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In Texas, mechanical bulls are more often associated with rodeo training and western bars than with fitness.

But trainers at the Travaasa Austin hotel and spa have enlisted their own bucking bull to whip visitors into shape. The one-of-a-kind “Bull Fitness” class brings a true taste of Texas to the destination hotel’s wellness offerings, and since Travaasa Austin opened in April, the class has been a weekly staple in the resort’s extensive activity schedule.

The bucking action of the bull tests the body’s balance and strength, and in turn works the core muscles as the rider struggles to stay on top. “It really works the inner thighs, upper and lower abs, and the back,” said Jillian Lambert, a fitness and wellness specialist at the Austin resort.

Mechanical bulls grew in local popularity in the 1970s, when a Pasadena, Texas man installed one in his nightclub and scoured the city in search of mattresses to break his patrons’ falls. The concept really took off nationwide when John Travolta saddled up in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy.

At Travaasa, Lambert has her students warm up on a stability ball, instructing them to mimic the motions of the bull by bouncing. She then cranks up the classic country music as visitors take their turn on Brutus (as the bull is affectionately known). Riders can wear a hat if they choose, but they must leave one hand up in the air to practice their balance.

Most people last only a few minutes, but if you fall off right away, don’t fret. Depending on the number of people in the class, which ranges from three to 10, everyone gets to ride two or three times in the 45-minute session. According to Lambert, women naturally hold on for longer thanks to their wider hips. The worst performers? American football players. One came into the class recently and fell off in less than one second. “People who are top-heavy don’t do so well.”

Located about 25 minutes outside of Austin in the central Texas Hill Country, Travaasa Austin has 70 guestrooms across seven lodges. The Texas themes extends to the Austin musician-inspired spa menu (try the Willie Nelson “On the Road Again” massage and take home a souvenir guitar pick) and farm-to-table Jean’s Kitchen restaurant, featuring locally raised beef and jalapeño highlights. Packages start at $225 a night, which includes accommodations, breakfast, and bull and bull-free fitness classes.

 

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