ice-skating at a slew of rinks throughout the City and even Trapeze School New York (for those who want to be prepared just in case they have to make the most acrobatic of getaways).

Inner Peace and Core Strength!
Maybe instead of fighting or running away, you should just chill. The City is filled with yoga studios where you can stretch and meditate your way to inner clarity (and, perhaps, killer abs), even as you hear the occasional taxicab rattle by outside. Popular studios teaching different styles include Jivamukti Yoga Center, Yoga to the People, Bikram Yoga Manhattan, The Shala Yoga House and Area Yoga Brooklyn. All of them offer affordable introductory specials or low prices, period (Area Yoga Brooklyn goes for just $10 per visit, Yoga to the People offers classes based on donation and Bikram Yoga Manhattan's Penn Station location holds pay-what-you-can sessions on weekend afternoons). The ever-versatile Asphalt Green and Chelsea Piers also hold classes in yoga and its distant mat-based cousin, Pilates.

And if you'd rather seek relaxation through pampering, check out this list of NYC & Company member spas.

New York also features numerous chances for the more competitive among us to keep score while exercising. Back at Chelsea Piers, the resolute can play almost every sport imaginable, including ice hockey, basketball and indoor soccer; Asphalt Green chips in with basketball and outdoor soccer. Sportime Randall's Island and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center both boast climate-controlled tennis courts, while SPiN New York, the Wang Chen Table Tennis Club and the New York Table Tennis Federation all specialize in tennis's tiny counterpart Ping-Pong (for more on NYC's table tennis scene, read on).

Even if you'd rather just hoist a mug and forget that you resolved to do anything at all, you can still play games: bocce at Union Hall, Skee-Ball at Full Circle Bar and bowling at Bowlmor Times Square are three ways you can enjoy nominal physical activity in the company of a frosty brew. After all, when it comes to actually keeping your resolution, there's always next year.