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Get healthy and stay safe: 7 socially distant ways to work out in Howard County

We were meant to move.

Despite our love for art, deeply held political beliefs and affairs of the heart, human beings are physical creatures — and our bodies work better when they’re kept in good running order.

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The COVID-19 pandemic made exercise (like everything else) more difficult. But it didn’t make it impossible. Below are seven ways to work out while still maintaining the social distancing necessary to reduce risk to you and your family.

Blossoms for Hope is throwing a scavenger hunt designed to get families outdoors to explore Howard County’s groves of cherry trees.
Blossoms for Hope is throwing a scavenger hunt designed to get families outdoors to explore Howard County’s groves of cherry trees. (Blossoms for Hope)

Hunt for treasures amid cherry blossoms

Blossoms for Hope is throwing a scavenger hunt this spring designed to get families outdoors to explore Howard County’s groves of cherry trees when they are in full flower.

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Vera Simmons, director of community outreach for the charity, said participants receive a map of 15 of the county’s 50 cherry groves, a set of clues and hunting tools. Families can take several weekends to locate such treasures as birdhouses and gnomes peeking out of the cherry trees’ branches.

“After a year of staying inside because of COVID-19, we wanted to come up with a safe, socially distant way where people could have fun and enjoy being a family while maybe having a picnic outside,” Simmons said. “There will be prizes.”

$25 per family through May 5. For details, go to blossomsofhope.org/scavengerhunt.

Howard County will offer a canoeing and kayaking basic safety course starting in mid-April.
Howard County will offer a canoeing and kayaking basic safety course starting in mid-April. (Columbia Association)

Paddle a kayak or canoe

The pandemic has left a lot of people feeling as if they’re up a creek without a paddle. Jumping into a kayak and canoe can be the perfect remedy.

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In addition to an upper body and core workout (balancing is key), paddlers can literally get a new perspective.

“You can see things from the boat you can’t see from the shore,” said Matt Medicus, a recreation supervisor for Howard County. “You can get close up to turtles and wild blue herons.”

The county will offer a canoeing and kayaking basic safety course starting in mid-April and hopes to resume river trips in the fall. In the meantime, individuals, families or small groups can make arrangements for private lessons or outings through the county’s friends and family program.

Adventure Shack at Centennial Park, 10000 MD 108, Ellicott City. Prices start at $39 for an introductory lesson. For details, go to howardcountymd.gov/adventure.

Ben Stevick, riding Will the horse in front, and Christine Reno, riding Pemi the horse, walk around the ring in a circle as head instructor Debbie French sets up cones. Members of a Special Olympics equestrian team practice at the Therapeutic Recreational & Riding Center on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.
Ben Stevick, riding Will the horse in front, and Christine Reno, riding Pemi the horse, walk around the ring in a circle as head instructor Debbie French sets up cones. Members of a Special Olympics equestrian team practice at the Therapeutic Recreational & Riding Center on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Ulysses Muñoz)

Walk, trot, canter

People who’ve never spent quality time about a four-legged mount sometimes joke that horseback riding isn’t really exercise “because the horse does all the work.”

That comment makes Helen Tuel break into a lather.

“Horseback riding is a full-body workout,” said Tuel, founding director of The Therapeutic Recreational Riding Center Inc. in Glenwood, which provides riding instruction for people with special needs and the general public.

“We do stretching exercises before each lesson. Horses move symmetrically, and that forces the people who ride them to move symmetrically as well. Basic horsemanship is extremely complex for a person with developmental challenges. It forces them to think in a different way. But they work hard and find out they can do it.”

3750 Shady Lane, Glenwood. Prices start at $38 for a semiprivate therapeutic riding lesson. For details, go to trrcmd.org.

Test your arm and leg muscles and your stamina by scaling the 50-foot climbing walls at Earth Treks Climbing in Columbia.
Test your arm and leg muscles and your stamina by scaling the 50-foot climbing walls at Earth Treks Climbing in Columbia. (Morgan Keeper/Earth Treks)

Up against the wall

The intrepid rock jocks who scale the 50-foot climbing walls at Earth Treks Climbing in Columbia are developing their arm and leg muscles while testing their stamina, grit and balance.

And with fewer than 75 athletes spread out among the 42,000-square-foot facility with its 150 different ropes and 100 different climbing routes, no two club members need be within a stone’s throw of each other. The facility provides bouldering (climbs of up to 15 feet without ropes) and rope climbing (ascents of up to 45 feet with this safety feature).

