Harlem Word: Nancy Bruning tells us about about her Fitness Alfresco program in Fort Tryon Park

Editor May 20th, 2010

Nancy Bruning, MPH, is a public health researcher, writer, and fitness instructor who works in Northern Manhattan. Several times each week she runs an outdoor fitness program at Fort Tryon Park. The program is free and open to everyone. To learn more about the program, read on below!

Q: What is Fitness Alfresco?

A: I thought of the concept from the term "eating alfresco," which is outdoor dining. To me, it also means fresh. The idea of being outdoors doing fitness was a fresh idea to me. I wanted to try and take a fresh approach to fitness-not just going to the gym, but being outside while exercising.

Q: What kind of activities do you do during your fitness programs?

A: We begin with a warm up, follow that with an aerobic/strengthening segment, and finish with a cool down/stretching segment. All three segments include balance and coordination exercises. We achieve this full body workout using just use what the park offers: paths, steps, stone walls, benches, and one or two items in the playground

To start, we meet at the beautiful Heather Garden entrance to Fort Tryon Park. We take a short walk to Linden Terrace, which is where we do the warm-up to loosen up our joints and get our breath and blood flowing. Plus, it's a way for late comers to catch up. During the warm up we make a circle and hold each other up by our arms. This is both a balancing and bonding exercise. We go around the circle and announce our names while we're holding a stretch so we get to know each while exercising. Then, we start walking around the park. We have a huge advantage at Fort Tryon Park because it has hills and steps where we can increase our heart rate.

While we're walking, we do arm exercises to strengthen the upper part of the body. We stop at certain scenic spots in the park to do leg exercises along the stone walls. We use walls or benches for support and do a series of push up variations. I can give the group options because the wall and benches have different levels. The higher the level, the easier it is and the lower the level, the harder it is. Also on the benches, we do pilates-based abdominal work. And, there's a place where I show the group squats and lunges.

We don't just stay in one place at the park, I move people through the park. In that sense, it's like circuit training because we'll move and then stop and do some exercise, and then keep moving. It's not a lot of distance, it's only about a mile and a quarter, but we manage to get a full body workout.

Q: Can you share some ideas on how someone can use their own body while exercising?

A: There is a lot people can do without having an expensive gym membership or buying equipment. Just use gravity and your own body and whatever else is around. For example, you can use benches for stretches or pushups, or use the weight of your own leg by lifting it up and down. Since we don't use equipment during the Fitness Alfresco program, the group is always using their own body for strength training. This is a lot like old school calisthenics done in a safer way that than in the old days, and today it's called "body weight" training.

Fitness Alfresco at Fort Tryon Park (Riverside Drive to Broadway, W. 192nd to Dyckman Streets. Subway: Take the A train to 190th Street) is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 a.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 a.m.

If you are interested in getting in touch with Nancy Bruning or starting a Fitness Alfresco program at your local park, feel to contact her through her GetHealthyHarlem.org username: nbruning (click the "Contact" tab on her profile page)! You can also email her at nbfitinthecity@aol.com or call at 419-962-6292.

For more information about Fort Tryon's fitness programs, visit their website!

Read more from Nancy Bruning by clicking the links below:

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