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Upgrade Your Workout: The Best Extreme Sports to Try

Hit the refresh button on your old, tired workout routine and get some bigger, better, badder fitness goals with these extreme sports.

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Karen Pearson
Karen Pearson
Laura Doss
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Denise Crew
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Kick Your Workout Up a Notch

Thinking about taking your fitness routine to the next level? Smart idea, as research shows the secret to staying in shape is learning how to keep your body on its toes. "Fitness goers want to be challenged, and sometimes going to the gym isn't enough," says Pete McCall, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. Here, McCall offers smart and exciting ways to upgrade your workout, whatever your sport.

Sick of Running Around in Circle?

If you're the queen of 5Ks, it may be time to expand your kingdom to include some obstacle courses, like the Warrior Dash or Spartan Race. With both race series scattered across the country and happening all year round, you can sign up anytime for the hard-as-hell three-milers that guarantee to engage more than your legs. "A lot of the obstacles -- mud pits, tunnels, and wall climbing -- require upper-body strength, coordination, agility, and flexibility, so they really challenge you to move completely different than you're used to," says McCall. "Interval training is key for this, so instead of just running in the park, you'll need to do sprints and pull-ups."

A longer option for half- and full-marathoners is the Tough Mudder, a 10- to 12-mile obstacle course created by British Special Forces. The series, which currently features 22 events around the globe, just teamed up with 24 Hour Fitness to offer 60-minute boot camp classes to members ($15 for non-members), complete with belly-crawling, wall-climbing, and mud-slogging moves, to help you get race-ready.

Visit www.warriordash.com to sign up for a Warrior Dash >>

Visit www.spartanrace.com to sign up for a Spartan Race >>

Visit www.toughmudder.com to sign up for a Tough Mudder >>

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Ready to Bike the Distance?

Bike commuters and weekend warrior triathletes alike should consider using charity bike rides as the perfect setting to push themselves and the pedal. Think about it: These events are fully supported, which mean staff is on hand to keep you fueled, change flats, help with other mechanical issues, even give you a lift. And because these rides are more like tours than like races, you can really sit back and enjoy them. To find upcoming local charity rides for causes like MS and diabetes, check out mapmyride.com/mycyclingevent, which is a tool created by Raleigh Bicycles to connect cause-cyclists with rides near them. One of our personal favorites is the Dempsey Challenge, a cycle charity event designed to raise money for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at Central Maine Medical Center. Sign up for the 50-miler and you'll get to ride alongside McDreamy himself!

Looking for a harder ride? Apply for an Epic Endurance Bucket List adventure, like the Tour de California or Leadville 100, through Carmichael Training Systems. Lance Armstrong's former coach, Chris Carmichael, and his talented staff of coaches will prep you for the experience of a lifetime.

Visit www.dempseychallenge.org to sign up for the Dempsey Challenge >>

Visit www.trainright.com to sign up for an Epic Endurance Bucket List adventure >>

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Laps Making You Lose It?

Think outside the pool! Take the plunge at an open-water event near you or somewhere exotic to turn your vacation into a fitness triumph. Thanks to the growing popularity of triathlons, swim events ranging from half a mile to 22 miles are popping up all over, including New York City's Hudson River, where you can row, row, row your stroke three-quarters of a mile to the Statue of Liberty.

Check out www.usopenwaterswimming.org to find a body of water where you can make a splash >>

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Weight Lifting Too Boring?

If you're not already obsessed with CrossFit, you will be soon. "One of the cool things about CrossFit is it took weight lifting, which a lot of people find tedious, and made a competition out of it -- you are basically competing against yourself in time," McCall says. "I think that makes it more challenging and fun."

But if you've already push-upped there and dumbbelled that, McCall recommends trying the TRX suspension training, a unique and effective workout developed by a U.S. Navy Seal who hung parachute straps and handles from trees back in the '90s while serving in Kosovo (upon his return he founded the exercise program). "These two portable straps hang down to let you use your own body weight and gravity to get a great resistance workout," McCall says.

Visit www.crossfit.com for studio locations and more information on CrossFit >>

Visit www.trxtraining.com for more information on TRX training and an online exercise library >>

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Yoga Making You Sleepy?

Just held your side crow for 30 seconds or longer? At this point, you're probably upstaging your yoga teacher. Rather than getting certified, which can be time consuming and expensive, consider elevating your practice using techniques that were first developed back in 2006. "Aerial yoga uses a suspended low-hanging fabric to allow you to combine traditional yoga with trapeze-like acrobatics," McCall says. "This is definitely not for beginners," he warns of the masters-only classes.

Visit www.aerialyoga.com to look up an Unnata Aerial Yoga instructor or studio near you >>

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