Urbana Park District offers summer fitness programs

Photo provided by Elsie Hedgspeth | Urbana Park District

Photo provided by Elsie Hedgspeth | Urbana Park District

Emma Gray


Urbana Park District will be providing and promoting free and low-cost fitness programs for community members this summer, including Yoga in the Park, Yoga Hikes, and several group bike rides.

Yoga in the Park is a free program that will take place in Meadowbrook Park, next to its open prairie off the Windsor Road entrance. The program runs until Aug. 26. It is an hour long, starting at 9 a.m., and is taught by volunteer instructors from the community.

“We are fortunate enough to have such a strong yoga community throughout Urbana and Champaign and a different local yoga instructor will donate their time each week to the class,” said Fitness and Wellness Coordinator of the Urbana Park District Elsie Hedgspeth. “Participants who attend Yoga in the Park on a regular basis will experience several different teaching styles and types of yoga over the course of the summer.”

This class is open to people of all ages and abilities. Children must be with a participating adult, however.

“All ages and abilities are welcome to attend,” Hedgspeth said. “The yoga practice will involve both seated and standing poses, so participants will need to be able to transition between standing and sitting.”

There is no registration for the sessions, but participants are required to sign a waiver at the park. Yoga mats are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, as are shaded spots under the trees.

While the program is free, donations are encouraged and go to benefit the Youth Scholarship Fund, which works to help children whose families could not otherwise afford for them to participate in Urbana Park District Programs. It does this by allowing programs to offer partial fee waivers.

Yoga Hikes will take place on select Tuesdays from June 6–Aug. 22. Each session is $5 and requires individual pre-registration at least the day before the hike. Participants can register online, in-person at the Philips Recreation Center at 505 W. Stoughton St., Urbana, or by calling 217-251-1544. The hikes take place at Meadowbrook Park, Busey Woods, or Crystal Lake Park and will be from 5:30–6:30 p.m.

No previous yoga experience is required for the hikes, but they are recommended for ages 15 and older.

“Yoga Hikes intertwine well-paced hiking through some of Urbana Park District’s nature trails with three to five yoga stops along the way,” Hedgspeth said.

The hikes will be led by Lola Pittenger, a certified yoga and fitness instructor. Pittenger is also a private yoga and Zumba instructor, as well as a life and spiritual coach through Green Yoga Spa in Urbana.

Both Yoga in the Park and Yoga Hikes aim to connect participants’ yoga practices with nature; the Yoga Hikes combine cardio, strengthening, and toning while Yoga in the Park focuses on strength and stretching of the body.

Free group bike rides are organized by local bike groups such as the Prairie Cycle Club and promoted by the Urbana Park District, which works with the clubs.

“The park district is not solely organizing any group bikes rides, but we are working with local bicycle groups to promote group rides and bicycle events taking place this summer,” Hedgspeth said.

One popular group bike ride, though not officially sponsored by PCC, is the Full Moon Night Ride. It is a 22-mile round-trip ride to the Sidney Dairy Barn, where participants often line up to the road or ride their bikes through the “Moo Thru” for ice cream.

This ride is open to people of all ages, though children must be accompanied by an adult. Lights are required and helmets are highly recommended.

The next Full Moon Night Ride is scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 8. Times and details will be posted on the PCC website in the week before the ride.

Bike groups around the area have other shorter rides as well, though bikers should always be prepared to ride at least eight miles.

“All experience levels are welcome,” Hedgspeth said.

Information on these rides can be found on the PCC website or in the Urbana Park District’s online brochure. There are several weekly rides through the PCC, including a long 40–60 mile ride on Saturdays—named the “Housework Avoidance Ride.”

On Sunday, July 23, another, more costly, long ride called the Ride to the Depot Bicycle Tour will start near White Health, Ill., and follow the Sangamon River. Loops with distances of 16, 30, 70, and 100 miles will available. Food trucks and snack stops will be set up during the ride as well.

Ride to the Depot Bicycle Tour requires registration, with registration fees ranging from $40– 45. All profits go to supporting the development of the Kickapoo Rail Trail, a project to build a 24.5-mile bike trail from Urbana to Kickapoo State Park. Nearly seven miles of the trail from Urbana to St. Joseph will open this July. 

Additional information on these programs can be found on the Urbana Park District’s website at urbanaparks.org; under the “Programs” heading, click on “Fitness and Wellness.”