“Free fitness for everyone” is the slogan of the National Fitness Campaign, the organization that encouraged the Park District of Forest Park to apply for a grant for the new outdoor fitness court. It opened on June 1, and residents and visitors have been making good use of it.
“Free fitness” is what trainer Mary Elizabeth Kennedy, commonly referred to as M.E., likes best about the new fitness court.
“Everyone has access to it,” she said during a training session on Sept. 21, a slightly drizzly Saturday morning. “Even if you’ve never worked out in your life, you can still find something to do here.”
Kennedy’s been teaching a kick-boxing-inspired class at the Roos Recreation Center, and when the outdoor fitness court opened, she got trained through the National Fitness Campaign and leads a free class on Saturday mornings. Trainer Erik Treese also teaches free classes at the fitness court on Thursday evenings.
The classes, known as Express PULSE, have participants progress through seven stations to work different muscle groups. These stations incorporate planks, pull-ups and pull-up-type activities, lunges and other exercises geared to give participants a full-body workout. Completing the circuit once takes about 15 minutes, but participants often go through it a second or even third time to increase the benefits.
Usually the classes on Saturdays bring three to eight people, said Kennedy.
Forest Park resident Marissa Tiburtini has incorporated a workout at the outdoor fitness court into her regular runs. She likes Kennedy’s class because it’s given her the basics, so she knows how to use the equipment. There are also instructions posted at the outdoor court, and there’s an app providing instructional videos on how to use the equipment.
Claire Battle from Oak Park is a regular at Kennedy’s classes. She said she appreciates all the offerings of local park districts and thinks the outdoor fitness court was a great idea because people can use it without a membership.
Kennedy, a combination of inspirational and kick-ass, has an infectious personality. She pushes students hard but keeps them coming back. She’s been a fitness instructor for the past five years, teaching a variety of classes at the Park District of Forest Park, the Park District of Oak Park and the Westchester Park District. She also teaches at XSport Fitness.
Classes at the outdoor fitness court are scheduled through the end of September but if the weather cooperates, sessions may continue into October, said Kennedy. The next free session with Coach Erik is on Thursday Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and with Coach M.E. on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 a.m.
The fitness court was a joint effort between the National Fitness Campaign, Rush Oak Park Hospital and the Park District of Forest Park.