A lot of people start the new year off by joining a gym, but that’s not the solution for everyone. Gym memberships can be pricy, and motivation to go there often falls precipitously by February.

If you want to get fit without the gym, check out the offerings in the Park District of Oak Park program guide.

While you won’t find treadmills or elliptical machines at the Dole, you have a remarkable array of classes, and can even work out with a personal trainer.

The new series of classes starts this week, but you can join at any time. Health and Fitness supervisor Liz Visteen will even let you try one class for free if you’re not sure if the class is appropriate to your skill or fitness level.

If motivation is your issue, the fact that you pay for your classes in advance is helpful to counteract the inevitable inertia. Most classes run for six weeks, which is long enough to see results, but not so much of a commitment that you feel hesitant to tie yourself down to a weekly appointment.

The equipment at the Dole Center includes Bosu balls, weights and other “fun toys,” that Liz points out are easy for students to familiarize themselves with in class and purchase for home use if they so desire.

Group exercise classes include tried-and-true cardio and body sculpting classes, as well as more innovative dance-oriented programs like Zumba and (my favorite!) Nia. If your stress levels are more of an issue than your fitness level, consider a mind-body movement class like Feldenkrais, Yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi.

You can sign on to have individual or small group sessions with a personal trainer, just like most gyms. And how many other fitness centers will put you on a sports team or let you take a Karate class with your child?  Not many offer ballroom dancing or fencing, either.

A number of classes are “AAM Eligible,” which means they are discounted if you are over 50 and purchase an Active Adult discount pass (see the Aging Disgracefully blog for more information about that one).

All of the Park District’s instructors have been certified in their fields, and classes run from 6:05 am until 9:00 p.m weekdays, and until noon on Saturday. This year the Park District celebrates it’s 100th birthday. If you take enough fitness classes, maybe you’ll be aroud to blow 100 candles out, too.

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Lisa Browdy

We all know what to do, and many of us resolve to do it every year: eat better, exercise more, lose weight and reduce stress. We may have many demands on our time and energy, and not a lot of cash to spare...

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