Amy Zellner of Summit Hill can be found on Wednesday evenings teaching yoga classes at Linwood Recreation Center. She’s part of the Fitness in the Parks program sponsored by the Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation, which is back again for its ninth year.

Zellner said she became an instructor for Fitness in the Parks because she likes being outdoors, enjoys doing yoga and appreciates being with other people. Zellner, a local law school student, said the program is a great way for people to relieve stress. She approached the city shortly after moving into the area, having been a longtime yoga practioner back at her previous residence in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“It’s a positive, healthy way to unwind,” Zellner said. “Part of it for me is the environment, and one of the biggest things is self-awareness.”

fitness in the parks
Amy Zellner leads a Yoga with Amy class at the Linwood Recreation Center as part of Saint Paul’s Fitness in the Parks program. Photo by Brad Stauffer

The 2022 Fitness in the Parks season officially begins on June 1, though some classes started early. The program offers a variety of mostly free fitness activities at a handful of Saint Paul parks and recreational facilities, where people are invited to just drop by and work out. Fitness in the Parks, which began in 2014, is open to all ages and fitness levels, with no experience or registration required.

Parks and Recreation program coordinator Katie Foss said this season of classes should be better than ever. Two years ago, Fitness in the Parks got a bit of a late start due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite several virus-related public closures and pauses, people still showed up at city parks and recreational facilities for the classes—even if it meant social distancing and wearing facemasks.

“It’s a positive, healthy way to unwind,” Zellner said. “Part of it for me is the environment, and one of the biggest things is self-awareness.”

Now, Foss said, even more people are itching to get out and exercise. There has been no decrease in the number of classes offered and no shortage of volunteer instructors to teach them.

“It hasn’t been any harder to find instructors,” Foss said. “And there hasn’t been too much difference in finding volunteers. Of course, we’re always happy if we can get more.”

Foss said the atmosphere this year seems a little less anxious as COVID seems to have slowly, but steadily waned. “People are eager to get back out there,” she said.

She estimated that some 3,000 people participated in Fitness in the Parks last year, a big increase from 2020, and she hopes to eclipse that this year. 

“We hope for more of the same,” Foss said. “We’d like to see more, but there isn’t a set goal. There’s a little bit less pressure now.” According to her, social distancing and masks are still being encouraged in the classes.

Fitness in the Parks is funded through partnerships, largely via the YMCA and YWCA. The May schedule includes Yoga with Amy at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at Linwood, and Zumba with Marie at 10 a.m. on Fridays at the Edgcumbe Recreation Center. Those classes are $4.

This month’s schedule also includes a free cardio class offered by Alchemy 365 at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 14, at Hidden Falls Park, and a free inclusive fitness program at noon Sunday, May 22, at the Martin Luther King Center.

Beginning in June, nearly all the classes are free. They will be held in Mears Park, Highland Park, Hidden Falls Park, Como Park, Summit Overlook Park, Harriet Island and elsewhere.

The classes are subject to change. For more information, visit stpaul.gov/fitnessintheparks.

— Bill Wagner

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