If you’re that unusual person who actually followed the experts’ advice and didn’t overindulge during the holidays, you can probably quit reading now. But for the rest of us, who never saw a buffet or fully stocked bar we didn’t like, January is time to get serious about getting back in shape.

Fortunately, getting serious doesn’t have to be all that serious. Studies show that you needn’t work out for hours to give your body a boost; short but regular periods of strenuous exercise can do the trick. And with the variety of exercise and sports classes available, getting fit doesn’t have to be boring, either.

At Crescent Lotus Dance Studio, for example, you can get your heart pumping by getting your belly jiggling. Co-owner Kryss Statho says belly dancing is a great workout for the whole torso, resulting in a lot of core flexibility and strength. “And it’s fun,” says Statho. People sometimes are self-conscious about their stomachs when they begin the classes, she says, but once they get into it, they “become OK with their bellies.”

The studio also offers pole dancing and pole fitness classes, which also give you a strenuous upper-body workout. Women are sometimes surprised to find out just how strenuous pole dancing is. “It’s fun and sexy and all about having a good time,” Statho says. A Burlesque 101 class is also a fun way to get your body moving, she adds.

Other classes on tap for January include salsa dancing (you don’t have to have a partner), hip-hop dance and West African dance, which Statho calls “a huge cardio workout.”

And for a little relaxation, Statho suggests a dance meditation class. Fluid yoga movements help you find peace and a centered feeling while experiencing the joy of movement – just the ticket for those whose holidays were frantic.

January will find the Jewish Community Center rocking and rolling, with plenty of ongoing and specialty classes. A learn-to-run group will cover the basics of racing, working up to a half-marathon. Those who prefer team sports can sign up for adult basketball and flag football leagues.

Marketing director Brook Bissinger says the JCC also offers more than 55 group exercise classes every week, including yoga, pilates, aerobics, strength training and dance. Low-impact classes are available for those who need them. Classes begin at 6 a.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. Personal trainers are on staff for people who like the one-on-one approach to exercise.

Pilates advocates can book private sessions with pilates reformers, says Katie Kiefer, wellness director. Bosu ball classes will also begin in January, she says. The ball, which has a flat plastic side, is used in step classes; the ball isn’t so as hard on the knees and joints as regular step classes. Spinning classes remain popular, as do “boot camp” classes, where the lineup changes each session. “You never know what you are going to get,” says Kiefer.

Bosu ball classes are also on the schedule at Romney Pilates. Owner Erin Romney says the studio also offers cardio classes on a stability ball, as well as pilates classes (with reformers and other specialty equipment) and several types of yoga.
Perhaps you have memories of standing straight at the ballet barre as a child. A new offering at Romney’s is ballet barre classes, taught by a professional dancer.

Targeted to adults and teens only, the classes cover a few steps but focus on exercise, form and muscle control. Ballet exercise is terrific for improving posture. You can refresh mind and body at one of Romney’s “Retreat Sundays,” which offer a holistic approach to wellness and include yoga, pilates and meditation.

Romney says she’s seen more and more people come to the realization that exercising smarter beats exercising longer, and that too much strenuous exercise can be hard on the body. “You don’t need to run a marathon to be in shape,” she says. Some of Romney’s patrons are people who spent years as tri-athletes and now have come to to her for injury recovery.

Members enjoy the social aspect at New Orleans Athletic Club, says general manager Michael Walters. The club, housed in a historic building on Rampart Street, offers 40 pilates and yoga classes a week as well as a library, bar, steam room, sauna, spa, indoor heated swimming pool, spinning classes and exercise machines. Membership is about 60 percent male, 40 percent women.

Some members like to spend three or four hours each visit, Walters says. They exercise for a while, then hit the steam room or get a massage at the spa, and wind up in the bar, having a drink and enjoying the free Wi-Fi.

Others take advantage of the club’s personal trainers to get in and out on their busy schedule. Walters says using a personal trainer allows you to develop exercise patterns targeted to your personal needs and goals. Members tend to stay members for a long time, Walters says, forging “workout buddy” relationships and using the club as a place to unwind after a long day’s work.

Whether you’re new to the world of workouts or returning after a hiatus, it always helps to have some sharp new clothes to get you in the right mood. At Priorities, owner Marloe D’Agostino’s motto is “Active wear that goes anywhere.” That translates to dozens of spiffy outfits that you can wear to the gym and then leave on all day long for carpool duty, shopping or running errands. Call these clothes casual wear, travel wear, athletic suits – just don’t call them sweat suits, she says.

The big word in fabrics this year is bamboo, D’Agostino says. Bamboo suits are all natural, soft, breathable and feel as comfortable as pajamas while looking crisp and fresh. They are great for wearing on long airplane or car trips, too, she says, because they don’t wrinkle. Supplex is another smart choice, D’Agostino says, since it’s very comfortable and more breathable than cotton.

If you just toss on a baggy T-shirt and loose shorts, you won’t have the opportunity to see just what your body looks like as you exercise, D’Agostino says. She recommends Capri or boot-cut pants or skorts, which usually have bike tights underneath, and workout tops with built-in bras.

It is worth it to invest in a high-quality fabric when buying exercise clothes, D’Agostino says. They have to be washed often and cheaper clothes fade, shrink, stretch, pill and generally fall apart quickly. The goal is to find clothes that are durable and comfortable, so you can spend less time worrying about your outfit and more time working out.

When the hunt for the active life takes you out of the gym and onto the slopes, you need ski clothes. Gerry Fullington, general manager of Massey’s Professional Outfitters, says the days of spraying Scotchguard on your jeans and hoping for the best are long gone. Massey’s can help you find the right pants, parkas and accessories to make sure you’re warm and comfortable if, like many New Orleanians, you spend Mardi Gras on skis.

Massey’s also stocks the popular prAna brand of clothes comfortable for pilates, yoga and brisk walks. “They can also be used for rock climbing,” Fullington says, in case your pursuit of fitness leads you to hillier regions.

Finally, don’t forget the feet. Massey’s has shoes for running and hiking. After all, those first few days of an exercise routine might lead to sore muscles. You shouldn’t have to cope with sore feet as well. 

Crescent Lotus Dance Studio | 3143 Calhoun St. | 382-5199 |www.crescentlotus.com

Jewish Community Center | 5342 St. Charles Ave. | 897-0143 |www.nojcc.org

Massey’s | Metairie | New Orleans | Covington | Baton Rouge |www.masseysoutfitters.com

New Orleans Athletic Club | 222 N. Rampart St. | 525-2375 |www.noac.com

Priorities | 8128 Hampson St. | 861-8780

Romney Pilates | 3701 Magazine St. | 895-1167 |www.romneypilates.com