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Day 203: Work out like a Marine at CrossFit

13 Aug

Credit: CrossFit Tallahassee

Not many things scare me. Among the things that frighten me: small planes, roaches, the crazy drivers on Interstate 95 in South Florida, and CrossFit. What’s CrossFit, you say? It is an intense workout regimen that started as a way to train police departments.  It tends to be popular with current and former military personnel but is broadening its base to more women and Average Joes. CrossFit is total body – from weightlifting to aerobic fitness and general conditioning. I tried an introductory class at CrossFit Tallahassee on a recent Saturday morning. I’m a respectably fit person but I was trembling at the thought of CrossFit. The people who run CrossFit gyms take it very seriously. It’s almost like a religion. Those who believe are very fervent and like to convert others. While I was there for my introductory class a sweaty, breathless couple told me enthusiastically that it would be “the best decision I’ve ever made” if I decided to join. The gym itself is intimidating. It doesn’t have any of the niceties you would find at a regular gym, such as television screens or elliptical machines. No, that’s for pussies. CrossFit gyms are bare-bones and they actively discourage distractions like music or television. The introductory class is more talking than working out, though. The owner spent a good bit of time just explaining the CrossFit philosophy. If you like measurable results, want to build your overall fitness and add muscle, CrossFit is perfect. The workouts he did have me try were pretty intense, leaving me breathless and in pain after only a minute of activity. I could tell it would really get me in top shape. But, if you are heavily invested in another sport like I am with running, I found that the five-day-a-week requirement was too much for me. (They track which days you come in and how well you do.) I wish there was a CrossFit Lite for wusses like me who can only handle two to three days a week.

Address: 504 Capital Circle Southeast

Day 190: Go skating at Skate Inn

10 Jul

Located off Blountstown Highway in a warehouse building is Skate Inn, one of two roller skating rinks in Tallahassee. At an affordable $7 per person, plus a $2 skate rental fee, Skate Inn is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. There are some nights, such as Tuesdays, when skating only costs $2. The only pesky thing about Skate Inn is they don’t accept credit or debit cards, so bring plenty of cash. On Saturday nights, the skate session we attended was from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Kids as young as four and adults circled the ring while Top 40s hits played. I love a good roller rink spin and found I quickly remembered how to whirl around the rink without too many spills. Skate Inn also plays games each night, such as having skaters race, broken down by age groups. If you are a Roller Girls wannabe or groupie, those tough broads use Skate Inn to practice on Wednesdays.

Addresss: 1368 Blountstown Highway

Day 187: Watch ’em wobble around the softball field

7 Jul

There are some sporting events at which no one, not even the hardiest fan, would be willing to pay to watch. And I’d be willing to bet that one such event is my slow-pitch softball games. During the last two summers I’ve joined office colleagues on a co-ed “state league” team that plays about once a week on the diamonds at Tom Brown Park. Starting at 6 p.m. most weeknights, the park lights up as a field of dreams for a wide range of Tallahasseans, but mostly you’ll find a bunch of struggling, middle-aged bureaucrats. The play is always very serious but not so intense that players aren’t afraid to laugh out loud at themselves when easy pop-fly catches slip out of the glove. Though free to watch, fans are few, especially on humid evenings. There are viewing stands near each diamond and a concessions desk. The city hosts slow-pitch softball leagues at both Tom Brown and James Messer Park. Team fees are affordable enough that it usually doesn’t cost each player than about $10 or $15 per season. My team, which sports light-blue shirts, is the “House of Pain” – we are all staffers in the Florida of House of Representatives. Catch our season schedule here at this link. — Mark Hollis

ADDRESS:  Tom Brown and James Messer parks

Day 171: Swing away at the Cross Creek Golf Course driving range

21 Jun

I’m a newbie golfer, so maybe I’m not fully appreciating the entire golf-range experience like I should. But my recent visit to the range at Cross Creek Golf Course lacked something…Thrill, perhaps. It was a blistering hot afternoon, so that’s my fault for choosing a bad time. But there were a few other shortcomings. It’s a golf range, so I expected to find a few clubs to borrow with my big bucket of balls. I found a scrappy collection of irons but only two woods. Again, it’s a golfing range. Can’t they provide a better offering for newcomers who don’t own clubs? The balls were pretty lifeless and some in my bucket were already shattered or deeply splintered. The outdoor carpeted bays have had a lot of wear. Several mats didn’t have tees to mount the ball. But to my liking, there were three levels of bays. The range is lighted and the place stays open until 7 p.m. The prices were reasonable, starting at $5 for a small bucket of 45 balls that you can play from the mats to $12 plus tax for a large bucket of 120 balls that can be hit off the grass. Cross Creek also offers nine holes of “executive length” golf — that’s code for Par-3 style short holes with no/few hazards and plain, straight-on fairways. Next visit, I hope to try the course. — Mark Hollis

