Wellness Director Katarina Manuse expected few members to show up for group fitness classes at the William-Emslie Family YMCA on May 16, two days after a shooting left 10 dead and three wounded at a Tops supermarket 2 miles away.
Instead, they were jammed.
“They said they needed each other more than ever,” Manuse said. “They needed the support, they needed to be connected and they needed to pray together. And that’s what we did. It was very beautiful. I think coming together after this tragic event is going to make us a stronger community.”
Those bent on strengthening mind, body and spirit – personally and collectively – will have lots of ways to do so in coming months, including outdoor group fitness season, which launched this week and will include at least 43 classes in 27 regional parks and other unique locations, stretching from Lewiston to Clarence to Jamestown.
It’s the first time since 2019 that participants need not preregister for almost every such class in the region, including family fitness, boot camp, cardio dance, yoga and more.
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Almost all of them are free.
There will be few better ways to shake off the isolation a pandemic wrought and build new bonds in a region a gunman tried to tear apart.
The Tuesday night Zumba class at Canalside that launched the new season was a case in point. It brought welcome relief in the City of Good Neighbors.
“This puts a smile on your face. You don’t think about anything else for an hour besides dancing,” said Tracy Clark, who lives on the East Side and has forged several friendships taking the class during the last decade.
“I feel like I’m on vacation, like I’m on a cruise,” added Elizabeth Cafarella, of Cheektowaga, who also has regularly taken the class for years.
Buffalo Waterfront is the waterfront development company that operates Canalside and parts of the Outer Harbor. It offers Fitness at Canalside, sponsored by Highmark BlueCross BlueShield of WNY along the Buffalo River, and several Fitness in the Parks classes, sponsored by Independent Health, at Wilkeson Pointe along Lake Erie.
“It’s a great place to take your family,” said Lauren Moloney Ford, Buffalo Waterfront general manager.
A Start Up the Summer bash at the Outer Harbor looks to underline the point from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. The event features four classes, including sunset yoga, activities for kids and families, and discounts on kayak and bike rentals.
Buffalo Waterfront this year also scattered several Healthy Happens Here signs along its tracts that allow those with a cellphone to stop, use a smartphone to capture a QR code and pull up a set of cardiovascular and strength exercises to do at each spot.
New this year will be a trio of monthly fitness boat tours aboard the Harbor Queen. The June tour on Monday is sold out, with others to come in July and August.
The region’s largest two outdoor fitness efforts marks their 11th year.
YMCA Buffalo Niagara fitness instructors lead Fitness in the Parks classes, which take place for the first time this year at Roosevelt Park in Buffalo and Academy and Pendleton parks in Niagara County.
Trainers from independent fitness businesses in the region handle Highmark classes, which also take place in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in the city and, for the second year, on the grounds of the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center.
The free classes provide organized efforts to boost the physical and mental health outcomes for residents in what statistics show is the least healthy region in New York State.
Clark and Cafarella were members of Catalyst Fitness when they started the Tuesday evening Zumba classes. They let their membership lapse during the pandemic and have not returned. Back then, instructors Olivia Ebsary, Jen Wright and Meghan Schimmelpenninck taught at the locally owned regional fitness center chain.
Ebsary still teaches a Zumba class there but the other two have left the company – choosing to continue leading the outdoor classes “because they’re so much fun,” Schimmelpenninck said.
YMCA wellness leaders see this year’s outdoor fitness season as an opportunity for all fitness studios and clubs in the region, hoping many participants who get a taste of wellness will seek to continue indoors come fall.
Most who already returned to the six Y branches said they did so to reconnect with others as well as get fit, said Pam Vetrano, wellness director at the Independent Health Family YMCA in Amherst.
“Coming off last two years, all gyms in the area are trying to rebuild,” Vetrano said. “What’s great is people can try all these different classes.”
That includes a special gathering from 5 to 7 p.m. June 10 at the William-Emslie YMCA, where all are welcome “to celebrate our community and heal together,” said Manuse, who also leads wellness at the Delaware and Ken-Ton branches. The event includes free Zumba and yoga classes and activities for children, followed by a potluck supper. Bring a dish to pass if you are able.
Group exercise is a great part of the regional fitness summer scene and there are other organized ways to shore up your mind, body and spirit.
All classes below are free, unless otherwise noted, weather dependent and subject to change. It’s a good idea to check websites when planning to attend, including bcbswny.com/play, independenthealth.com/fitpark and buffalowaterfront.com. Bring a mat or blanket for yoga and similar classes, and reusable bottled water for all classes. Several popular classes from past years are scheduled on different days and/or at different times.
