We live in challenging times. It’s not like human existence has ever been a cakewalk, but the trials of the modern world present a different kind of adversity than the physical demands of eras past. When the mental pressure builds up between your ears, your brain may feel like it’s hooked on a repeat loop of your own personal infinite scream.
Although doctors and scientists no longer believe physical venting necessarily helps mitigate emotional stress (and could sometimes even exacerbate it), there’s no question hard physical activity can be extremely satisfying when you’re feeling down.
Here are seven ways Philadelphians can harness bodily exertion to achieve emotional release — aka smash the crap out of stuff and be happy about it afterwards.
Break retail goods
Last spring, Thunderbird Salvage in North Philly hosted “Rage Cage,” where the vintage shop got rid of excess inventory by inviting people to crush it into bits. That highly successful event was just a pop-up, but it may have inspired the city’s first permanent anger room, which launched over the summer.
The Rage Release Room — tagline: “A place where you can Fu#% some Sh!t up” — is located in West Philadelphia, and offers various options for your catharsis. Sessions are available via online booking, during which you select a date, time, and size of rage package. Need a quick jolt? Try the $25 “Fast n Furious,” which comes complete with a bucket of breakables and two songs to play while you do your thing. Step it up to the $45 “Savage Beast Mode for a range of breakable sizes plus half a dozen tunes as a soundtrack.
Throw some blades
The idea of a social hatchet toss originated in Canada, and since Toronto-offshoot Urban Axes broke the ice a couple years back, recreational axe-throwing has become popular in Philly. In addition to the OG spot in Kensington, there’s now Bury the Hatchet on Washington Avenue and the forthcoming Kick Axe, landing in Old City early next year.
Crack some bats
Even if it doesn’t have the same dulcet tone of a ball hitting the sweet spot of a barrel made of wood, the metal clubs used at most area batting cages still make a satisfying crack when you connect. Slug it out at Everybody Hits, Philly Hit Zone, Sluggersville or other nearby indoor and outdoor locations.
Thwack a dimpled ball
Probably the main difference between regular and miniature golf is the former requires you to actually hit balls hard instead of just calibrating between light tap and whisper putt. Thanks to simulators, you can get that full swing feel without leaving the city, even on rainy days. Golf & Social on Delaware Avenue is the chillest move, with all-day bookings available and a full bar to follow evening play. The Golf Science Center in Chinatown and the Umbria Golf Center in Manayunk, albeit more serious, are also good ball-thwacking options.
Kick a giant bean bag
Forget about toning your abs. Stress relief is the best reason to jump on the kickboxing bandwagon. Even if you’ve never tried the exercise style before, connecting the flat of your foot with a heavy leather surface will give you a visceral pleasure you didn’t know you missed. Kickboxing gyms have popped up all over Philly — check locations and reviews to find one that’s right for you.
Throw your hardest punches
Punching another person in the face is generally frowned upon — unless you’re in the boxing ring. It takes a lot of training and practice to be good and do it safely, but instructors at places like Joe Hand (where many Philly chefs enroll) and dozens of other boxing gyms around the city (with more on the way).
Break a board…or 10
Many martial arts are all about defense, embracing the philosophy that not getting hit in the first place is the best way to win a fight. But training still includes learning how to wield your body as a weapon — like smashing through wooden boards with nothing but bare hands. There are enough dojos and other studios in Philly these days that nearly every neighborhood has multiple choices for where to go.