For sheer size and variety--and that friendly YMCA atmosphere--it's impossible to beat the big Y, which at one time not long ago billed itself as the biggest Y on the planet. There's a pool, indoor track, squash courts, racquetball courts, hoops courts and machines of every description: rowers, cycles, runners, weights and stairs. Combine that with all the classes, and pretty soon you'll be what our old Y instructor said we should be, back when it might have been true. As he put it: "Be proud of your body." An Observer staffer who belongs said make sure to mention the covered smoking area outside--but we won't.

Oh, you can keep your froufrou gyms, your pantywaisted health clubs. Go soak your head in the Jacuzzi. Pull up to the juice bar and take your slug of wheatgrass. Go ride your stationary bike, 'cause you ain't goin' nowhere. Yeah, sport, just wrap yourself in a freshly laundered, club-provided terry-cloth towel and leave us the hell alone. We're over at Doug's, sweating our asses off in the middle of summer and freezing our nuts off come February 2; we ain't got no time for such luxuries as air conditioning. We come here to do one thing: get ripped, baby, pumped to the pecs. Doug Eidd, owner of this joint since Jack Ruby was a free man, has no patience for the namby-pambies of your more expensive gyms; this is bare bones, man, down to the sinew. Doug trains with the counsel of the elders and the patience of the divine, as both men and women who care only about getting fit hang here and endure the regime he will design solely for you. Weight lifting, boxing, jumping rope--it's simple, and yet so danged tough. We're still not sure if we're exercising or enduring ritualistic torture--really, who in 2002 tosses the medicine ball, save for us dopes--but we like the way we look; so do the ladies. Well, not really. But they will, damn it. Oh, they will. Won't they?

He's been knocking around the NBA for four decades, as a player, coach and general manager, so he should have things figured out, right? What the three-time Coach of the Year has done since his arrival in Dallas is steadily gather a collection of talented players and design a game plan that best suits them. In elevating the Mavericks to playoff caliber, he's gone with the run-and-gun, put-it-up-quick offense that delights fans and keeps the hometown crowds cheering. And bet that he's beating the bushes for a big guy who can add some needed defense in the middle. Highly regarded for a history of taking low-round draft picks others should have selected earlier, he might soon find that last needed ingredient. Don't forget his best attribute: He works well with the psycho billionaire who owns the team. Which ain't as easy as it sounds. Which brings us to...

On any given Friday or Saturday night, you can join the cool kids from middle school once again. For $6.25 or less, don the brown and orange skates of yore and cut loose to the sounds of Cheap Trick, Vanilla Ice and J. Lo. You might even catch sight of a staffer or two clinging to the wall for stability and jealously eyeing the preteen speed-skaters. It's a helluva good workout (you'll realize how good when the aches hit the day after), and fret not, the Lucky Number game, the races and the Couple Skate live on here. Lace up and roll out.

Short of building a half-pipe or draining the pool in your own back yard, there aren't too many places anymore to skateboard in Dallas without needing a police lookout. Eisenbergs has the best layout for practicing anything from an ollie to a trick from Dogtown & Z-Boys. The park also offers amazing graffiti, live music, ramps for bikes, blades and boards and a reasonable admission fee. Parents can feel comfortable dropping the kids off or donning a pair of Etnies and trying it themselves...don't worry, they rent out helmets and kneepads.

Dallas isn't exactly a walking city known for sweeping waterfront vistas or any vistas for that matter. So, ho-hum, here we go again with The Rock--but you got a better answer? Didn't think so. White Rock Lake is a perennial Best Of favorite and deservedly so. More than 11 miles of biking and jogging trails surround this 1,000-acre lake, a group called "For the Love of the Lake" says. You have a view of the lake, parks, other bikers and other joggers. It is far and away the best place to run away from the city.

This is the Sears of sports stuff. Solidly middle market, serviceable and so wide-ranging it's impossible not to find something in your sport of choice. Although Oshman's isn't the place for upper-end specialty gear, at times you can find the very best of what you're looking for at bargain prices. A few months ago, we found a pair of North Face climbing shorts for an unheard-of 40 percent off. The tennis gear, too, is top of the line. Whether you are looking for clothing, a set of weights, a soccer ball or a very good tennis racket, you have a good chance of ending your hunt here.

REI

Don't get us wrong. We love quite a number of Dallas' outdoor boutiques, the ones selling full lines of Patagonia fashions and some of the coolest shoes known to man. But when it comes time to spring for a serviceable sleeping bag or a backpack, REI's prices and selection are the ones to beat. A few years back we bought some first-rate North Face bags, and nobody could top this warehouse-sized, outdoor category killer. And that didn't include the 10 percent year-end refund, which goes along with the co-op-style way REI does business. Some of the fine, high-end outfitting stores in the area are more likely to meet the demands of back-country winter hikers or rated mountaineers. But for all-around outfitting and camping stuff for the whole family, REI gets the nod.

REI

This may not be the biggest bicycle store in the city, but it is definitely the best place for a serious bicyclist to find equipment and expert advice. The Seattle-based retailer has built a reputation for quality outdoor equipment and carries a good variety of bikes and biking gear suited for the spandex set. They carry clothing for biking in the heat, for wet weather and cold weather, gear more suited to Northern climes, bicycle racks and camping equipment. The staff is knowledgeable and incredibly helpful to novice and expert alike. Besides biking, you can pick up food, gadgets and gear to help you climb mountains someplace outside Texas. And, if your privates hurt when you bike, they have seats that will fix that. We were thankful.

This one was tough. As you'd imagine, there are plenty of worthy candidates on a team that was out of the A.L. West pennant race shortly after returning from spring training. Or was it shortly before heading to spring training? Well, whatever. Palmeiro beat out John Rocker, Carl Everett and Hideki Irabu--all solid additions to the club if you ask us. Despite being just two years shy of his 40th birthday, Palmeiro put up some pretty impressive power numbers this season and managed to maintain his sanity in a clubhouse that went the way of Big Nurse's Cuckoo Ward months (if not years) ago. And if that wasn't good enough, well, the man is in a Viagra commercial. 'Nough said.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of