There is a devoted group of fitness lovers that meets every Wednesday at 6:14 a.m. to work out around Grand Rapids.
Matt Swiontek and Yoshi Saka, Carpe Diem GR’s organizers, met as part of a running club in Grand Rapids and decided to start the group earlier this year. Carpe Diem GR held its first workout March 1, and the group has been growing via word-of-mouth ever since.
“There were running groups, gyms and fitness classes, but they all cost money, and going to a gym can be intimidating, especially for someone who isn’t used to going to gym classes,” Swiontek said. “So, we saw an opportunity.”
Swiontek and Saka wanted to start a workout group that would be free to attend and focused on group fitness. Carpe Diem GR focuses on circuit training. The weekly workouts also include games and friendly competition to help participants meet one another. The pair chose the early morning time because most group workouts they’d come across took place in the evenings.
“We saw there were a lot of evening group activities, but not a whole lot of early morning things outside of gyms,” Swiontek said.
The group meets every Wednesday morning — no matter the weather — at the corner of Lyon and Bostwick streets. They then move to different areas of the city for that morning’s workout. The routine changes each week to keep things fresh.
“For example, recently we went to the Grand Rapids Community Campus on Ransom Street,” Swiontek said.
Swiontek said the group is as much about meeting new people as it is about starting the day with a good workout. He said oftentimes, members of the group will hang out beyond the workouts and they plan and attend other events together.
“We start every workout with the bounce, where you bounce around and make some noise, get pumped up, and we use hugs and high fives to break down barriers,” Swiontek said. “Even if someone comes with a friend we will try to split them up. Hopefully, you’ll make new friends.”
He added, “We actually met in a running group. Neither of us is from Grand Rapids. We used running as a way to meet new people and wanted to bring some of the things we’ve done in other cities to Grand Rapids.”
Swiontek and his wife relocated to Grand Rapids from Minneapolis, while Saka made the move from Chicago.
Since March, Carpe Diem GR has seen its participation numbers grow. Swiontek said July was the group’s largest month, with participants reaching 52 people one morning. He said it typically draws between 25 and 50.
Swiontek and Saka want to keep attendance up into the fall and winter and currently are working on raising the group’s recognition in the city so more people will try it.
“We would like to add another morning as sustained growth occurs,” Swiontek said.
He said the biggest thing people should know is the group is open to people of all abilities and levels of fitness.
“Workouts are built for everyone. You can go at your own pace,” he said. “We have a unique group in terms of range of abilities.”