Workouts in the sun

There are plenty of opportunities to get fit outdoors this summer.
Illustrations by Michael Crampton

Editor’s note: This feature, which can be seen in the May 2020 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine, was written before the stay-at-home order.

Grab a paddle

GR Paddling helps you enjoy the sunshine.

Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities to do with family and friends. With many lakes and rivers streaming through our backyards, summer rentals
are a must.

Jeff Neumann, a retired GRCC professor, knew exactly what Grand Rapids needed when he opened his business GR Paddling for the first time eight summers ago.

Neumann and his wife Rita created the paddling experience because of their love and appreciation for the water that surrounds the city. Opening its doors for another season, this family-owned business strives to make renting canoes and kayaks more than a professional experience. The family tries to make paddling as personable and stress-free as possible.

“We don’t just drop our paddlers off at the river or lake and drive away,” Neumann said. “We instead provide any necessary basic paddling instruction, check-in when possible, take photos, provide all required amenities and are waiting for our paddlers when they arrive at their destination.”

GR Paddlers also offers optional complimentary transportation to and from the river, saving visitors to the GR area an Uber ride. Another unique service is the business’s various paddling experiences, including: Paddle and Dine, Paddle and Picnic, and Sunset/Moonlight paddles.

A fan favorite is the Paddle and Picnic option, which is an all-day paddling trip that includes Panera Bread lunch boxes and snacks for a riverside picnic. Look out for its most popular paddle rates on Reeds Lake and the Grand River, traveling downstream from Ionia to Ottawa County.

Being a family-owned business, Neumann cares about the importance of family trips in nature. “Kayaking and canoeing are fantastic family activities and we’ve been fortunate to provide paddling experience for several multi-generational family groups,” he said. The minimum age GR Paddling is equipped and insured for is 12-years-old. This summer take advantage of this full-service paddling experience and head to to sign your family up any time between May 1 and Oct. 31. Rates vary depending on group size.
Happy Paddling!

Looking to rent equipment?

These places will outfit you for your summer excursion.

From May through October, Kent District Library offers free bike rentals. The KDL Cruisers are Breezer Uptown EX 8-speed bicycles that come with a basket, lock and key. They are available for checkout at various library branch locations, such as Comstock Park, East Grand Rapids and Wyoming. Visit BikeKDL for more information and a full list of bike locations.

At the DeVos Family Boathouse at Millennium Park, you can rent paddleboards. Season pass holders receive $2 off, while non-members pay $10 for the first hour and $8 per additional hour. Lifejackets are offered free of charge. With over 4 miles of shoreline to explore, this Grand Rapids beach is perfect for exploration in the summer months.

Life Addicts wants to get you outside

Plan your summer workouts with these tips.

Travis and Whitney Washington started their fitness business Life Addicts Studio in 2014. For them, the venture is about more than just working out; rather, it is about creating better life habits for a healthier lifestyle. Their summer fitness classes will include biking around the city and many outdoor workout sessions. The pair answered some questions and shared some tips on how you can create your own outdoor workout.

Where are the best parks for outdoor workouts and why?

Travis Washington: Truthfully, every park is unique in its own way. How one person uses a bench, a jungle gym or an open field could be completely different than how another person uses that same space, so to pick just one is hard. When it all boils down to doing workouts outdoors, just make sure you inspect the area for glass, hazardous debris or loose playground equipment before you begin, to ensure your own safety. Also, be mindful of your surroundings, especially if you choose to work out in the evenings — and inviting a friend to tag along is even better!

What type of equipment do you recommend?

Whitney Washington: For home workouts or even workouts in an open space at the gym, what people don’t talk about frequently is how great of a workout you can get simply using resistance bands and loop bands. They help with flexibility, strength, muscle toning and functional training. These items can fit in your gym bag, backpack or luggage, and come in a variety of resistance levels to customize your workout.

What types of workouts would you suggest?

Travis: The first step we suggest is for people to just get up and move consistently for a minimum of 30-minutes per day. In general, we’ve become so into our phones and electronic devices that we’re always unnaturally looking down and sedentary for hours. Getting up and simply moving our bodies consistently would make a real difference for so many.

How can people add their kids to their workout?

Whitney: Having your children see you work out is a great way to encourage them to be active as well. Including toddlers/younger children on your cardio days where you include body weight and cardio-centered exercises like jumping jacks, inchworms, push-ups, sit-ups, running and some mild plyometric movements to get them jumping around as well (if there are no joint issues) can be fun for you both.

You can even incorporate your stroller for smaller children or simply wear your baby (securely, of course, in the appropriate carriers) and do mild, low-impact movements (taking a walk, a light jog with the stroller) etc.

How can I dress appropriately for the weather?

Travis: When it comes down to dressing appropriately for warmer weather choose loose, breathable, light-colored, sweat-wicking clothing. Stay away from cotton, wool or dark, heavy clothes that warm up your body.

How can I beat the heat from working out outside?

Whitney: Beating the heat can be as simple as working out earlier in the day or later in the evening, making space to do some workouts at home, finding a fitness studio with an indoor facility, going to the gym or choosing to go swimming at a pool/lake for that day’s workout. Regardless of the option you choose, be sure to keep hydrated, especially if your preference is still outdoors.

What are some outdoor workout essentials?

