A guide to getting fit in Park Slope
It’s summer—time to take advantage of the long, warm days and get active. Whether you enjoy team sports, structured classes, the creativity of dance, or something as simple as a neighborhood walk, Park Slope is a haven for both serious athletes and those looking for fun. If you’re seeking advice on where to go and what to do this summer, start here in Brooklyn. You’re likely to find what you want right around the corner, often at little or no cost.
Nothing could be more affordable or enticing than one of Park Slope’s greatest landmarks: Prospect Park, the famous public space designed, created, and landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the mid-nineteenth century. Walk the full loop to cover just over 3 miles. Or step it up by running around the park’s perimeter. It’s easy to put on your sneakers and hit the pavement. Almost immediately after entering the park, sunlight lawns, distinctive buildings, and pathways shaded by grand, old trees greet visitors—all perfect for athletes who enjoy taking in outdoor scenery while keeping fit.
For those who prefer running in groups or organized races, there’s no dearth of options. Three groups organize runs and events in the park: the Prospect Park Track Club (www.pptc.org, 718-595-2049), Brooklyn Road Runners Club (www.brooklynroadrunners.org), and New York Road Runners Club (www.nyrr.org , 212-860-4455).
Bikers can also join organized events in the park. Five Saturday events will be held in Prospect Park as part of the Kissena Cycling Club’s Lucarelli & Castaldi cup series of races. These races start early in the morning on June 18, June 26, July 23, August 6, and August 7. According to club president Dan Reiner, they “represent some of the finest racing in the Northeast, and attract riders from all over the region. There are races for all levels, from beginners all the way up to professionals.” Plus, you have the chance to win custom jerseys and bib shorts if you qualify as a leader in several of the series events. Anyone interested in participating or learning more can email president [at] kissena [dot] info or visit www.kissena.info.
The Park itself holds classes at the Prospect Park Tennis Center. The outdoor tennis season opened on May 21. Visit the “Prospect Park Tennis Center” section of www.prospectpark.org for schedule information and details on adult group classes, beginner instruction, evening leagues, doubles nights on Thursdays, and the junior development program.
Another way to get fit and take advantage Prospect Park’s outdoor setting is to sign up for Bootcamp Republic (www.bootcamprepublic.com, 646-460-6787). This group exercise program offers ongoing three-week fitness sessions. Choose from either 6–7:30 a.m. or 7–8:30 p.m. time slots for the following periods: June 21–July 7, July 19–August 4, and August 16–September 1. When asked to tell us about the program, founder Serena Puerta emailed, “We use the natural surroundings of the park and your own body weight to get you fit! … We are a friendly (non-militaristic), motivational fitness bootcamp which is great for weight loss, toning, strengthening, and increasing endurance and energy levels.”
For those who prefer indoor classes or exercise with a practical purpose, check out 10-year-old New York Self Defense Wing Tzun and Latosa Escrima (www.BrooklynWT.com, 646-369-7704). Wing Tzun is a Chinese self-defense system that trains students to redirect an attacker’s energy against himself. Th e school also teaches Latosa Escrima, a Filipino martial arts program. While the instructors’ goal is to teach self defense rather than martial arts to working professionals, “we do keep our students in good shape,” says head instructor Sifu/Guro Edgar Rotger. “Our school works like a small community and everyone is very friendly … we have people—male and female—of all ages, 18–75.” Test out the school by taking a free trial class. Those who like what they see can register for classes held on Wednesday evenings, Sunday mornings, and Sunday evenings. Contact the school for additional details.
A few other schools that focus on martial arts include Yee’s Hung Ga (www.yeeshung-ga.com), Amerikick (www.amerikick.com/schools/brooklyn.htm), and Shihan Monte Allen’s Brooklyn Kenshikaikan Karate-Do (www.monteallenkarate. com).
If you are artistically inclined, summer is the ideal time to try Raizes do Brasil Capoeira Brooklyn‘s dance classes (www.capoeirabrooklyn.com, info [at] capoeirabrooklyn [dot] com, 646-492- 4221). It holds Saturday classes outdoors in Prospect Park and other locations. Ana Costa, the school’s co-director and an instructor, said that “Capoeira comes from Brazil (i.e. hot and tropical!). There is no better time to enjoy Capoeira than in the beautiful, humid, and hot Brooklyn summer. Sweating, training on the grass and sand, and getting a class and a sauna all for the price of one!”
Both adults and children will find dancing fun at Spoke the Hub, (www.spokethehub.org, spoke [at] spokethehub [dot] org, 718-408-3234), which runs Camp Gowanee and offers everything from ballet, musical theater jazz, ballroom and Polynesian dance to yoga, physical theater, and clowning. Elise Long, artistic director and founder of Spoke the Hub, said that while the summer program “is always mega-fun, we want kids to learn something and come away with new skills, self-discipline, and knowledge at the end of each week.” Spoke the Hub hosts students in its five professional, air-conditioned, dance and arts studios at its art centers (one on Union Street and one on Douglass Street).
Another idea for kids is to join the Brooklyn AYSO 473 soccer program. AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) is a nationwide non-profit organization that develops and delivers quality youth soccer programs in a fun, family environment. Th is group sponsors a two-week summer camp at the Parade Grounds in Prospect Park. Th is year’s camp runs July 5–July 8 and July 11–July 15. Staff ed by experienced, professional coaches and having an 8:1 supervision ratio, the camp provides exciting challenges to new and emerging players as well as experienced players. The camp will take players’ skills to the next level. Registration is open through mid-June. Visit www.brooklynayso.org and click on “Summer Camp” to download forms and contact information.
Finally, families can take advantage of several summer activities at the Prospect Park YMCA (www.ymcanyc.org). The director of fund development and communications, Megan King, told us that the YMCA offers a “summer camp, free monthly family events at both the Prospect Park Y and Park Slope Armory Y, and a variety of free and fee-based programs that focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.” Past monthly family events include ping pong tournaments, a “Super Get Messy Party” that encouraged family art-making, a “Sustainable Art Part” in which the kids recreated Brooklyn with found objects, and more. The YMCA makes special efforts to help kids financially through its Strong Kids Campaign, an annual fundraising program that provides financial assistance on memberships, camp and fee-based programs as well as free programming.
These are just a few of the many ways Park Slopers can get out and get in shape this summer. No matter what activity, program, or school you choose, putting in the extra effort will balance out all the BBQs to come!