Throw a Fitness Party!

I needed to get a social life. This revelation hit me late on a Friday night when I realized I had spent another evening knee-deep in laundry when I really wanted to be out having some fun. Busy with work and family, I hadn’t seen my girlfriends for weeks. I was so overwhelmed with housework and children’s activities that I couldn’t remember the last time I had picked up the phone just to chat. That was going to change.

My friends are all as time-starved as I am though, so getting together was going to take some creativity. Since women are born to multi-task, combining social time with exercise seemed like a natural fit, so I decided to throw a fitness party—I’d bring the fitness and the fun right to my own living room. But where to start?

My stack of yoga DVDs was gathering dust and I was anxious to try something new. If each guest brought one exercise video to the fitness party, we could hold a swap, so each woman would get a new workout routine without shelling out any cash for new videos. (I’m all for saving money as much as possible.)

So I dug out some old Jane Fonda tapes that I’d never had the heart to throw away and decided it was finally time to say goodbye to the 80’s forever—someone else could enjoy them now. The routines were retro, but they would be good for a laugh at the very least. All that hair! All that spandex!

But I didn’t want us to spend the whole evening in front of the TV. I was dying to try belly dancing, but even though I hadn’t worked up the nerve to join a class, I'd feel more comfortable shaking my hips with my friends than with strangers. So I contacted the instructor from my gym and made arrangements for a private demonstration the night of the party. This way, we could all shimmy to our hearts' content and not have to worry about looking out of place. Look out, Shakira!

A party’s not a party without food and being the magazine junkie that I am, I had stacks of healthy recipes at my fingertips. I decided to continue the Eastern theme with a menu of exotic foods like mango, persimmons and guava—things I’d always seen at the grocery store but had never tried. I added a curried chicken dish and brown rice to round out the meal and made sure I had lots of fresh vegetables and low-fat dip to munch on too. I even pulled out my blender so we could make protein-rich smoothies, which are just as tasty as Pina Coladas—but without all the empty alcohol calories.

Sending out the invitations was a cinch thanks to email, and I immediately started getting responses. It was going to be a full house! I asked everyone to dress in exercise clothes and to bring any DVDs, free weights, tubing or other small fitness items that they wanted to trade. If anyone had a big piece of exercise equipment she wanted to swap at a later date, she could find a taker at the party.

The day before the big event, I bought everyone brightly colored water bottles and pedometers from a discount store. Now, we had no excuses for not getting our 10,000 steps and eight cups of water a day!

The party was such a hit that we decided to make it an ongoing affair. One friend who would be turning 40 soon wanted to host her own fitness party instead of expecting people to bring her gifts. She said a fitness party would remind her of the importance of staying healthy—instead of dwelling on the passing of time. Another friend was inspired by the fitness party when planning her child's birthday party, which would be a spring skating party for his friends. We were on a roll!

Here's a quick list of ideas for hosting your own fitness party:
  • Party favors: Stick with the health theme by offering pedometers, water bottles, pocket nutrition guides, jump ropes, yoga mats, water flavoring packets, or iTunes gift cards.
  • Demonstrations: Hire a qualified instructor from a local gym or studio to lead your friends through a workout. Try: yoga, Pilates, belly dancing, salsa, hip hop dancing, boot camp, or more.
  • Healthy foods: Cook (or cater) light and healthy finger foods like fresh fruit and veggies, edamame, smoothies, water, fruit juice, low-fat yogurt, nuts, and dried fruit.
  • Fun & games: Offer prizes for winners in a few friendly competitions: an outdoor run, most pushups in a minute, longest plank hold, or greatest flexibility.
  • Themes: Create a theme centered on one particular aspect of fitness, such as running, dancing, yoga, or strength training. Create games, foods, contests, quizzes, demonstrations and party favors that bring the theme to life. Take turn hosting the workout party with your friends (once a month for example), trying a new workout theme each time.
  • Seek adventure: Who says you have to stay confined to your house to throw an exercise party? Check out group rates for classes at local gyms or studios; meet and work out at a local park; try outdoor activities like inline skating, hiking, swimming, and biking.
  • Share & swap: Besides fitness videos, ask guests to bring other exercise-related items that they no longer want or use. Some ideas include: gently used workout clothes or shoes, past issues of fitness magazines, group fitness passes to a local gym, or even big-ticket items like treadmills or aerobics steps. Guests can choose to loan their items or make permanent trades.
Hosting your own fitness party is a great alternative to a cocktail party where alcohol is at center stage, or a home shopping party where people feel pressured to spend money. With a little imagination (and some friends who don’t mind sweating a bit), you’ll burn calories and bond with your buddies in no time.