Best outdoor fitness classes
Catch a few rays (under a protective layer of SPF 50, of course) and get some exercise in the great outdoors.
Mon Jul 12 2010
Photographs: Caroline Voagen Nelson
RECOMMENDED: Fitness guide to NYC
Basics of Running 101
Meet at Union Square Park, 14th St between Broadway and University Pl (unionsquarenyc.org). Thu 7am; free; through Aug 12.
Level: True beginners—if you can’t even run-walk a mile, this class is for you.
What to expect: These hour-long sessions may not give you the adrenaline rush common to many a runner, but you will learn how to stop huffing and puffing while you sprint through the city. Led by marathon runner Roy Alexander, the sessions are technique-based, with the goal of getting runners to maintain a comfortable pace; Alexander will also teach you what stretches to do to minimize recovery time after each run. Virgin runners will learn how to protect themselves from the risk of injury and work on building the endurance to run their first 5K.
Hudson River Park, Pier 46, Charles St at the Hudson River (laceystonefitness.com). Tue, Thu 6:30--7:30am; four-week course $300; through Sept 30.
Level: All are welcome, but prepare to be sore for a few days if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym since Christmas.
What to expect: If you want Jillian Michaels to be your workout buddy, this may be the class for you. BootyCamp sessions require a commitment—you’ll take classes twice a week for a full month—but in return, you’ll see results quickly. Instructors take you through drills of sprints, squats, lunges and push-ups; both order and intensity level vary. Oh, and there are no breaks: Just when you think you’re getting a breather—say, after you’ve sprinted from one end of the pier to the other—you’re pushed even further, with more reps or another sprint. It’s grueling work, but it makes for some extreme bragging rights once you’ve completed a class.
Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd at Broadway, Long Island City, Queens (718-956-1819, socratessculpturepark.org). Sat noon--1:30pm; free; through Sept 4.
Level: Coordination and a high threshold for gluteal pain will help you power through.
What to expect: This Brazilian form of martial arts originated more than 500 years ago; according to Tara Sansome, the director of public programs at Socrates Sculpture Park, “it’s considered to be more of a game or a dance than a fighting sport.” The practice is known for doing wonders for the booty, so you could come solely for the calorie-torching benefits, but capoeira has the added payoff of building a sense of community between its practitioners, who end each class with a roda, or a circle for showing off their new moves. Each class is made up of anywhere from 25 to 40 students, and you’ll learn basic moves, including torso twists and high circular kicks.
Broadway between 34th and 35th Sts (212-719-3434, 34thstreet.org). Mon 6--7pm; free; through Oct 11.
Level: Assuming you have a healthy tolerance for whimsy, the class should be a breeze.
What to expect: The rewards of these sessions are twofold: Not only do you get a fun, low-impact workout, you’ll also receive a lesson in taking yourself a little less seriously. Fitnotic, an NYC fitness company, offers its Hoopnotica hoop-dancing class, using slightly heavier hula hoops (each one weighs about 1.5 pounds) to help build core strength and whittle down your waistline. But it’s not just a fun way to spend an evening; hooping also provides a serious calorie burn, shaving off 400 to 600 calories an hour, according to instructor Sheryl Wilson.
Laughing Lotus Yoga in the Park
14th Street Park, Tenth Ave between 14th and 15th Sts (212-414-2903, laughinglotus.com). Wed 7--8pm; free; through Sept 1.
Level: The class is open to all levels, but the vinyasa style may prove challenging for first-timers.
What to expect: Be prepared to sweat during your sun salutations: Laughing Lotus, the popular studio that puts on these hour-long classes in the park, is known for a quick-moving flow of poses. The classes are also as joyful as the studio’s name suggests. It’s refreshing to feel the breeze whoosh by while getting into downward-facing dog, and with approximately 20 students per class, the instructor can help you if your pretzel poses look like they could use an adjustment. Participants should bring their own mats; plus, classes are contingent on weather, so call ahead before setting out.
