Tara Beck decided to step into the world of competitive bodybuilding after she turned 40.
“I’m not a runner, so I knew I was never going to do a marathon,” she said. “This was my mountain climb.”
The married mother of five parlayed a 2011 competition into a quest to become a certified group fitness instructor. She teaches several boot camp-style classes each week at the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA near her Williamsville home, and two at Jada Blitz in Clarence.
She took the latest big step in her fitness journey Wednesday night, teaching her first outdoor class in Garrison Park, a block south of Main Street in her home village. The classes will continue from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through August.
“It was unbelievable for a first-time start,” she said. “I was so happy. I can’t wait to continue.”
Beck, 45, is teaching one of 21 free outdoor classes across the region sponsored by Independent Health and the YMCA Buffalo Niagara. Meanwhile, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is hosting 15 free classes at Canalside. All are led by some of the top group fitness instructors in the region.
Both weather-dependent class series are part of a summer of fitness love across the region.
“It’s great to be in nature and remember the beauty of New York State,” said Kelly Hahl, manager of health and wellness programs at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.
As is the case with indoor fitness, working up a sweat outdoors builds strength, supports the cardiovascular system and promotes overall health. It also offers a healthy dose of vitamin D, which helps the body better absorb calcium, bolsters mood and improves sleep.
“For people who are battling a diagnosis of depression, exercise is great for that,” Hahl said, “but exercising outdoors, being in touch with nature, can have a huge impact. It just makes people happy, no matter the weather.”
Organizers hope free and low-cost outdoor classes also provide a taste of variety that will encourage more people to try fitness stylings that include yoga, Pilates, tai chi, Zumba, kickboxing and hula-hooping.
More than 60 people showed up for Beck’s first class, ranging in age from 8 into their 70s. She said about three in four of those who take her indoor classes are women. She hopes men will find her outdoor routines more accessible. She will show those who show up how to modify exercise routines if they’re too hard. Folks just need to bring a fitness mat; Independent Health will supply the water.
“People are more likely to stick with a program outdoors because of the variety,” Hahl said. “Sometimes standing on a treadmill, looking at a TV screen or looking at a book or magazine can get stale. If you’re outside, the scenery is always changing.
“The outdoor classes are designed to be fun and to get people to do something they haven’t tried before. This is for all levels – you don’t have to be an expert – for all ages and all body types. Everybody is welcome.”
How can you join in the outdoor fitness frenzy? Let us count many of the ways.
Boot camp: 9 and 10:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays until the weather gets cold, outside FitNation, 6987 Main St. near Transit Road, Amherst. Cost is $10; for more info, visit fitnationdb.com.
Boot camp*: 6 p.m. Saturdays, Canalside. Intense mix of strength and aerobic training based on military boot camp workouts that can include pushups, pull-ups, lunges, crunches, sprints and more.
B.L.T.*: 10 a.m. Sundays, Canalside. Intense “Butt, Legs, Thighs” class combines cardio and plyometric exercises to work out the lower half of your body using strictly body weight.
Boot camp**: 6 p.m. Mondays in July, Ralph Wilson Stadium, 1 Bills Drive, Orchard Park. Classes July 6 and 12 in the ADPRO Sports Training Center; July 20 and 27 inside the stadium.
Fusion Fitness*: 6 p.m. Mondays, Canalside. Total body workout mixes cardio and strength using just body weight.
Boot camp: 6:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday, outside the Aquatic and Fitness Center, 1 Pool Plaza, Town of Tonawanda, through Aug. 20. Hourlong class includes the use of tires, battle ropes and more. For cost and more information, call 876-7424.
Outdoor Boot camp: 6 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, Mang Park, Mang and Wilber avenues, Kenmore. Each class costs $5. Led by Deanna Giordano, owner of Studio Sophia in Kenmore.
Boot camp**: 9 a.m. Tuesdays, Bergman Park, 487 Barker St., Jamestown.
Boot camp**: 6 p.m. Wednesdays, weather permitting, Garrison Park, Williamsville.
Boot camp**: 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Goehle (Widewaters) Marina, near Cold Springs Road North and Lake Avenue South, Lockport.
Pound Rockout Workout*: 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Canalside. Full body cardio jam combines resistance training with a constant simulated drumming motion that uses lightly weighted drumsticks.
Boot camp**: 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Amherst Street and Colvin Avenue green space, Delaware Park.