Location: 6701 Mahan Drive (Highway 90 East)

Day 163: Perform mid-air tricks at the Mike Blankenship Skate Park

12 Jun

A graffiti-coated wall offers the only splash of color at the city-run Mike Blankenship Skate Park. The rest of the west-side park is pretty much just blande concrete and steel — and that’s the way they like it at this rough-and-tumble outdoor skateboarding  facility. About the size of two basketball courts, the slightly sunken fenced-in park offers a dozen or so dramatic features, including a five-foot “pool” area and various raised transitions, to challenge rookie skaters and veterans alike. The obstacles have been given nicknames by local skaters. There’s “The Hip” area, ‘The Twinkie,” and “The Extension,” which is a big wall that I wouldn’t dare climb with mountain-scaling gear let alone try to race atop on a skateboard like I saw a dozen or so exhuberant, sweaty youth attempt on Sunday afternoon. We found only males from about ages 8 to 28 at the park, except for a few nervous moms watching from the bleachers. And while most of the skaters sported Vans or similar cool-looking sneakers, only a few wore any kind of safety gear despite official warnings that all riders must wear helmets. “I’ve only broken four things in 15 years, so that’s not bad,” said a 27-year-old skater I met at the park who says he attends three to four times a week. Attendance is free. The doctor visits after skating here are not. The park, located next to the James Messer Fields, is open most days from sunrise to midnight, so long as the lights are on. — Mark Hollis

LOCATION: Jackson Bluff Road at Appleyard Drive

Day 155: Tee off at Hilaman Park

6 Jun

We pay taxes for a lot of good reasons, but until recently, I never thought golf courses were one of the best purposes for our public funds. Attribute my political conversion to a recent-months’ infatuation with the brutally challenging sport of golf. There are 11 golf courses in Tallahassee – two of which are run by the City of Tallahassee, five others billed as “public” courses (though presumably built and operated without taxpayer assistance), and four private courses. And from what I know, there are maybe a dozen more courses within an hour drive of the Capital City. I’ve laid eyes on about half of Tallahassee’s courses but have played just two – the Southwood Golf Club, which is entrenched in the neighborhood in which we live, and the Hilaman Park Golf Course, where I played on Sunday despite sweltering temperatures. Of the two, Southwood is the more expensive to play but is considerably more lush and modern. Hilaman, near the center of Tallahassee, has narrower, scrappier fairways and the putting greens and teeing grounds are a little more in need of care. It sits on a few gentle hills and there’s a pretty pond on the back nine. The 30-year-old course has undergone renovation of its greens, tees and bunkers. And as for those bunkers, they’re plentiful. On Sunday, I spent more time in the sand than I did the last time I went to the beach. Hilaman’s rates (by golf standards) are reasonable, ranging from $19 weekday after 4 p.m. walking fees to $38 weekend fees with a cart. I rented clubs and used a cart, which pushed my total bill to $50 on Sunday. There isn’t much of a clubhouse, just a simple pro shot and a bare-bones Fat Sandwich eatery.  A girl in a cart from Fat Sandwich provides ambulatory care to golfers, serving on course a variety of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. –Mark Hollis

Address:  2737 Blair Stone Road

Day 147: Ride a bike at Lafayette Heritage Trail Park

29 May

The trails that thread through the canopy forests that adjoin Tom Brown and Lafayette parks are wonderful for hiking, running, and mountain bike riding. There are multiple points to enter the trails. You can start at Tom Brown Park, or at nearby Lafayette Heritage Trail Park, which is accessed through the Piney Z neighborhood. If you go to the trailhead at Lafayette, there is a mini-BMX track with small bumps to practice your own jumps and tricks. (As I understand it, nearby Tom Brown Park may have a more substantial BMX track.) If you’re like me and have no interest in trying anything fancy, it’s tame enough to suit a novice that just enjoys the bumpy ride. The trails themselves are full of nature eye candy, home to loads of animals and offering peeks at a lake system that includes Piney Z lake. In summer it can get very hot and humid, so bring plenty of water. The trail system itself is pretty extensive, so study a map before embarking on a bike ride that could take you miles away from where you started.

Address: 4900 Heritage Park Boulevard