Get out there more this year and play



At the end of most of my columns, I exhort you to get out there and play. This is a practical health recommendation. Play is the opposite of work and, as such, considerably more engaging (unless you love your job).

Play tends to increase participation and intensity, where both are contributory to net positive physical adaptations. And play is generally social. Social connections are highly correlated with good health. Today’s column highlights a couple of resources in our area where I do just that: Get out there and play!

Mesabi Family YMCA in Virginia is a terrific place to play. The facility includes a gymnasium, swimming pool and wellness center with Cybex strength machines, free weights and a great selection of cardio equipment. These are all great but, for me, people make the place and the YMCA has great people.

I enjoy group fitness classes and the YMCA has a class for everyone. Seventeen different classes are offered throughout the week (on weekdays), beginning at 5:15 a.m. into the evening hours. I’ve participated in a number of different group classes, and I have always had fun and been impressed with the instructors and the quality of the programming.

New this year at the YMCA is a seasonal offering prompted by the local women’s flat-track roller derby team, The Roller Underground Dirty Ores. The Ores are leading an off-skate session on Tuesday evenings and an on-skate session on Thursday evenings. For more information on the Roller Underground Dirty Ores, visit or For more information about the YMCA, call 218-749-8020 or visit The YMCS is located at 8367 Unity Drive in Virginia.

This time of year, I seem to spend half my time at the ice rink. The rest of the time I’m at the Giants Ridge Recreation Area. I gushed about Giants Ridge around this time last year, and it’s even better this year. For starters, it’s such a beautiful spot. And the area is sufficiently large that, even on busy days, it’s relatively quiet away from the main chalet and lift.

Snow conditions (and weather generally) have been amazing. And the facilities and staff are top-notch. Although I’m mostly snowboarding or Nordic skiing, having acquired a new knee, this year could see my return to alpine skis. There is also snowshoeing, fat tire biking and, for those inclined to more leisurely activities, snow tubing. At the Giants Ridge snow tubing park, you are towed to the top. No climbing necessary!

Management at the Giants Ridge has given a lot of thought to making this amazing experience more attainable to a wider range of guests. In that regard, the Giants Ridge Snow Sports Academy has been expanded, offering more (and more affordable) programming options, including child, adult, family, private and group lessons in alpine skiing, snowboarding (including Park) and Nordic skiing, with evening lessons now also available.

If you want to try the sport for the first time, take a lesson. If you haven’t been for a long time, take a lesson. A lesson will greatly enhance your experience, accelerate your acclimation (or re-acclimation) to the sport(s) of your choice, and help you avoid some of the more painful experiences of the self-taught.

Affordability is often considered a major impediment to individuals and families wanting to participate in snow sports. Giants Ridge has virtually eliminated that barrier with expanded specials. The popular “Under the Lights” special is back and expanded. Guests at Giants Ridge can get a lift ticket and rental gear (alpine ski or snowboard package) for only $25 from 4 – 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday and 2 – 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The Giants Ridge delivers on the social front as well. There are two dining options in the main chalet, more in The Lodge at Giants Ridge, and group programming on the slopes and trails ensures ample opportunities to meet, mix and mingle.

Giants Ridge has “Ladies Learn to Ski/Ride” evening sessions upcoming. And I heard about a Nordic ski and wine evening that sounds pretty incredible. Bottom line, Giants Ridge has a lot to offer, you just have to dig-in a little to discover all that’s available for you.

I’ve found following Giants Ridge on Facebook to be extremely helpful to me in spotting new and upcoming events and deals. My hat’s off to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board for all of the positive change they’ve sponsored at the Giants Ridge Recreation Area. Giants Ridge is located at 6329 Wynne Creek Drive in Biwabik. For more information, call 218-865-8005, toll free 800-688-7669 or visit or GiantsRidge/.

It’s a new year. The days are getting longer. You owe it to yourself to have some fun and meet some people. Wherever you are. So, get out there and play!

Consult with your healthcare professional before starting any weight loss or exercise program.

Tom Duffy is the owner of Good Sports Fitness, a wellness, fitness and athletic conditioning business based in Babbitt, MN. He can be contacted at

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