Beach Workout: Revolution Indoor Cycling instructors offer a free body weight workout from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. July 19 and Aug. 16, Woodlawn Beach, 3580 Lakeshore Road, Hamburg.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga**: 10 a.m. Sundays, near the Rose Garden in Delaware Park, Lincoln Parkway and Iroquois Drive.
Yoga**: 6 p.m. Mondays, Goehle (Widewaters) Marina, near Cold Springs Road North and Lake Avenue South, Lockport.
Pilates: 5:30 p.m. Thursdays through August, Glen Park, Main Street, Williamsville; $5 donation requested. For more info, visit ottfit.com.
Pilates and yoga**: 6 p.m. Tuesdays. Pilates next week and alternating weekly, Chestnut Ridge Park, near the casino, Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park.
Yoga**: 8 a.m. Wednesday, Allen Park, West Virginia Boulevard and Elizabeth Avenue, Jamestown.
Pilates**: 10 a.m. Wednesdays, Artpark, near the picnic shelter off Parking Lot D, Lewiston.
Pilates mat class*: 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Canalside.
Yoga**: 6 p.m. Thursdays, Ellicott Creek, near the outdoor fitness center, Niagara Falls Boulevard and Ellicott Creek Road, Town of Tonawanda.
Yoga**: 6 p.m. Fridays, Bidwell Parkway at Elmwood Avenue.
Power Yoga*: 10 a.m. Saturdays, 6 p.m. Fridays, Canalside. This form builds on foundations for patience with the emphasis on alignment of posture, physical conditioning and breathing. Power yoga does not follow a set series of poses, so classes can vary widely. Cardio is a focus.
Zumba**: 10 a.m. Saturdays, Artpark, near the picnic shelter off Parking Lot D, Lewiston.
Cardio dance**: 5:30 p.m. Mondays, on the pickleball courts at Larkin Square, 745 Seneca St.
Zumba**: 6 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, near the bandstand at Bassett Park, Klein and Youngs roads, Amherst.
Barre Centric*: 7 p.m. Mondays, Canalside. Class combines principles of ballet, yoga, and Pilates to tone and strengthen core and other muscle groups.
Zumba: 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Canalside.
Hoop Dance/Rhythm*: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Canalside. Burn up to 400 calories through steps, spins, swings and twirls of a hula hoop. Hoops provided if needed.
Zumba**: 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Day Road Park, near the gazebo, East High Street and Ernest Road, Town of Lockport.
Zumba**: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Cheektowaga Town Park, Harlem Road and Greenleaf Lane, between shelters 12 and 13; park behind the library.
Zumba**: 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Westwood Park, right side of Pavement Road, Lancaster.
Cardio dance**: 11 a.m. Fridays, Main Street Park, Main Street and Cummings Drive, Clarence.
Taoist Tai Chi*: 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Canalside. Movements to improve circulation, balance and posture, increase flexibility and strength, while also reducing stress.
Muay Thai kickboxing*: 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Canalside. High intensity workout helps tone and strengthen the body while teaching moves in self-defense.
Cardio kickboxing**: 5:30 p.m. Thursdays, on the pickleball courts at Larkin Square, 745 Seneca St.
Exercise Like The Animals: Fitness classes for kids at 11:30 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday, July 6 through August, Canalside. Also 9:30 to 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday in July at River Fest Park, Ohio and Moore streets. Space is limited in River Fest Park; call 310-4234 to reserve a spot. For more info, visit exerciselike- theanimals.com.
Kidding Around Family Yoga*: 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Canalside. Families can learn easy yoga poses along with breathing techniques used in yoga. Storytelling will be incorporated to make it more kid-friendly. Bring your own yoga mat.
Zumba Kids**: 6 p.m. Thursday, Day Road Park, near the gazebo, East High Street and Ernest Road, Town of Lockport.
Soccer Shots Buffalo: Will offer more than 75 soccer sessions for children ages 2 to 6 at two dozen parks in Erie and Niagara counties, weekday mornings and evenings and weekend mornings. For rates and more information, visit buffalo.ssreg.org.
Related stories: • See a listing of biking, hiking, running, walking and water sport options, Page 10 • Stay safe in the sun, Pages 4, 14
* Fitness at Canalside program presented by BlueCross BlueShield of WNY; free events run through August.
** Fitness in the Parks program by Independent Health and YMCA Buffalo Niagara; free events run through Aug. 29 unless otherwise noted.