The words “New Year’s resolution” don’t have to make people shudder or sneer.

Resolving to do things better or differently in the new year doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sweat profusely at a gym or skip ice cream sundaes. There are fun ways to improve yourself, to exercise both your mind and body. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to ice skate, which is fun and keeps you active. Same goes for this pickleball we’ve all heard so much about.

All over Maine this time of year, there are classes and activities that can help you stay active and even learn something at the same time. Below are just a few ideas to get you started. As always, check for COVID requirements before heading out or signing up. And if the class or talk you sign up for gets canceled, you can participate in a time-honored tradition – putting your resolutions off a little longer.

Pickleball players tap paddles after a game in Lewiston in October. Could this be your year to try it?  Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


Pickleball has gained in popularity in the last decade or so, largely because it’s relatively easy to learn, players will tell you. Though the name might suggest food is involved somehow, the sport combines the familiar elements of tennis, pingpong and badminton. The net is smaller than in tennis, the paddles are larger than in pingpong, and the balls are plastic. As for the name of the game, which was first developed in the 1960s, there are conflicting stories about its origin. One is that that Pickles was the name of the dog of one of the families involved in its invention. Another is that one of the game’s founders thought that, since the new sport borrowed from various other sports, it was sort of like a Pickle Boat in crew, made up of people from various other boats.

Lots of community and rec centers around Maine offer pickleball lessons. One hotspot is the South Portland Community Center, which offers beginner pickleball sessions on Fridays in January and on Fridays and Sundays in February. Similar sessions are offered into the spring as well. The four-day sessions are $35 for residents and $45 for non-residents. You need to bring sneakers and a water bottle. Paddles will be available during lessons. For more information, go to


Nettie Gentempo teaches hoop dance lessons in Norway and online. Photo courtesy of Nettie Gentempo


While pickleball has become popular fairly recently, hula hoops have been around since we were all kids. Before some of us were kids, actually. So maybe you’ve always wanted to do it but couldn’t get your middle section working in the correct way. You could take hoop dancing lessons from Nettie Gentempo, who last New Year’s Day set out to hula hoop every single day for a year and has documented her journey on Instagram at @hoopwithnettieloops.

She offers lessons at House Lorax in Norway, with classes for kids and adults. The cost ranges from $50 to $60 a month and hoops are provided, but you can bring your own. She also offers pre-recorded lessons online via Patreon, where the cost is $5 to $25, and is open to teaching group lessons. She can be contacted at [email protected]. For more information about the in-person hoop dancing lessons, go to

Maya Williams will co-host a virtual four-week series about poetry and self-care, presented by the Portland Public Library. Photo courtesy of the Portland Public Library


Maybe you read poetry in high school and thought it wasn’t your cup of tea. Or maybe you love poetry. Either way, you might benefit from a workshop that explores how poetry can improve your health and help you focus on your identity and artistic expression. Those are the goals of a four-week virtual program called Poetry Across that begins Jan. 8 at noon. The free series is presented by the Portland Public Library and hosted by Portland’s poet laureate, Maya Williams, along with poet Myri Udeubor. Other sessions of the series will be held in the spring, when Williams will be joined by other poets and writers, including Gibson Fay-Leblanc and Myles Bullen. For more information, go to and search events.



Expand your geographic imagination with a virtual author talk presented by the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine. Authors Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies and illustrator Mike Hall will talk about their new book, “Atlas of Imagined Places: From Lilliput to Gotham City,” on Jan. 22 at noon. The book is a piece of fictional geography inspired by literary fiction, TV shows and films. The free event is limited to the first 500 people to register. For more information, go to 

Could you do this on ice? Maybe, if you take some skating lessons this year. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal


With the Winter Olympics scheduled for February (here’s hoping they stay scheduled), everyone is starting to think about the beauty and grace of ice skating. Maybe you grew up somewhere warm, or you tried to skate but never got past the wobbling stage. Either way, it’s never too late to learn.

Adult ice skating lessons are offered at Portland’s William B. Troubh Ice Arena, with a six-week session beginning Jan. 8. Lessons are on Saturdays or Sundays and class size is capped at 50, with the class broken into smaller groups spaced around the rink with coaches. The six-week sessions cost $99 for Portland residents and $105 for non-residents. Masks are required. For more information on the sessions and other ice skating classes offered, go to

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