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Tips for staying fit and healthy during SXSW

Bike, stretch, swim or run downtown during the city's biggest festival

Pam LeBlanc
pleblanc@statesman.com

SXSW has arrived, and if your liver, lungs and just about every other body part could talk, they'd be screaming at you right now to please hold on to some semblance of a healthy lifestyle amid all the sleep-deprived revelry. As it turns out, that's really not hard to do here in Austin, where people swim in a spring-fed pool downtown year-round, clog city streets to run 26.2 miles each February and paddle up and down Lady Bird Lake on oversized surfboards.

On behalf of your body, we offer some ways to inject exercise into your week. We'll leave it up to you to pass on the chips and queso and that last margarita.

¦ Stretch it out. The SXSW lineup includes free yoga sessions in Room 8A of the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. Don't know a downward dog from a chihuahua? No worries. The come-as-you-are classes are beginner-friendly, and no mats or yoga clothes are required. Special emphasis is placed on postures to ease the pain of sitting at a desk and using a computer regularly. Hourlong classes are scheduled today-Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

¦ Pedal between venues. We wrote about SXcycles, a free bike share program that's a team effort by Tern Bicycles and SXSW, in our guide to getting around SXSW earlier this week, but the info is worth repeating. The 150 portable Tern Link D8 folding bicycles will be available through Tuesday to SXSW attendees with Interactive, Film, Gold and Platinum badges. Each bike comes with a helmet, lock, lights, rack and a commuter bag. Bikes will be available from a tent across from the Austin Convention Center. Guerilla Cyclewerx will help with flat tires, bike swaps and minor repairs.

¦ Pedal up and down Lady Bird Lake. Austin Water Bikes, located behind the Hyatt Regency at 208 Barton Springs Road, rents hydrobikes, which look like bicycles mounted on pontoons. The bikes rent for $22 an hour or $13 for a half hour. Open 11 a.m. to dark daily; moonlight rides (extra) at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call 512-200-6555.

¦ Lace up your running shoes. The crushed granite trail around Lady Bird Lake covers 10 miles total, but you can cut it short by crossing bridges at Congress Avenue, First Street or Interstate 35. Along the way, you'll see a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan at Auditorium Shores, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and a pedestrian bridge.

¦ While you're in the neighborhood, head over to Zilker Park on Barton Springs Road, west of Lamar Boulevard, where you can plunge into the brisk, 71-degree waters of the spring-fed pool. Admission is $3. Or rent a canoe in the creek below the springs and paddle out onto Lady Bird Lake.

¦ If that's too chilly, go to Stacy Pool, a heated, outdoor pool at 800 E. Live Oak St., east of South Congress Avenue. Admission's free. Call 512-476-4521.

¦ In the past year, a 30,000-square-foot cement oasis known as Austin BMX & Skate Park opened its doors at 1213 Shoal Creek Blvd., south of Enfield Road. The city park has ramps, humps, rails, stairs and a half-pipe. Open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

¦ If a traditional fitness club is more your style, Austin's got that, too. Among the bevy of fitness clubs is the YMCA of Austin Townlake Branch at 1100 W. Cesar Chavez St., just across the street from Lady Bird Lake. The club has an indoor swimming pool, weight room and an array of classes. Call 512-542-9622.

¦ For a hike with a stunning view, stop by Mount Bonnell. Dash up imposing steps to take in a view of Lake Austin from 700 feet above sea level. Take FM 2222 west to Mount Bonnell Road, turn left and the park is up the hill on the right.

¦ Finally, take a stroll through McKinney Falls State Park, where you can watch water tumble over rocks or take a dip in Onion Creek. You can also camp, hike, bike, picnic or fish at the park, 13 miles southeast of downtown. Take U.S. 183 South to McKinney Falls Parkway. Admission is $3 for adults. Call 243-1643.

Contact Pam LeBlanc at 445-3994