Masks are required, and the facility is cleaned every few hours.

“Climbing is great for fitness because you move your whole body,” said Cody Grove, the assistant gym manager of Earth Treks Columbia. “You push with your feet and pull with your arms while using your core to maintain balance.”

7125 Columbia Gateway Drive, Suite 110, Columbia. Prices start at $30 for a day pass and monthly memberships cost around $79. For details, go to earthtreksclimbing.com.

Howard County will begin offering two-hour classes in target archery on Saturday mornings in April for adults and kids 8 and older.
Howard County will begin offering two-hour classes in target archery on Saturday mornings in April for adults and kids 8 and older. (Alpha Ridge)

Arrow dynamics

There’s no sound quite like the satisfying thwack of an arrow hitting a bull's-eye.

Howard County will begin offering two-hour classes in target archery on Saturday mornings in April for adults and kids 8 and older (the lightest bows weigh about 10 pounds). In addition, the county’s summer recreational lineup will include archery camps.

Matt Medicus, a recreation supervisor for the county, said classes tend to be distributed evenly between children and adults. In addition, residents can reserve range time or schedule private lessons through the county’s friends and family program.

“Target archery develops strength in the arms, back and core,” Medicus said. “It develops hand-eye coordination, mental focus and concentration. And it’s a great family activity that you can do while social distancing.”

Alpha Ridge Park, 11685 Old Frederick Road/MD Route 99, Marriottsville. Prices start at $55 for the required introductory class. For details, go to howardcountymd.gov/archery.

Karen Taitano leads a socially distant Zumba class at Brickhouse Cardio Club, attending the workout are instructor Barbra Beach, left, and Liz Loehe, right.
Karen Taitano leads a socially distant Zumba class at Brickhouse Cardio Club, attending the workout are instructor Barbra Beach, left, and Liz Loehe, right. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

Dance, dance, dance

Karen Taitano has devised a slew of dance-based group exercise events for Brickhouse Cardio Club, the boutique fitness center in Ellicott City she owns that caters to an almost exclusively female clientele.

Rhythm-based offerings range from Zumba (moves inspired by Latin American music) to aerial yoga (participants perform yoga positions while dangling from a hammock) to tap dance to “pop-up classes” announced just 48 hours in advance.

A recent pop-up class featured dances through the decades from the 1920s to the present. Attendees were encouraged to wear costumes.

“We’re very careful about maintaining social distancing,” Taitano said. “For the group classes, I taped off squares that were 6 feet apart. Each participant has to remain within her square. Everyone wears masks, and we’re cleaning constantly.”

Exercise strengthens the immune system, Taitano said, and boosts mood by releasing endorphins.

“People have so much fun while they’re working out,” she said. “We’re like a family of friends.”

3419 Plumtree Drive # 103, Ellicott City. Memberships cost $252 for three months; $444 for six months and $768 for a year. For details, go to brickhousecardioclub.net.

Golfers who walk Howard County’s hilly courses will spend about four hours outdoors, cover about 5 miles and elevate their heart rates. Each of the 18 holes is spaced hundreds of yards apart.
Golfers who walk Howard County’s hilly courses will spend about four hours outdoors, cover about 5 miles and elevate their heart rates. Each of the 18 holes is spaced hundreds of yards apart. (Waverly Woods)

Follow through

It’s hard to imagine an exercise better designed for social distancing than golf:

Each of the 18 holes is spaced hundreds of yards apart. Tee times are staggered 10 minutes apart. And golfers who walk Howard County’s hilly courses will spend about four hours outdoors, cover about 5 miles and elevate their heart rates.

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“Golf has definitely enjoyed a resurgence during the pandemic,” said Jason Donati, general manager of the Waverly Woods Golf Course in Marriottsville. “For months, golf was literally the only leisure activity that people could do outside their homes other than going for a walk.”

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New golfers quickly become hooked, according to Joan Lovelace, who oversees Fairway Hills Golf Course and the Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club in Columbia.

“It’s four hours of uninterrupted time with your best buds or your family,” she said. “There’s no TV, and you’re out in a beautiful setting. Why not hit a little white ball at the same time?”

Prices start at $20 for five holes of golf at Waverly Woods Golf Course, 2100 Warwick Way, Marriottsville (waverlywoods.com); at $17 for nine holes at the Fairway Hills Golf Course, 5100 Columbia Road, Columbia (columbiaassociation.org); and at $28 per month at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club, 11130 Willow Bottom Drive, Columbia (columbiaassociation.org).

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