Feature Article - November 2006
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An Exercise In Creativity

Fitness programs that lead the pack

By Stacy St. Clair

Life's a beach

Here's some good news for park districts that can't afford to build a state-of-the-art recreation center: You can still offer residents healthy exercise options. In fact, according to fitness expert Jimmy Minardi, you have the perfect workout area right outside your window. The great outdoors is nature's health club, he said, and recreation managers would be wise to encourage its use.

"We've been brainwashed into thinking that you have to join a gym to get fit," he said. "That's just not true. The gym does not equal fitness, health and wellness. You need to get people outside and move their bodies."

Minardi, owner of East Hampton, N.Y.-based Minardi Training, designs all his workouts for the outdoors. As a former professional triathlete and cyclist, Minardi knew about the power of outdoor exercise when he began his business.

He designed his first—and most famous—outdoor workout when he was just 14 years old. His father was once a lifeguard and often talked about the health benefits of merely walking barefoot on the beach. When the younger Minardi stopped to think about all the things lifeguards must do—running on the sand, swimming against waves, lifting heavy objects—he realized they had the perfect fitness routine.

The program eventually evolved into the Lifeguard Workout, which has garnered national media attention for its fresh approach to fitness. The regimen is a unique combination of plyometrics, ocean rescue drills, yoga, weight training, swimming, speed, balance training and plain old fun on the beach.

Though the 80-minute workout varies all the time, it typically involves a cardiovascular obstacle course that the group navigates en masse. The program also includes light weights, as well as a cool-down featuring a sit-up and push-up cycle.

Minardi likes to point to the ocean during the class and ask clients if they like his gym. He also refers to his patrons as athletes, so they think of their bodies as things that must be cherished and well maintained.

"When people get to their bodies, they take their brain out," he said. "We treat our technology and our stuff better than the things we live in—our bodies."

There's more to Minardi Training than just the Lifeguard Workout. He also offers road cycling, mountain biking, surfer yoga and vinyasa weight-training classes. Though the classes might differ, the location always stays the same: the great outdoors.

"Why go inside when you can go out?" Minardi asked. "Working outside is so much better for you. Being in the elements is healthy for both your muscles and your balance. My philosophy is the more outdoor air you get, the better."

Simply put, Minardi should serve as an inspiration to parks departments that don't have the money to build recreation centers. No matter the budget or the facilities, they have Mother Nature's fitness club right outside.

"There's no excuse," Minardi said. "There are plenty of options available to everyone. Encourage people to put their shoes on and go outside."