Do you have an age at which you stopped getting older? For me, it’s 23. That’s how old I am in my mind, when I decide, for example, that having one more cocktail is a great idea, or when I think throwing around a phrase like “Damn, Daniel” will endear me to my teens. (Both situations have a 100 percent backfire rate, by the way.) And when I wake up with achy joints and don’t recognize the tired-looking, middle-aged woman looking back at me in the mirror? Yeah, that’s a harsh reminder as well that I’m … not 23.

No, I’m not the spring chicken I once was, nor am I as agile as when I participated in all sorts of youth sports. To quote comedian Louis C.K., who reflects on what aging means to him, “One good thing is that I’ve let go of any dream of getting in great shape. It’s like a relief.” I get what he’s saying. I’m no longer in pursuit of a hard body as much as I’m just trying to stay fit and active. Add to that what I consider one of the up sides of aging — emancipation from the insecurities that plagued me during adolescence and young adulthood — and I can focus more on enjoying life and all the activities and adventures it offers, whispers of “you only live once” on repeat in my head. In that spirit, I decided to try out a few activities around town that had been on my radar for a while, things that appear to blend fitness and fun. And if I happen to get buff while doing them? All the better, but I’m not holding my breath.

If you want to take a break from the same old, same old, consider one of these local options that give a solid workout and healthy dose of adventure as well. To quote my dad, life is not a dress rehearsal. So let’s throw away the script and have some fun, shall we?

3 Fun Options for a Solid Workout

Stand-up Paddleboarding at PaddleUp Nashville

Cost: $26/hour
Experience needed: none
Calories burned: approximately 700 per hour

Celebs were first to make stand-up paddleboarding (aka SUP) a thing, their beautiful selves paddling along beautiful bodies of water and just being … beautiful. Well, I’m no Jennifer Aniston or Julia Roberts, but I’ve always wanted to give SUP a shot, so I headed to PaddleUp, a full-service SUP facility located at Rock Harbor Marina.

Julia Roberts just looks so at home on the water, doesn't she? Image: PopSugar
Julia Roberts just looks so at home on the water, doesn’t she? Atta girl! Image: PopSugar
Hey, Jen! Wanna go out and paddleboard this weekend? I can do it now, too! Image: PopSugar
Hey, Jen! I’ll grab my guy and we can go paddleboarding this weekend, ‘kay? Image: PopSugar

Started by Neil Newton and partner Cindy Sorci back in 2012, PaddleUp is the only brick-and-mortar SUP facility in the state that’s located on the water, and they have everything … boards, teachers, equipment, reassuring advice with a healthy dose of humor. A SUP novice, I was unsure what to expect — Will I get wet? What should I wear? Do I wear shoes? What if I don’t look like Julia Roberts??! Neil and Cindy calmed my fears, measured me for a paddle, gave me some easy-to-grasp pointers and off we went.

Imagine spending a late afternoon paddling peacefully down the Cumberland River. And now go and do it! Image: PaddleUp Facebook
Imagine spending a late afternoon paddling peacefully down the Cumberland River. And now, go and do it! Image: PaddleUp Facebook

As we paddled through the marina and headed for the Cumberland River, we passed several groups of folks paddling the day away — either coming in or heading out for a relaxing one- or two-hour experience that just so happens be exercise. In fact, Cindy told me that she’s seen many clients slowly drop some significant weight by just consistently coming to paddle. Understandable — it’s a great core workout maintaining your balance on the board, and the paddling is obviously great for the arms and core as well. But it’s the legs and buttocks that are the silent workhorses — bent and engaged the entire time. I didn’t even realize it till I stepped off the board at the end and almost collapsed, not anticipating Jell-O legs.

If you have been the least bit curious about SUP, make plans and go do it. Seriously. It was so much fun, and almost anyone can do it, no experience necessary. Neil said the oldest customer he’s had is 85 years old, and I’d imagine that person has some pretty amazing balance, a good thing to maintain as we age.

Paddling away on the Cumberland River ...

Hey Mom! Look at me!

Take-aways: In just one hour, I learned how to hold my balance, properly paddle and turn. Doesn’t sound like much, but I was actually pretty proud of myself! To answer my own questions, I didn’t get wet. In fact, Neil says that 90 percent of first-timers don’t ever fall off the board. Taking that into account, you can wear a bathing suit if you’d like, but you don’t have to. I didn’t, but I also brought a change of clothes, just in case I fell in. Most paddlers we passed had on their suits, and with summer coming, that makes sense. You can paddle out onto the river, take a break, get wet and then get back on the board. But a bathing suit is not required, nor do you wear shoes. And I’m pretty sure I looked nothing like Julia or Jennifer. Oh well.

PaddleUp also offers SUP yoga (again, no experience required) and various SUP events and classes throughout the year, so check out their website to see what fun you can get into. And worth noting, PU is right next door to Blue Moon Waterfront Grille, so afterward, stop by, have a beer and watch the sunset. Man, life is good, isn’t it?!

African Dance at Nashville Ballet

Cost: $5
Experience needed: little to none
Calories burned: approximately 400 per hour

Nashville Ballet is not just for the youthfully lean and impossibly limber. In fact, Nashville Ballet has a rich menu of community classes for the 18+ crowd. Sure they have ballet classes for the “I took ballet when I was like 5 years old” crowd who wants to check in on their plié skills, but they also have options like hip-hop dance and Pilates. And, to my delight, African dance!