Blue Bikes. Nearly 50 bikes are available to rent from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day for only $1 for the first hour, $5 for each additional hour or $15 for the day at the Canalside Information Kiosk on the Central Wharf Boardwalk. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield members receive their first hour free with their member ID card.
Reddy Bikeshare. GPS-enabled bicycles are available for shared, short-term use in spots across the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Independent Health members get discounts. For rates and more info, visit reddybikeshare.com.
GObike Buffalo. Workshops and special events throughout the summer, including a return of the Skyride Aug. 14. See a schedule of events at gobikebuffalo.org.
Slow Roll Buffalo. 10-mile guided excursions through much of fall. They start promptly at 6:30 p.m. each Monday early in the season at various spots, including a Buffalo Architectural Ride Monday from the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway, Juneteenth Ride June 20 from East Parade Avenue and an Americana Ride July 4 from Sportsman’s Park on Amherst Street. Special rolls take place other days and times, including outside Buffalo. Rides are suitable for all ages and abilities. First-time riders should register at slowrollbuffalo.org. Helmets mandatory.
Buffalo Bike Tours. 10:30 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. daily, The Watch Tower at South Park Avenue and Michigan Street. Wing, history, waterfront rides and more. Bike rentals also available. For rates and more info, visit buffalobiketours.com.
Reflective First Sunday walks. 10:45 a.m. the first Sunday of each month through November, starting and ending at Hoyt Lake, Delaware Park. Free.
Running Race listings. See a complete listing at buffalorunners.com.
Checkers Running Club track sessions. For membership, track session dates and program info, visit checkersac.org.
** Next Level. 10 a.m. Saturdays, Pierce Lawn, Canalside.
** Bike or Barre. 6 p.m. Mondays starting June 13, Dart Lawn at Canalside.
* Boot Camp. 6 p.m. Mondays, ADPRO Sports Training Center, 1 Bills Drive, Orchard Park. No classes June 27 or July 4.
* Fusion. 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Buffalo RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St.
* Boot Camp. 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Bassett Park, 359 Klein Road, Amherst.
* Boot Camp. 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Garrison Park, Garrison Road at Park Street, Williamsville.
** Summer City Fitness. LaLa from La’Movement will lead a dance fitness class at 10 a.m. Saturdays through Aug. 7, foot of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in MLK Park, Fillmore and North Parade avenues. For more info, visit facebook.com/LaMovement. No class July 2.
* Zumba. 10:30 a.m. Saturdays, Larkin Square, 745 Seneca St.
* Cardio Dance. 11 a.m. Sundays, Academy Park, Center and Ninth streets, Lewiston. No class on July 3.
* Barre. 10 a.m. Mondays, Widewaters Marina, Nelson C. Goehle Park, 768 E. Market St., City of Lockport.
* Cardio Dance. 6 p.m. Mondays, Widewaters Marina, Nelson C. Goehle Park, 768 E. Market St., City of Lockport.
Salsa in the Park. 6:30 to 9 p.m. Mondays, June 13 and 27, July 11 and 25 and Aug. 1, Rose Gardens Pavilion at Marcy Casino, Delaware Park, 199 Lincoln Parkway. $10, includes dance lesson for beginners and dance social to follow. No partner necessary. Bring a reusable water bottle. For more information, email [email protected]
* Zumba. 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Cheektowaga Town Park, 2600 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga.
** Zumba. 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Lloyd Street Bridge at Canalside.
* Zumba. 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 5014 Day Road Park, Town of Lockport.
** Barre Centric. 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Lloyd Street Bridge at Canalside.
* Cardio Dance. 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Westwood Park, 175 Pavement Road, Lancaster.
* Zumba. 10 a.m. Thursdays, Cheektowaga Town Park, 2600 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga.
* Zumba. 10 a.m. Thursdays, Stiglmeier Park, 810 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.
** La’Movement. 6 p.m. Thursdays, Dart Lawn at Canalside.
* Zumba. 7 p.m. Thursdays, Krull Park, East Lake Road, Olcott.
* Zumba. 5 p.m. Fridays, Lucille Ball Memorial Park, 21 Boulevard Ave., Celeron.
** Shannon Connors. 9 a.m. Saturdays, Dart Lawn at Canalside.
* Family Walk. 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 5014 Day Road Park, Town of Lockport.
* Yoga. 10 a.m. Saturdays, Bidwell Park, Bidwell Parkway at Elmwood Avenue.
Yoga in the Park. 10:30 a.m. Saturdays from June 25 through August, Garrison Park, Garrison Road at Park Drive, Williamsville. Free classes weekly through August. Registration required at yogaforeverybodybuffalo.com. For more info, email [email protected]
* Yoga. 10 a.m. Sundays, Delaware Park near the Rose Garden.