Travis: Make sure you have a gym bag with water bottle(s), towel (or cooling towel), change of clothes, resistance bands/loop bands, sunscreen and sunglasses. Our main tip is to listen to your body and make sure you don’t overexert yourself, especially when it’s hot outside. Also, before you start working out outdoors, again be sure to examine the area for anything that could hinder your workout (i.e., broken glass, broken equipment, sharp items, etc.)

Does Life Addicts Studio have outdoor fitness classes in the summer?

Whitney: Yes, we try to utilize the outdoors as much as the weather allows. We offer bootcamps (personal training in a group setting), weightlifting, functional training and fitness challenges year-round, including the spring and summer months.

Is it beneficial to have a workout buddy?

Travis: Absolutely! One of four foundation practices we teach our LAS community is to engage their community and environment. We’ve heard from our clients time and again how having others on the same path toward better health, fitness and wellness has been a tremendous support as they strive to reach their goals. Working out can seem like another obligatory thing you have to check off “that one list” you really don’t want to look at … but when you have others you can count on to just be present, it helps you not feel alone … and not feel like you’re the only one in the world that needs to work on some things.

Adult recess

Gather your friends for a night of sports and socializing.

Do you ever wish you still had recess? Sitting at work for hours, email after email, it’s easy to catch yourself dreaming of a place where you can meet friends and play sports. Fortunately, at Grand Rapids Sport and Social Club (GRSSC), you can do both. From traditional sports such as flag football and softball to the unconventional like kickball and bar Olympics, this club practically invented “adult recess.”

Chris Wessely started GRSSC in 2008. Wessely knew that many cities offered adult rec leagues and he wanted to start one on his own. He had a dream to make a “friend factory disguised as a sports club” right here in Grand Rapids.

“The formula is quite simple: after every game, we all go back to the same bar and socialize over pre-negotiated food and drink specials,” Wessely explained. “And that’s where the magic really happens. I didn’t want to just sell sports, I wanted to sell experiences.”

The club is coed and focuses mainly on the social side, but it does offer competitive leagues, too. This club welcomes all adults, young professionals and the young at heart. Many single individuals new to the city join to meet friends. When asked about the social aspect, Wessely said, “It’s also a great date night and we’ve seen a number of couples that play, but the majority of our players are single. I’ve seen multiple marriages come out of this club as well as lifelong friendships. Many have said that the friendships they’ve made through the club are stronger bonds compared to their college experience. That’s
just awesome.”

Aside from the social aspects, adult recreation promotes a healthy lifestyle. Many companies in Grand Rapids have GRSSC listed on their wellness program and some register for leagues for team-building workshops. The club also is a huge supporter of mental health awareness. “We’ve had players thank us, saying that our club allows them to engage with others, aiding in their fight with depression. One went as far as saying it saved their life!” Wessely said. “That was really powerful to hear.”

As Grand Rapids continues to grow, so does the club. According to Wessely, in the last year, there has been a 15-20% growth in player numbers. “We continue to sign on more venues/locations,” he added. “In fact, new this year, we teamed up with Studio Park downtown for a summer Tuesday night league, playing on the turf of their piazza.”

You can register on the GRSSC website for a league as a free agent, full team or small group. Small groups are for friends who want to stick together, but do not have enough players to fill a team yet. Free agents are individuals signing up to participate and get added or choose their team through the website. Players also can unlock fun badges and awards based on how long they’ve been playing, how many leagues they’ve played in and by referring a friend or two to the club. Sign up today and #KeepPlaying.

Summer races abound

Run, bike or swim your way through summer.

The Color Run once again will be making an appearance this summer in downtown Grand Rapids. It is known nationally as “the happiest 5K on the planet.” Runners wear white and at each mile get doused in colored powdered. At the end, continue the party with the Finish Festival.

The Grand Rapids Triathlon is Michigan’s largest independent triathlon. From novice to seasoned, all skill levels can enter. The race will be a virtual race this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MSU Gran Fondo (Italian for “Big Ride”) is a long-distance, mass participation event geared toward cyclists of all abilities. Be at the starting line on June 27 to join the fight against skin cancer. This event also recommends raising at least $50 in donations and has many impressive incentives.

Summer burn

4 opportunities for summer fitness.

KROC Center, 2500 South Division Ave., is the perfect place for outdoor activities. It offers outdoor yoga classes and many other fitness classes in the summer. The outdoor campus is open to the public and day camps are offered for families to enjoy the outdoors — including a giant slip ’n’ slide.

Root Down in Muskegon describes itself as “an original yoga studio and juice bar, providing fitness and nutrition in one location.” This groovy yoga studio, 333 West Western Ave., hosts Yoga on the Ship every Sunday on the USS LST ship at the Mart Dock. Sessions are donation based.

At Beer City Barre, 820 Monroe Ave. NW, experience the unique barre workout. According to its website, “barre is a total body workout that incorporates elements of yoga, Pilates and dance into a fast-paced, 60-minute class set to upbeat music.” Now, imagine that on a rooftop. During the summer, Beer City Barre occasionally holds classes on its rooftop. New client rates include $20 for the first class with the next class free.

If you love to run with friends, then Wednesday Nights Hills and Stairs running club is for you. This club meets at Founders Brewing Co. and runs the hills and stairs every Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. during any weather. Check out its Facebook page.

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