Inside Track on Outside Exercise

Syracuse New Times intern Vanessa Langdon covers affordable and entertaining ways to stay in shape in Central New York.

As the summer heats up, there are lots of opportunities to work up a sweat outdoors that won’t break the bank.

Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool offers a daily LiveWell Program through Aug. 14, consisting of free, beginner-level exercise classes. “The atmosphere that we’re trying to create is one of fellowship, non-threatening, non-judgment,” said program director Mary Pagan. “We want every fitness level to feel welcome.”

Mondays start at 8:30 a.m. with a NewLife class, with a mile-long walk followed by total body workout of aerobics, strengthening and stretching. The class ends with a motivational wellness education session led by Pagan.



Tuesdays and Thursdays feature yoga led by Lisa Beauregard, a certified, beginner-level Hatha yoga instructor. Wednesdays offer beginner-level Zumba classes, while Fridays are cardio-centric with a focus on core strengthening. All classes have a large group of senior citizens in attendance, although there is no age discrimination.

“I think (the classes) just connect you to the universe, connect you to the earth, which gives you energy,” said Pagan. “Before video games and social media, we had less obesity and anxiety. It’s freeing when you’re outside.”

Beauregard’s yoga classes are taught on the shuffleboard courts next to the lake, near the Griffin Visitor Center. Attendees bring their mats and water bottles and make themselves at home with nature.

As Beauregard slowly explained every yoga pose during one Tuesday class, the birds could be heard chirping, while the breeze off the lake helped everyone regulate their temperature. Beauregard even brought rainproof bubble wrap to cover the boombox that she uses to play soothing music.

“I am a sun worshiper and I love the breeze and the elements,” said Beauregard. “It’s more personal. Everyone’s connecting with each other and nature. It’s more casual.”

The exercise programs began at the park in 1999. Yoga was added to the roster eight years ago after Pagan found that it helps with longevity. This will be the first year, however, in which programming will not be offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

“We didn’t get enough money this summer to offer that program,” Pagan lamented. “We hope to bring it back for working people. Working people are more stressed out than senior citizens, I think.”

Those who are able to attend the morning sessions keep coming back for more. “The program is great since we are on a fixed income,” said class member Linda Kosakowski. “Exercising outside gives us a wonderful, healthful workout.”

Similar programming is offered downtown during the Wellness Wednesdays program at Clinton Square, which is filled with dawn-patrol yoga aficionados, lunchtime Zumba zealots and hula hoopers during the supper hour. The Hump Day activities, offered through a partnership with Metro Fitness, are heading into Clinton Square for a fourth summer.

“We started with Zumba during the lunch hour; then added yoga last summer and hula hooping this summer,” said Mary Beth Roach, public information officer for the Syracuse Parks and Recreation Department’s Special Events Division. “With 3,000 people living downtown these days, and most of them in the 20- to 30-year-old age range, the hooping sounded like something that would really appeal to them.”

The downtown classes, like those at Onondaga Lake Park, are informal and relaxed. People come solo or in groups with friends. Instructors wander through the classes to assist people, with music used as motivation to move those muscles.

“We wanted to offer something at Clinton Square during the week in addition to the Downtown Farmers’ Market,” Roach said about the Wednesday programs, which run through July 29. “This seemed like something different and fun to do that might appeal to people, especially those who work downtown.”

Manlius, the newcomer to the outdoor fitness group, will offer three free yoga classes this summer. “I had a yoga instructor come to me and propose to do the program. We thought it was a good idea so we did it,” said Patricia Sawmiller, recreation director at the Village of Manlius Parks and Recreation.

“You can always do this,” Pagan said about outdoor exercise. “We want people to truly feel they can start at any spot they’re at. We just want it to be joyous and to appreciate nature.”

Outdoor Fitness Classes

Onondaga Lake Park:

  • Mondays, 8:30 to 10:15 a.m.: Healthy Monday NewLife Class
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 to 10 a.m.: LiveWell Balanced Life Workout
  • Wednesdays, 9 to 10 a.m.: Zumba Gold Class
  • Fridays, 9 to 10 a.m.: Strong to the Core Workout

Clinton Square:

  • Wellness Wednesdays
  • 6:30 to 7 a.m.: Sunrise Yoga
  • 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.: Zumba
  • 5:30 to 6 p.m.: Hula Fit


  • Wednesday, July 8, 6 p.m.: Reggae Yoga, Village Centre Amphitheater, Arkie Albanese Avenue
  • Monday, July 20, 6:30 p.m.: Yoga Under the Trees, Mill Run Park, Mill Street
  • Friday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m. Yoga Under the Stars, Village Centre Amphitheater

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