* Yoga. 11 a.m. Sundays, Academy Park, Center and Ninth streets, Lewiston. No class on July 3.
** Parkside Yoga. 10 a.m. Sundays starting June 12, Dart Lawn, Canalside.
* Pilates. 11 a.m. Mondays, Lakewood Beach at Hartley Park, 2 W. Terrace Ave., Lakewood.
** Flow Yoga. 6 p.m. Mondays, Aquatic and Fitness Center, 1 Pool Plaza, Town of Tonawanda. No class July 4.
* Yoga. 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Westwood Park, 175 Pavement Road, Lancaster.
* Yoga. 7 p.m. Mondays, Isle View Park, 796 Niagara St., City of Tonawanda.
* Yoga. 10 a.m. Tuesdays, South Lake Village Apartments, 206 Webster Road, University at Buffalo North Campus, Amherst. Classes end Aug. 16.
* Centergy. Yoga and Pilates, noon Tuesdays from July 5 to Aug. 9, Findley Lake, Jamestown.
* Yoga. 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wilkeson Pointe, Outer Harbor.
* Yoga. 6;15 p.m. Tuesdays, Chestnut Ridge Park, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park.
* Family Yoga. 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 5014 Day Road Park, Town of Lockport.
* Yoga. 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Krull Park, East Lake Road, Olcott.
* Yoga. 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Garrison Park, Garrison Road at Park Street, Williamsville.
* Pilates. 9:30 a.m. Thursdays, Widewaters Marina, Nelson C. Goehle Park, 768 E. Market St., City of Lockport.
* Centergy. Yoga and Pilates, 11 a.m. Thursdays Lakewood Beach at Hartley Park, 2 W. Terrace Ave., Lakewood.
* Pilates. 6 p.m. Thursdays, Wilkeson Pointe, Outer Harbor.
* Yoga. 6 p.m. Thursdays, Ellicott Creek Park, 1 Ellicott Creek Road, Town of Tonawanda.
* Yoga. 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, 5014 Day Road Park, Town of Lockport.
* Yoga. 11 a.m. Fridays, Pendleton Park, 6570 Campbell Blvd., Pendleton.
* Yoga. 6 p.m. Fridays, Bassett Park, 359 Klein Road, Amherst.
** Soma Cura yoga. 6 p.m. Fridays, Dart Lawn at Canalside.
** Athletic Conditioning. 9 a.m. Saturdays, Aquatic and Fitness Center, 1 Pool Plaza, Town of Tonawanda. No classes July 2, Aug. 6.
** Fit Like a Gladiator. 9 a.m. Sunday, June 19, July 3, July 17, July 31, and Aug. 14 and 28, Lloyd Street Bridge at Canalside.
** Nickel City Sweat. 9 a.m. Sundays starting June 12, Dart Lawn at Canalside.
* Kickboxing. 6 p.m. Mondays, Larkin Square, 745 Seneca St.
* Cardio Interval. 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Stiglmeier Park, 810 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.
* Strength & Movement. 11 a.m. Wednesdays, Lucille Ball Memorial Park,21 Boulevard Ave., Celeron.
* Cardio Interval. 10 a.m. Wednesdays, Clarence Town Park, 10405 Main St., Clarence.
** 22 ABSolutely Core/Stretch. 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aquatic and Fitness Center, 1 Pool Plaza, Town of Tonawanda. No class June 22.
* HIIT & Core. 5:30 p.m. Fridays, Roosevelt Playground, Roosevelt and Martha avenues.
** Canalside Roller Rink. Grand opening Aug. 12.
November project. Local chapter of national group devoted to a morning workout meets at 6:10 a.m. Wednesdays year-round at Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, for a mix of cardio and strength exercise. For details, visit facebook.com/NovemberProjectBuffalo or @NovemberProjectBuffalo on Instagram.
Staff at state parks in the Niagara Region will host walks from the Southern Tier to the shores of Lake Ontario in coming months, including hikes on Saturday, National Trails Day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Niagara Falls State Park; Get Outdoors and Get Together Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 11 at Buffalo Harbor State Park; and Birding with the Buffalo Ornithological Society from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 18 at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora. Paddling excursions also are part of the fun. Learn more at facebook.com/NiagaraInterp and parks.ny.gov/events.
* Free Fitness in the Parks events run through at least August. There are no classes July 4 or Sept. 5.
** Free Highmark BlueCross BlueShield of WNY group fitness classes at Canalside, Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Town of Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center run through Sept. 4.