We seem to have escaped the last frost – knock on wood – of what once seemed an endless spring. Memorial Day is behind us, the warm sun has become more of a familiar friend and we can now turn our attention, assuredly, to the great outdoors.
For some, that means more beer and barbecue on the back porch. More time in the hammock. More days to work on the tan.
But for others – the ones who want to look good in a T-shirt, shorts and a bathing suit in coming months – the summer season opens up a world of opportunity for outdoor exercise that can lift the body, mind and spirit.
This story is for those people.
“The phrase that we like to use today is ‘active living,’ and that’s the idea of integrating physical activity back into your daily life,” says Philip L. Haberstro, executive director of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & Western New York, a nonprofit whose mission is to help make the region a healthier place to enjoy.
“Technology has engineered so much physical activity out of our lives,” Haberstro said, “and the idea is to find creative ways to put it back in.”
He and other wellness enthusiasts helped come up with the following list of outdoor fitness prospects to help you get into better shape this summer, while soaking up a healthy amount of vitamin D, before the Buffalo winter chases many of us back inside the gym.
1. Park it: Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture, designed a series of parks and trails across the region about a century ago. Learn more at bfloparks.org.
“If you look at the Olmsted system, it’s a fitness club in the city,” Haberstro said. “You can match your particular fitness level with the resource level in the parks, and if you need a good, safe place to go and walk, the parks fit that category for us. Yet, if you need a place, and you’re more fit to hike, many of our parks offer that.”
Ellicott Creek Park in the Town of Tonawanda has a “state-of-the-art outdoor fitness facility,” Haberstro said.
2. Get on the trail: There are a host of outdoor biking, roller blading, running and hiking options across the region.
An easy trail stretches from the Erie Basin Marina through Canalside and the Cobblestone District and into the Old First Ward. And this stretch barely scratches the surface when it comes to trail options in the region.
Others include the Ellicott Creek, Clarence-Akron and Peanut Line trails northeast of Buffalo; the Scajaquada Path in the City; and the Erie Canalway Trail, which stretches from Niagara County to Rochester.
The regional also offers a rare, breathtaking international route for the movers among us. It starts at the south end of Niagara Falls State Park, spills along the Niagara River to the Rainbow Bridge, then over the bridge and on to Table Rock on the Canadian side. It only costs 50 cents to walk, or run, across the bridge.
For more trail information, including a statewide trail finder with maps, visit Parks & Trails New York at ptny.org.
Meanwhile, GObike Buffalo (GOBikeBuffalo.org) is leading the charge to make biking safer and more accessible across the region. Visit the group’s website for special events and other bike tips.
3. Hit the (outdoor) gym: Want to exercise in nature? Many gyms offer outdoor activities this time of year. The Buffalo Athletic Club is among them and will offer three outdoor classes, open to BAC members and the public, from June 24 through Aug. 29. Personal trainer Gina Anastasia will teach outdoor yoga from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays in Niagara Square; another yoga class will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturdays in Bassett Park in Amherst; and outdoor Zumba classes will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays in Niawanda Park in the City of Tonawanda. The classes are free but the BAC will accept donations for the planned John R. OiShei Children’s Hospital.
4. Run a race: Registration is closed for the next big outdoor running race, the Corporate Challenge, which takes place Thursday in and around Delaware Park, but there are dozens of other races still scheduled.
To see a fairly complete list of running and bike races in the region, and beyond, visit active.com and type “Buffalo, NY” into the top search box.
5. Get a grip: Climbing goes outdoors when Silo City Rocks has a soft opening sometime this summer. Jason Schwinger, owner of BFLO Harbor Kayak, has joined Silo City grain elevator developer Rick Smith to open one of four silos on the property off Childs Street to rock climbers. There will be indoor and outdoor “routes” at the Marine A silo that stored grain from 1925 to 1964.
“We put electricity in about a month ago for the first time in 50 years,” Schwinger said.
The silo is almost 30 feet in diameter and contains 45 indoor circular “bins” that are each about 650 square feet in size and stretch 120 feet into the air. Some of those bins will be converted for rock-climbing use. Schwinger describes them as “manmade caves.”
Meanwhile, the new venture will offer an outdoor climb this summer of about 65 feet that will offer a great view of the city and its waterfront. Visit SiloCityRocks.com for more info.
6. Hit the water: Rowing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are all options for summer exercise.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse has teamed up with the West Side Rowing Club to offer Learn to Row and other classes. Visit the rowing section at wrightsboathouse.org or wsrc.org for more info.
Information about waterfront exercise at the Central Wharf at Canalside this summer is available at BFLOHarborKayak.com and CityofLightFitness.com.
7. Try a new challenge: Want to run what is billed as “probably the toughest event on the planet” this summer? Adventure racing has caught on in other parts of North America and you can participate lots closer to home for the first time this year when the Tough Mudder obstacle competition comes to Tall Pines ATV Park in Andover on July 27-28. It isn’t cheap, but promises to be one of the go-to fitness events in the region. The 10- to 12-mile race features 25 military-style obstacles designed by British Special Forces. Register online at the Events section at toughmudder.com.