Earn what you burn. That was my approach to my birthday this year. I wanted to both raise the bar and hit the bar, all in one night. So I got some willing family and friends (pictured left) to join me at my favorite local spin studio, SoulCycle (I'm so obsessed), to kick off the evening by blasting some 700 calories before meeting the rest of my loved ones to cheers and eat cheese at Terroir Wine Bar.
I couldn't have asked for a better spin instructor. Not only did Tomas Mikuzis bring incredible energy and a killer playlist—I loved singing along with the PussyCat Dolls and Rihanna while rocking out on my stationary bike—he also did a fab job of making me feel so special, especially when he dumped much-welcome water on me during a challenging climb.
At the end of 45-minute pedal party complete with a rotating strobe light disco ball, a SoulCycle staff member walked into the dark, steamy studio with a slice of cake and a lit candle, which inspired everyone, friends and strangers alike, to break into song. I was beaming, and not just from all the sweat.
If you're looking for healthy, active alternatives to roll out a birthday or commemorate any event, such as a bachelorette, new job, or anniversary, here are some fit-tastic ways to throw one helluva cardio party.
RELATED: If you're also addicted to spin class, learn nine ways to maximize your ride and burn more fat.
1. Run (or bike) your b-day miles: If you're turning 26 years old or younger, it would be a cool challenge to run as many miles as your age. “I know a guy in his fifties who still runs the number of miles as his age every year on his birthday,” says Jason Karp, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and author of Running for Women. If your age adds up to more than a marathon and you're not an ultra-runner, consider biking 'em instead.
2. Take over a gym class: See if your fave fitness instructor—the one who you see regularly and knows you by name—will let you turn her class into a dress-up party. This is what Karina Stabile, a personal trainer from Long Beach, CA, did two years ago. “For my 28th, I asked my best friend, who is a step instructor, to teach an '80s-themed class,” she says. “We promoted it beforehand and people went all out—you should have seen the '80s workout ensembles, side ponytails, bodysuits, legwarmers, and laced gloves!”
3. Organize a flash mob: What girl doesn't want to dance her heart out on her birthday? “With a mass-choreographed dance flash mob, you get to experience the adrenaline rush that comes with surprising, performing, taking a risk, and accomplishing something on your bucket list, all while being a part of your local community,” says Staci Lawrence, who co-founded Flash Mob America, which helps people plan these spontaneous public events.
RELATED: Flash mobs, hula hooping, and other activities can burn serious calories. Discover the 25 most deceiving exercises that tone more than you think.
4. Host a hula party: Sarah Maccarelli Jordan, founder of Philadelphia-based Hooping by Sarah, was recently hired by one client to perform and give a tutorial at her birthday party. “For her 30th, she hired me to teach her and her friends how to hoop dance, which can burn as many calories as running or jogging,” Maccarelli says.
5. Get Carnival crazy: For Christine Lusita's 40th last year, the LA-based fitness expert threw herself a Carnival-style party. “We had dance-offs, three-legged races, egg tosses, water balloon fights, and beer-chugging contests,” Lusita says. “Then afterward we played a softball game while blasting '80s music.”
6. Go super spiritual: Give your yoga instructor a heads up that it's your special day and, hopefully, they'll get the whole class to send good vibes your way. “I will often place a candle in front of the student's mat and invite the class to send them a silent blessing at some point in the practice,” says Shawn Parrell, an instructor at BODY of Santa Fe in New Mexico. “Sometimes I'll offer a few mantras like 'Omaayushmaan Bhava' (may you have a long life), 'Om Premamaya Bhava' (may you be full of love), 'Om Shaantimaya Bhava' (may you be full of peace) and 'Om Anadamaya Bhava' (may you be full of bliss),” she adds.
RELATED: Not the spiritual type? Check out 10 types of practices and find the best yoga for you.
7. Break a sweat with your besties: Forget hangover-worthy bar-hopping benders. The new bachelorette party is about making this memorable night, well, something you can remember. “I'm working with the group exercise manager at my local Sports Club/LA to plan a private class for a girlfriend's bachelorette,” says Libba Burke, who lives in Boston. “We're trying to choose between Zumba, which would be interesting since we're all rhythmically challenged. Either way, we think it will be a fun way for the bride's friends and family to get to know each other and bond over trying something new,” says Burke, who's working on getting matching workout tops to wear during the class.
8. Run for it: Give yourself the gift a setting a new PR at a fun event that's way more than a race. There's the Fueled by Fine Wine half-marathon (name says it all) in Oregon and the Kiss Me Dirty 5K female-only mud-run series in Arizona, California, Colorado, New York, Oregon, and Utah. For more festive, social, off-the-beaten-path activities and events near you, check out Blood, Sweat & Cheers.