I had taken some African dance classes when I lived in Boulder, CO, many moons ago, so I was excited to see it as an option so close to my home in Sylvan Park. What is so interesting about African dance is that the moves are symbolic of the lives of the African people — they depict workers in the fields, or villagers rejoicing for a drought-ending rainfall and that type of thing. It’s really a meaningful form of movement.

Age, race, size, sex ... doesn't matter. Anyone can partake in the fun that is African dance! Image:
Age, race, size, sex … doesn’t matter. Anyone can partake in the fun that is African dance! Image:

I showed up at Nashville Ballet ready to get my moves on. The good news and the bad news were one and the same: I was the only student who showed up. Viewing it as more or less a private lesson at a bargain rate, I embraced the opportunity and flung off my shoes, ready to get down to it.

The instructor, Nomi, dove into the warmup, which frankly felt like jumping onto a treadmill at max speed — I was panting in no time. After a sweat-inducing warmup, we went into stretching, since our muscles were warm, and eventually we moved on to the routine. Nomi showed me the moves, then we did them together, and once mastered (okay, maybe mastered is a stretch), she added more on. Nomi was as patient as she was encouraging; I was just focusing on not throwing up or passing out.

All said and done, the 45-minute class was a pretty hardcore workout, but it was also a lot of fun! I got to let it all hang out, so to speak, which isn’t an opportunity that comes along every day. In my head, I looked like:

But in my heart, I know it was more like:

Take-aways: This class was more like an African dance/fitness fusion, and it was a fun deviation from the high-intensity fitness norm. Previous African dance classes I’d taken were more like this one at Nashville’s Global Education Center. Either way, it’s a shame the class was empty, because it’s one of those things that the more people present, the more energy you’d likely feel. Check your ego at the door, though, because you’ll likely look like Elaine in the above video the first few go-rounds, but really, who cares? Wear something comfortable and that you can move in — yoga capris, a sports bra and a tank top fit the bill for me — and bring an ample supply of water because you WILL sweat!

Nashville Ballet’s community class options include various levels of ballet, contemporary dance, hip-hop, Pilates and, of course, African dance.

Fly Gym Aerial Yoga at The Chrome Bar

Cost: $30/class (drop-in rate; multi-class passes are available)
Experience needed: none*
Calories burned: 300 to 400 an hour

I’ve wanted to try aerial yoga for a while. It just looks so graceful and freeing … like … well, like this:

Look. At. That! Seriously, how graceful!
Look. At. That! Seriously, how graceful! Image:

or this:

Wheeeeee!! Look at us being graceful and flying! Image:
Wheeeeee!! Look at us being graceful and flying! Image:

And perhaps for those of you who have been practicing yoga for a while, it is like that. But if there was any doubt that the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be, aerial yoga hammered the point home.

I took my aerial yoga class at The Chrome Bar, a pole dance studio off Eighth Avenue. Frankly, I don’t really know what I was expecting … Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls maybe? But I was pleasantly surprised and warmly greeted by both the owner’s mother-in-law (Hi, Penny!) as well as the teacher, Christy Rose. Prior to students’ arrival, Christy Rose began letting down all of lines from which we would hang, grabbed a Rubbermaid tub that had in it all of the fabric slings and components needed for class and got me all set up.

Aerial yoga instructor Christy Rose hangs up fabric slings in preparation for class.

Aerial yoga instructor Christy Rose hangs up fabric slings in preparation for class.

As my classmates began to arrive, it was clear I’d discovered where hard bodies are made — each gal had an adorable and firm figure, and once class got started, I knew why. I was concerned that I would get tangled up and end up hanging myself, but navigating the sling was surprisingly easy. Getting into some of the positions was challenging, but not impossible, and while my heart rate never climbed beyond (what I’m guessing was) 90 or so, make no mistake: aerial yoga is a workout. As a 40-something adult, I thought I knew my body pretty well, but two days after this class, I was sore in places that I didn’t know had muscles.

Christy Rose demonstrates a graceful move

Christy Rose demonstrates a graceful move.

Take-aways: *The Chrome Bar website says that no experience is required for aerial yoga, and that may be, but some strength and flexibility would definitely be helpful. If you have back, neck or vertigo issues, I would definitely think twice before taking the class. Those things aside, give it a whirl. Be prepared for a high afterward, presumably from the upside-down moves, but also be prepared to be slightly sore. Wear something form-fitting — yoga capris and a tank, for example — and no shoes necessary (but definitely check out the pole dance students’ spiked heels in the cubbies on the way out. Holy cow!).

The Chrome Bar also offers aerial circus and hip-hop classes, as well as pole dancing classes. I may not be test driving those anytime soon, but if it tickles your fancy, I say try it and let me know how it goes!

Ahhhhh, yes. An old dog learning new tricks ... it CAN be done!

See? Old dogs CAN learn new tricks! I’m proof!

Whatever is on your fitness adventure bucket list, don’t waste another minute. Unplug the treadmill, and go ahead and do it!


Okay, okay. Not feeling adventurous? Well, you’re in luck. There are plenty of trusty, tried-and-true fitness options in town, and we’ve got them all in our free SB App. Click here to download and check ’em out!

Ashley Haugen
About the Author
Ashley Haugen

Ashley is a StyleBlueprint contributor who was born and raised in the South. She loves hiking, travel, photography, and spending time with family and friends.