by Dawn Nicholas
As thunder rumbled loudly overhead, a waitress scrambled among the tables to collect payment from those of us who had been enjoying a lazy late afternoon lunch in Central Park. My 16 year old daughter and I dashed through the trees and onto the city streets, our large, overstuffed goodie bags bouncing against us, just as warm , heavy drops of rain began to fall. With less than two blocks to cover before reaching the subway station, the downpour began, and we were among the unprepared, laughing as we surrendered to our fate.
Months earlier, I had come across an ad in Self Magazine announcing the 20th Anniversary Self Workout in the Park. This event is held yearly in cities across the U.S. to promote health and fitness to women of all fitness levels. During this outdoor event, a wide variety of mini fitness classes are held every 20 minutes from 11 am – 3 pm, taught by a group of energetic instructors. For a $20 entry fee, each attendee is permitted to take part in an unlimited number of classes on the turf surface in front of the main stage, plus one yoga/pilates and one CrossFit class. Kids age 12 and up are welcome to attend with an adult.
According to the SELF's Workout in the Park's schedule, the New York City event was to be held in Central Park on May 11 (rain or shine). I cringed as I checked our normally overbooked family schedule, but was pleased to discover that we had an entirely open Saturday. My daughter and I were excited about spending a fun day over Mother’s Day weekend going on a new adventure together (I admit that it didn’t hurt that Shay Mitchell, her favorite actress, was going to be the guest host of the event).
As the date drew near, the weather forecast indicated that Mother Nature had other ideas, including all-day thunderstorms. The night before the event, I had pretty much accepted the fact that we wouldn’t be going to Central Park the next day. However, my daughter was still holding out hope for good weather, a trip into NYC, some group fitness classes… and a glimpse of Shay Mitchell. At 7:00 am, I looked outside and saw overcast skies and a recently rained-upon lawn. The weather forecast called for morning showers and thunderstorms beginning at 1 pm. However, with our busy day-to-day schedules, it isn’t often enough that we take time out to enjoy a new activity together, and we had been looking forward to this day for weeks. We rallied and made our way to the train station as the sun began to peak out from beneath the heavy blanket of clouds. We had so much faith that the universe would cooperate that we didn’t even bring our umbrellas.
We arrived in Central Park at 11:00, just in time for the start of the fitness classes. In retrospect, we should have arrived earlier (check-in began at 9) so that we could leisurely peruse the sponsors’ booths before the lines began to get long. As the day went on, we found that although hundreds of people attended the event, there was a very large staff on hand to keep everything organized and running smoothly.
On the main floor, we danced the day away in LaBlast, a ballroom dance inspired workout; boxed our way through Million Dollar Knockout, toned up with Bodyshred interval training and got funky in Tutu Fresh, a ballet-inspired dance class set to upbeat, fresh music. A total of nine workouts were available on the main floor, where individuals of all fitness levels were free to join in or to take a break at any time.
Unfortunately, the CrossFit classes were all full by the time we got around to signing up; however, we did manage to get the last two slots for Pound, a high-energy, pilates-inspired toning workout set to music. In Pound, we held deep squats and ab strengthening poses while using drumsticks to ‘pound’ to the beat, twisting and turning at various times to strike the ground with our sticks. I guess the drumming distracted me enough to hold the poses longer than I usually would; I was sore for several days afterward!
We were surprised at the generosity of the sponsors at the Self Workout. We came home with free boxes of Keurig coffee and tea pods, plastic tumblers, beach balls, yoga mats, full-sized bags of flavored popcorn, change purses, perfume samples, coupons, snack bars in various flavors, sunglasses, t-shirts, totes, and more. The vendors handed out ice pops, cups of tea, salads, and snack bar samples along with the take-home swag. On-site mini-facials, neck massages and skin cancer screenings were also available. Between workouts, we traveled unashamedly among the booths, eager to see what our next treat would be, like kids on Halloween.
By 2:45 we were pleasantly tired and happy that there had been no sign of rain all day. In fact, the sun had been shining on and off throughout the event. We decided to stop at Le Pain Quotidien for lunch on our way out of Central Park, where my daughter and I enjoyed delicious organic food and reminisced about our day … the workouts … the goodies … Shay Mitchell … Bethenny Frankel … the Z100 DJ … the cute little dogs walking through the park … school … friends … the life of a teen …
Had we not been enjoying each other’s company so completely, we might have noticed that the sun was disappearing, and asked the waitress for our check a little bit sooner. But I’m glad we went to New York that day, and I’m glad we didn't notice the storm rolling in. The price of arriving home in dry clothes would have been cutting short the very best part of the day: relaxed, unguarded strings of conversation over a simple lunch in the park with my daughter.
Dawn Nicholas ( www.dnicholasphotography.com) is a Certified Professional Photographer specializing in maternity, newborn and children's photography. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children and their adorable dog, Casey.