These days, outdoor sports enthusiasts are going through the motions indoors

COMING IN FROM THE COLD

February 09, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

OK, admit it: However active you are from spring through fall, The February Fade has settled in for the duration of winter.

You know this by the extra effort it takes to button your slacks, or the way you shy from mirrors so as not to notice that quivering tummy or newly lumpy thighs. And does using the stairs to get a bag of chips from the office vending machines leave you curiously winded?

Well, listen up, slackers. As Sportin' Life says in "Porgy and Bess," it ain't necessarily so.

Some outdoor activities which once went into hibernation for the cold months can be pursued indoors these days.

Racket sports such as tennis, squash and racquetball have been under cover for decades now. So, too, swimming, jogging, ice skating and such traditional indoor sports as basketball and volleyball.

But did you know about boardsailing? Giant fans and pivoting simulators allow indoor instruction of the world's fastest growing water sport.

How about golf? And baseball or softball? There's at least one local indoor facility where you can swing away at either sport in shirtsleeves. In the case of golf, you can even have the motions analyzed by computers.

Even bicyclists don't have to leave home to keep in shape. A fitness-oriented rider can purchase a portable training device which allows them to keep pedaling their regular bike, perhaps while watching a training video that simulates scenery.

Here are some tips for finding indoor training space until spring:

* "We have a lot of serious league players reserving time, getting ready for the spring season," says assistant manager Gary Shapiro of Sports, a Cockeysville facility which opened last fall and includes baseball and softball pitching machines, golf tees and an 18-hole miniature golf course in its entertainment array.

Located on York Road just north of Cranbrook Road, the center also includes a variety of video and arcade games for young people.

The batting cages, says Mr. Shapiro, are particularly popular among baseball and softball teams whose players tune their swings to machines which deliver pitches at a variety of speeds, in the case of baseball ranging from slow to "smoke." (The latter could also be called "blur," judging from the few players who could even make contact on a recent weekend.)

Golfers (who must bring their own clubs) can whack balls into a net from three computerized tees, including one for lefties. The tee reveals whether you have sliced, shanked or otherwise mis-hit. Mr. Shapiro says some players have even brought their own pros for an instruction session, although Sports does not offer instruction itself.

For information about Sports, call 666-2227.

Also regarding golf, some players set up their own indoor swing settings. Don Wenderoth of the Washington Golf Center store in Westview says for about $100 you can buy a system of nets to hang in a garage or elsewhere. Add a mock turf mat, a supply of balls "and you can pound away all winter."

A couple of outdoor driving ranges are also open all year and offer heated and sheltered tees: Tom Mitchell's Golf Gridiron in Reisterstown (833-7721) and the Rocky Gorge 4 Seasons Golf Fairway on U.S. 29 south of Columbia (725-0888).

* "You don't have to get into a rented wet suit and there's no chance of falling off. It's a good way to invite people to try the sport," says Suzanne Suwanda about learning how to boardsail on an indoor simulator.

Ms. Suwanda, spokeswoman for the American Windsurfing Industries Association, says that a highly sophisticated computer-driven simulator will soon be in use in some areas. Something like an aircraft flight simulator, the device can mimic wave motions, varying wind speeds and even the different degrees of sailboard stability.

Instructors in this area currently use a simpler simulator which "essentially is just one great big fan," says Hal Ashman of the Baltimore Boardsailing Academy.

The wind machine is trained on a sailboard mounted upon a swiveling platform. Students mount the board, pick up the sail's wishbone boom and learn the feel of the wind, and how to tilt the mast fore and aft to steer.

Most instructors now use a simulator for the first half of a windsurfing course because it frees students from the fear of falling into the water.

"We started it simply as a means of people getting prepared for the season a little bit early, but now it's probably the most critical part of the course," says Mr. Ashman.

His academy, which has used the Bare Hills Athletic Club and Downtown Athletic Club in previous years, is scheduled to begin classes March 1 in several yet-to-be-announced locations. Call 666-WIND (9463) for information.

In the Annapolis area, the American Windsurfing School also offers indoor instruction. For information, call (301) 757-4574, or the store which handles bookings for the school, Windsurfing Annapolis, at (301) 974-6039.

* While it doesn't offer the scenic pleasures of being out on the road, bicycle training indoors has become increasingly popular through the use of trainers which allow riders to pedal their own bikes.

"I'm fat anyway, but if I don't work in the winter, I just get massive," says Dan Schaller, the administrative director of the League of American Wheelman, a national bicyclist organization headquartered in Baltimore.

Three primary types of trainers include: treadmill-like rollers, where the bike must be balanced by the rider just as on the road; units where the front wheel is removed and the fork is fixed to a mount while the rear wheel turns a roller of some kind, and smaller portable units where only the rear wheel is clamped into a rolling device.

On some models, pedaling difficulty is provided by fans that simulate wind resistance, while others use an internal cam that can be controlled to mimic a variety of conditions.

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