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Best Outdoor Fitness Trainers for Every Budget

By Emily Frost | August 19, 2013 7:01am
 A roster of the best coaches to get you in shape outside of a gym. 
New York City's Best Outdoor Trainers and Fitness Classes
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NEW YORK CITY — With months of dreary days ahead, squeeze the most of the sunny, serene weather by moving your workout outside.

From the friendliest trainers to the most intense, and from the simplest classes to those with the most frills, DNAinfo New York has found the best outdoor trainers and classes for every type of exerciser and every budget.

Free and Flexible

If you don't want to commit, either financially or to a regimen, the free fitness classes in Central Park (a partnership between the Central Park Conservancy and Equinox), are the perfect option.   

On Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. until Aug. 15, Equinox instructors lead first-come, first-served classes in Central Park, with a cap of 40 participants. 

On Tuesdays, the "Play Out" session will combine "upbeat strength and cardio conditioning" in a playful atmosphere at the Delacorte Theater in the park near West 81st Street, according to the conservancy.

For a more mellow experience, "Bliss Out" will run Thursdays at the Great Hill, as a way to "shift your attitude" and "clear your mind" through yoga-inspired moves. The group will meet at the plaza at West 106th Street and Central Park West.

Pay As You Wish

If you're already paying for a gym membership or you feel that paying up to $200 for an hourlong session is out of reach, there's another way to train outdoors: The People's Bootcamp.

Started by Adam Rosante, who said he recognized that bootcamps and small fitness classes were getting too expensive, The People's Bootcamp lets participants pay whatever they wish, which could be nothing at all, or much more than a typical class costs.

The classes, which meet Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Monday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Central Park, are "accessible to any level of fitness," said Rosante. "You have peak athletes and mothers of three who haven't worked out in five years [participating]."

Twenty to 30 people usually join in by signing up online and then receiving the meeting place via email.

Bringing Out All the Toys

The Refine Method, founded by former ballerina Brynn Jinnett, is catching on in New York City, with her latest studio opening on the Upper West Side last fall.

Jinnett's method values efficiency, moving exercisers through a variety of different movements, all while keeping their heart rate elevated in cardio mode.

In the warmer months, The Refine Method moves outdoors, where there's "the advantage of added space," Jinnett said. Participants have a longer, wider plane on which to do the movements, which often makes it more challenging than within the studio, she added.

"Inside, we might do a forward lunge moving within the 6 or 7 feet, [while] outside we can take that lunge and head up a hill and a set of stairs," she said.

The outdoor sessions do involve lugging out a bunch of equipment, what Jinnett characterized as "toys," including "suspension straps, medicine balls, kettlebells, bands, jump ropes and ladders."

But from a business perspective, they're a big hit, as passersby see the workout method for the first time and ask to join.

The outdoor classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the entrance to Central Park at West 72nd Street and on Saturdays at 10 a.m.

The classes cost $30 for a single session and $135 for a five-pack.

Friendly and Sporty 

Dan Connolly is one of those people who you can tell loves his job. He's a people person and a smiler, rather than a drill sergeant. 

"I don't bark orders at people," he said. 

After working in the New York Sports Club system for almost a decade, he broke out on his own 12 years ago and started his personal training business. He says he relishes the flexibility. 

Connolly, 44, believes "there's nothing better than working out outside." 

Last winter, he said he and his clients trained outside through the entire winter, never missing a day — though he has alternate spaces if a client prefers to be indoors. 

Based on the Upper West Side, Connolly frequently heads out to Riverside Drive, where there's a steady of flow of people and dogs — and he and his clients get to know them all. The distractions of the outdoors help to make the workout fly by, he said. 

The session typically involves boxing, another method Connolly says he uses to avoiding a boring, repetitious workout like you might get in a gym. With boxing, clients can mark their progress and engage in a routine he tries to make fun and competitive. 

"I like to keep the movement as natural as possible," he said, "I don't think of it as working [isolated] body parts."

Sessions cost between $60 and $100 per hour, and the cost is based upon frequency of training, the length of the session and whether it's a one- or two-person session.

Results for a Price

For $200 an hour, clients demand results, said Mike Bell, who is part of the relatively new West Village training studio WillSpace, owned by Will Torres.  

Many of the clients who work out with Bell, 25, along the river and on the West Village piers, are already working out and are looking to amp up their results.

Bell will zero in on the clients' weakness and target it, he said.

"If someone’s really good at distance work, but when they try to do a sprint they don’t recover well, I’ll try to work at what they’re not as good at," he said.

Speed, conditioning, endurance and strength are the key goals of the outdoor sessions, which the studio has named STEALTH to emphasize the "lean" and "powerful" body you'll end up with, Bell said.

Precise, tailored workouts are a hallmark of STEALTH, he added. 

"I’m big about having a reason why we’re doing things. I find in New York City we have a lot of people who want to know what they’re doing and why I’m choosing it," Bell said.

And when clients are running sprints followed by pushups and situps, it helps to be outside, with sites like One World Trade Center to distract you, Bell said