Put Spring Back in Your Step with Outdoor Exercise

Local parks combine nature with nurturing for a healthy lifestyle

SHARON G. JONAS

Now that spring has arrived and enlivens the world around us, why not embrace this time of renewal by making a fresh start on your own?

For many, the colder months cause a decrease in physical activity along with an increase in eating. If you are feeling weighed down – even after stowing away your heavy winter coat, and the rising flowers and longer days offer little inspiration to shed those extra pounds, you might find what you need to get going at one of our local parks.

MILL POND PRESERVE

This 54-acre preserve, accessible from Merrick Road at the Bellmore-Wantagh border, has a 15-acre pond as its centerpiece. A 1.1-mile paved path around the pond weaves its way through a delightful and interesting mix of foliage, and features cathedral-height canopies that protect from both over-exposure to the sun and rainfall, making it an excellent exercise route at almost any time.

MPondPicBill McDonough and 4-year-old daughter Kelly, do fun exercising at Mill Pond

While many cycle, more use the pathway to walk and jog – to draw from the cool oxygen-rich atmosphere that permeates the trail. Two bridges traverse clear-running streams that feed from the Twin preserves on the north side of Sunrise Highway. Well-worn dirt trails also break off the main path at several points to provide enthusiasts with a chance to explore the backwoods – and challenge their strength  – while discovering the area’s diverse flora and varieties of birds.

There are several benches and a gazebo at the Merrick Road entrance, and one bench about a mile-and-a-half in. The Kennedy High School track team has been seen to practice at least one day a week during season.

The path through Mill Pond is also designated as part of Long Island’s Greenbelt Trail, a trail system that traverses the breadth of Long Island from north-to-south, and provides many walking trail experiences all around Long Island. This section is known as the Wantagh Nature Trail Walk, and there will be a nature walk on Saturday, June 18, of approximately four hours. It will also traverse the Twin Preserves in Wantagh. For information contact Chuck at 906-2733, or visit www.ligreenbelt.org.

NEWBRIDGE ROAD PARK

At the end of Newbridge Road in south Bellmore, this sporting complex features, for starters, a one-mile circumference paved path that walks around large open fields for running off the “beaten” track, or throwing a ball, flying a kite or for sitting to do yoga exercises.

bike ridersSophia, Olivia and dad John stop for an ice cream while takinga bike ride through Newbridge Road Park

At the north end of the path is a comprehensive playground with all kinds of fun climbing challenges for children, as well as basketball courts and a baseball diamond for throwing the ball around the bases or for hitting practice.

At the south end of the path walkers, jogger and cyclists will pass two more baseball diamonds, as well as a football field to practice on and used for community leagues during the fall months. Let’s not forget the Town of Hempstead swimming pool for water recreation to stay cool in the summer heat, and an ice skating rink that is open all year, and hosts everything from weekday and weekend ice skating sessions, to hockey leagues and curling leagues in the winter months.

There is also the hill revelers love to sled down during winter months that kids can also be seen on in summer months riding down.

FRASER PARK

In the midst of residential North Merrick on Fraser Avenue, this little gem of a park has a playground for mothers to bring their young children for a refreshing outdoor experience, and features a large field for running or throwing balls, playing baseball or football – or even setting up community events.

NORMAN J. LEVY PARK AND PRESERVE

Tucked behind the Town of Hempstead Department of Sanitation facility off Merrick Road in Merrick, this 52-acre facility offers myriad ways to get fit while enjoying the outdoors. A charming 1.6-mile circumference path consisting of crushed sea shells is dotted with 18 different exercise stations. Each station provides signs explaining how to correctly use the equipment, which encourages basic moves such as leg raises, hip rotations, sit-ups and knee lifts.

stretchFormer Kennedy High School kickline teammates Angela, left, and Alisa, stretch before exercising on the Levy Park trails

Indeed, Levy Park also employs a range of innovative, environmentally minded ways to manage the land you can witness first-hand while it offers distinctive approaches to outdoor exercise – including goats that nibble at the grass and weeds, to tick-devouring Guinea fowl and a windmill atop the park that circulates water in two man-made ponds

For those wishing to join – or needing the help of – a group to exercise, the Parkacise program combines group exercise, and can help participants to lose weight while gaining strength and endurance. Meeting every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the parking lot, a mixed-age group takes off for an hour-long lap around the circumference of the park. From college-aged students to those in their late 60s, exercise members learn to make use of the fitness stations along the way while adding in extras, such as strength conditioning with exercise bands.

Led by two certified personal trainers, Roy Isaac Jr. and his partner, Judy Fucci, the program challenges individuals while respecting personal limitations. “The number-one reason people come to us is to lose weight,” says Isaac Jr. “We show people they don’t need heavy weights or a gym full of equipment to increase their fitness levels.”

Merrick resident Seth Luker says that he returns to the 10-session program regularly. “I’ve battled cancer several times and I appreciate the strength and endurance this program has given me. I’ve done it for the last couple of years and it’s been an effective and enjoyable experience.”

The program is not free and is not affiliated with the Town of Hempstead. Users of the park can use any of the exercise stations for free during regular park hours.

If fear of being unable to complete an entire session is of concern, the park offers a jitney service that is a phone call away. Quick to respond, the small, covered vehicle kept on premise is available to transport tired exercisers to the parking lot year ‘round.

CEDAR CREEK-JONES BEACH BIKE PATH

This 7.5-mile paved Wantagh Parkway path is ideal for biking, roller blading, jogging and walking.  Beginning at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford, off Merrick Road, it was lengthened a few years back to extend to the East Bathhouse to provide for cycling on the Jones Beach boardwalk during off-season. The path now extends approximately two miles east along Ocean Drive to Tobay Beach, with benches to rest on along the path.

There are 100 bicycle storage spots close to Jones Beach, making a ride-and-swim experience much more available – and enjoyable. To enter the path at Cedar Creek, look to the right of the first parking lot for a large boulder, which marks the path’s entrance.

JBWalkA lone walker begins her 2-mile walk at the start of the boardwalk at Field 6

The Jones Beach boardwalk, at two miles in one direction, is considered by many outdoor enthusiasts to be one of the ultimate exercise paths anywhere.  Several health organizations raise funds with walks along the boardwalk, and there are stations along the two-mile route to the westernmost parking field 1 to stop to do several varieties of stretches.

There are benches to rest, and beautiful ocean scenery and sea breezes to accompany any walker, jogger or cyclist.

For those who venture around Cedar Creek Park, the lap around is about 1.4 miles, but make room for the Kennedy High School’s long distance track team members, who occasionally use it for practice! Coach Chris Mammone says both the male and female athletes run around this park as well as up and down the grassy hills famous for winter sled riding.

If you are looking for a more rugged terrain and an extra challenge, you may want to follow the team’s lead and try a few up-and-down runs at one of the few hilly areas in the area.

EISENHOWER PARK

Eisenhower Park on Hempstead Turnpike in nearby East Meadow offers an exercise trail with fitness equipment. Covering more land than Manhattan’s Central Park, this spacious park includes many opportunities to get fit.

At two miles, a slightly longer exercise trail than Levy Park’s begins by the field house near Parking Lot 2 off of Hempstead Turnpike and wraps in circular fashion ending where it begins.

If walking, jogging or biking isn’t your thing, a batting cage, 16 lighted tennis court, three 18-hole golf courses, a driving range and two excellent miniature golf courses make Eisenhower Park a hub for a good number of outdoor activities.

 

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