Sports in Central Park

Get out of the gym and enjoy softball, running, cycling, yoga and more in the great outdoors.

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  • Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

    Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

  • Photograph courtesy of New York Yoga Club

    Photograph courtesy of New York Yoga Club

  • Photograph: Peter Pietraszek

    Photograph: Peter Pietraszek

  • Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

    Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

  • Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

    Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

  • Photograph courtesy of Empire Skate Club

    Photograph courtesy of Empire Skate Club

Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

Photograph courtesy of Central Park Conservancy


Running
Chugging through the streets of Manhattan (and its bevy of streetlights, vehicles and spaced-out pedestrians) can be a gamble. Luckily, the park offers ample room for you to worry more about your pace than about traffic. Clueless where to start? City Running Tours (cityrunningtours.com) takes groups on routes throughout the park. There are also clubs like the New York Flyers (nyflyers.org), Central Park Track Club (centralparktc.org) and the Reservoir Dogs (thereservoirdogs.com) that cater to different ability levels.

RECOMMENDED: Fitness guide to NYC

Softball
Joining a softball team (even as a last-minute sub for a game) is almost a rite of passage for a New Yorker. And playing in Central Park, with the buildings serving as a sunset backdrop, is pretty divine. If you're jonesing to suit up with a coed team, register at ZogSports, whose teams take over fields throughout the city (including the park's Great Lawn and North Meadow) and convene for drinks after each match (locations vary; visit zogsports.org for details; per player $115, per team $1,350). For pickup games, visit Meetup (meetup.com).

Kickball
Softball's goofier little cousin has steadily climbed in popularity over the years. And while Central Park is hardly ground zero for the city's kickball scene, you can still catch a match there. On weekends, head to the ball fields to practice—or join the occasional pickup game.

Yoga
Reaching a state of total relaxation as the city buzzes around you (and while sober, no less) is quite an experience. Locate your Zen Mondays and Wednesdays at Open Air Yoga (Turtle Pond, midpark between 79th and 80th Sts, enter at Fifth Ave and 79th St; openairyoganyc.com; 6:45pm; $12) with instructor Donna Klimkiewicz, who specializes in anusara. Strapped for cash? Take advantage of free sessions from Yoga Fun in NYC every Sunday atop Great Hill (meet at 100th St and Central Park West; 10:30am; free). All classes are BYOM (bring your own mat).

Ultimate Frisbee
Looking for a place to backhand that disc, brah? You can also consult Meetup (meetup.com) for last-minute matches—or start your own after nabbing a field-day kit from the North Meadow Recreational Center (free rental with ID deposit), which includes one of those famed circular flying thingies.

Biking
We highly recommend biking the Loop at night, as the crowds thin out. (Newbie racers should check out this six-to-eighteen-mile ride.) Just don't take too many off-the-beaten-path breaks, as the park can still be dangerous. Explore other routes by joining clubs like the New York Cycle Club (nycc.org) or the Century Road Club Association (crca.net). On the first Friday of every month, cycle throughout the park en masse during the leisurely Moonlight Ride (start at Columbus Circle; times-up.org; first Friday of every month, 10pm; free).

Rock climbing
There are three bouldering spots in the park. On the southern end, check out Cat Rock (midpark at 64th St, enter at Central Park West and 65th St) or Umpire Rock (midpark at 63rd St, enter at Central Park West and 65th St), which boasts the toughest climbing in the park and attracts the most crowds. Uptown, make use of Worthless Boulder (midpark at 109th St, enter at 110th St and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave]). Check out climbnyc.com for more ideas and other city climbing spots.

In-line skating
Park roads offer several miles of smooth blading—and are free of cabs and heavy traffic on weekdays (10am--3pm, 7--10pm) and throughout the weekend, when the drives are closed. Roll with the Empire Skate Club, which organizes the free Tuesday Night Skate every week (for advanced skaters only), so long as the paths are dry (meet at Blades Board and Skate, 156 W 72nd St between Ninth and Tenth Aves; empireskate.org; Tue 8pm; free).

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