Roberto Clemente State Park, enter near W 179th St and Cedar Ave, Bronx (harlemrivercommunityrowing.org). Days and times vary; eight-week session $150.
Level: Landlubbers are welcome to an eight-week beginners class, but you must be able to swim without your floaties and be able to lift at least 25 pounds overhead.
What to expect: You needn’t wear Topsiders or a Lacoste shirt to enjoy the spoils of rowing. “We’re trying to alter the image of crew as a sport for tall, buff, upper-crust Ivy Leaguers,” says head coach Jenny Sherman. In these beginners’ classes, coaches will teach you rowing terminology—like the difference between sweeping (each rower has one oar, held with both hands) and sculling (two oars, one in each hand)—and the basics of the sport, as well as water etiquette. The club also offers discounts on a sliding-scale basis. But how safe is the water in the river? “I don’t recommend taking a swig, but I’ve seen crabs, herons, egrets and plenty of fish in and on the water,” she says. “How unhealthy can it be?”
The High Line, enter at Tenth Ave and 16th St (212-500-6035, thehighline.org). Tue 10am; free; through Sept 6.
Level: Open to all ages and fitness fanatics—and every size tummy pooch.
What to expect: Flatten your beer belly during these classes on the city’s park in the sky; the sessions are taught by fitness instructor Frederick Schjang, who combines traditional Pilates mat moves with techniques used in the Feldenkrais Method, a form of physical therapy that uses stretches to warm up and elongate the muscles. “The purpose of prepping the body with isolated stretches is to move in a state of grace, not clumsiness, and to prevent injury,” explains Schjang. The workout is as easy or intense as you want it to be, and Schjang encourages participants to perform modified versions of the more difficult moves—like the roll-up, a killer ab exercise that involves rolling your torso off the floor and reaching toward your toes.
Fort Tryon Park, Abby’s Lawn, enter at Margaret Corbin Circle near Linden Terr (212-795-1388, forttryonparktrust.org). Wed 6:45--8pm; free; through Aug 18.
Level: Anyone is welcome to chant some oms during this class.
What to expect: You don’t need to stay in an Eat, Pray, Love--style ashram to achieve yogic bliss; these classes, taught in bucolic Fort Tryon Park, are as serene as a yoga retreat—and the crazy-pretty views of the New Jersey Palisades and the Hudson River don’t hurt. You’ll practice a series of basic asanas as the sun sets and hopefully enter a state of tranquility by the time the class ends. Classes are taught by certified yoga instructors, but you do need to bring your own mat.
Tai Chi Chuan
Wave Hill, Independence Ave at 249th St, Bronx (718-549-3200, wavehill.org). Beginners Sat 10am, intermediate Sat 11am; $20, members $15. Through November.
Level: Two classes are offered: One for beginners and one for intermediate practitioners.
What to expect: Though considered a martial art, tai chi is more about movement: The practice consists of a series of deep breathing exercises and gentle circular movements based on images found in nature. The point is to gather energy, then let it flow. In addition to spiritual wellness, the physical benefits include increased flexibility and balance, and maybe even a better night’s sleep. And the setting—Wave Hill’s lush gardens—may help inspire a Zen state.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, Old Fulton St at Furman St, Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-802-0603, brooklynbridgeparknyc.org). Sun 3:30--4:30pm; free; through Aug 22.
Level: All are welcome to participate, especially closeted Dancing with the Stars wanna-bes.
What to expect: No maracas are required for this Latin cardio-dance practice that incorporates elements of salsa, merengue and mambo along with hip-thrusting moves. The hour-long routine, taught by an instructor from Brooklyn’s Dodge YMCA, is easy to follow, but some coordination is necessary, so snag a spot behind the teacher if you’re lacking in rhythm. And leave your inhibitions at home—the instructors encourage participants to let loose, have fun and work up a good sweat (bringing a towel and a water bottle is encouraged).