Discover Your Inner Olympian
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
With the Olympics under way in Beijing, it’s hard not to be inspired by the competing athletes, who seem to push the body’s physical limits ever further with each passing day. During the games, some New York City trainers and fitness entrepreneurs report an uptick in the number of clients looking to embark on a more rigorous exercise regimen or pick up a new sport.
“People aspire to be like whoever they’re rooting for,” a personal trainer at Equinox on Broadway and 19th Street, Fran Fontaine, said. “During the Olympics, you get people who have never run a half-mile coming in, saying they want to train for a marathon.”
Mr. Fontaine urged anyone setting fitness goals to see their doctor first to get a physical — and, if given the all-clear, to ease into their new program.
What follows are some suggestions on where local would-be athletes can take adult-beginner lessons in a variety of Olympic sports:
While easy to understand, archery is among the most difficult sports to perfect. But that doesn’t stop New Yorkers from trying. For those chasing that bull’s-eye, there’s Queens Archery, an indoor shooting range in Flushing. A bow-and-arrow rental comes with a free, private lesson for first-time visitors. The 43-year-old institution is also home to a bow-hunting league. The manager of the facility, Al Lizzio, said would-be archers should not be discouraged by the sport’s dearth of prime-time coverage during the Olympics. “Archery is as boring to watch as it is exciting to do,” he said.
Queens Archery, 170-20 39th Ave. at 170th Street, Queens, 718-461-1756, $17 an hour, includes equipment.
A coordinator at New York Badminton, Veronica Wu, said convincing Americans that badminton — a game played with lightweight racquets and a feathered projectile called a shuttlecock — is more than a backyard sport can be an uphill battle. The 12-year-old New York Badminton Club, which has locations in Chelsea and Fresh Meadows, Queens, initially catered mostly to expatriates from Europe and Asia. But in recent years, it has begun to attract more American players, according to Ms. Wu, who said many of the club’s clients are longtime tennis and squash players seeking to expand their repertoire.
New York City Badminton, at Humanities High School, 351 W. 18th St., 7th floor, between Eighth and Ninth avenues, and at Francis Lewis High School, 58-20 Utopia Parkway, between 59th and Booth Memorial avenues, Fresh Meadows, Queens, 646-271-3228, day rate $25, annual membership $200, shuttlecocks and birdies are provided.
The Manhattan Fencing Center, which sent four of its athletes to Beijing, offers classes for those new to fencing — an ancient combat art that employs three types of metal swords and elaborate protective suits and masks. Four adult-beginner classes are offered each week at the year-old center. Its executive director, Julia Gelman, said the fencing is often referred to as a physical form of chess, explaining: “You have to determine what your opponent is doing and be a few steps ahead.”
Introductory courses in the sport, which recalls medieval duels, are also available at the venerable Fencers Club, a New York institution since 1883.
Manhattan Fencing Center, 225 W. 39th St., 2nd floor, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, 212-382-2255, $25 daily floor fee for nonmembers, weaponry and protective gear provided free for beginners; Fencers Club, 119 W. 25th St., 5th floor, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 212-807-6947, four-session introductory package, $100, equipment and gear rental, $75 a month.
While landing a backflip on a 4-inch-wide balance beam may not be in the cards, adults without prior gymnastic experience can learn basic floor-based tumbling exercises at a handful of city training centers. The Field House at Chelsea Piers, for one, offers eight 90-minute adult beginner classes a week, where students can learn cartwheels, somersaults, and handsprings. Apparatus classes and gymnastics-style conditioning classes are also on offer. Meanwhile, the SoHo gym NYC Elite offers two levels of tumbling courses for adults. Some of the most advanced among them participate in the annual Big Apple Classic, an instructor there, Tiffany Rivera, said. Both the Field House and NYC Elite are home to large trampolines — and trampoline gymnastics became an Olympic sport itself in 1999.
For those drawn to rhythmic gymnastics, performed with props such as hoops, ribbons, balls, and clubs, Equinox in Brooklyn Heights is hosting “The Art of Flight,” on August 23. This onetime class, for members only, will teach the fundamentals of the Olympic sport.
Field House at Chelsea Piers, 23rd Street at the Hudson River, 212-336-6500, 90-minute class, $27, multi-session discounts; NYC Elite, 100 Avenue of the Americas, between Watts and Grand streets, 212-334-3628, 90-minute class, $26; Equinox, 50 Court St. at Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, 718-522-9893, free for members.
A seventh-degree black belt in Judo, Shiro Oishi, has taught this Japanese martial art to students of all levels since 1969. At his ‘dojo,’ or studio, now in TriBeCa, those new to the sport can learn such judo fundamentals as armlocks, hold-downs, and strangleholds. According to Mr. Oishi, judo — an Olympic sport for men and women since 1964 and 1988, respectively — places more emphasis on technique and strategy than it does on strength.
Oishi Judo, 547 Greenwich St. at Charlton Street, 212-966-6850, 20 classes, $450, unlimited classes, $1,800 a year.