Toning the Motor body

Jun 4, 2003 at 12:00 am

The city of Philadelphia has gone on a diet. Since earning the title as our nation’s fattest city from Men’s Fitness magazine in 1999, the cream cheese capital has finally dropped to No. 4. But what does that mean for us in the Motor City? Well, it seems that Philadelphia’s sudden plummet has bumped up Detroit’s robust ranking to a more-than-pleasantly plump third place. And with so many White Castles to choose from, can you blame us?

Yes and no. Detroit may provide the fodder for our expanding waists, but the city also offers a number of ways to shed those pounds. So with summer just around the bend, it’s prime time to get up, get out and whip that booty into shape.

First, there’s the obvious: The City of Detroit’s recreation centers offer a variety of ways to stay fit, from outdoor pools to weight-lifting equipment. For a meager $5-$7, city folk and nonresidents alike can buy their way into all 35 city facilities for a full year. Classes like body sculpting and ballroom dancing cost an additional $30-$40 for an 8-week series. The city also hosts a co-ed softball league that starts in June. Teams can register by contacting Detroit’s athletic office at 313-877-8865.

Suburbanites can play closer to home through the cities of Ferndale, Oak Park and Southfield, which still have room on their combined co-ed adult kickball and soccer teams. In Ferndale, the games that began on May 21 (and will run for 10 weeks) can be joined by calling Ferndale’s recreation department at 248-544-6767.

Outdoor running is another popular way to tone up for summer, but why do it alone? Groups like the Downtown Runners make it easy to burn off the calories without forgoing the fun. Celebrating their 20th anniversary, they welcome runners and walkers of all abilities for a collective jaunt around the city. Participants meet up every Tuesday night around 5:45 p.m. at a predetermined Detroit bar or restaurant before beginning their 4-8 mile trek. Popular routes have included Corktown, Elmwood Cemetery, the Wayne State University campus and Belle Isle. After sweating it out, participants reconvene at the point of origin, where many stick around for food, drinks and adrenaline-fueled conversation. Coordinator Ralph Judd notes that, aside from the obvious health benefits, the group also works as a means of encouraging social camaraderie. “It’s a nice way for people from the suburbs or people who are new to get introduced to downtown Detroit,” he says. Participation is entirely free and information on upcoming runs can be found at

For those looking to crank their workout up a notch, metro Detroit also hosts a bevy of competitive running events, many of which are listed on the Web at Waterford resident Angela Cantor has been participating in area races for more than 20 years. “Once you’ve run on your own,” she explains, “after a while you want to challenge yourself and compete against other people.” Cantor contends that staying active is more than just a means to stay in shape. “It just feels good to get out and sweat and have fun doing it,” she asserts. “When you’re done, you just feel like you’ve really accomplished something.”

Michigan’s largest and oldest racing club, the Motor City Striders, has 11 happenings planned in Royal Oak, Huntington Woods, Clawson, Bloomfield Hills, Waterford and Detroit. The various routes offer something for runners of all levels, from 1-mile “fun runs” to 10-kilometer competitions; recent participants have spanned ages 10-86. President Ed Kozloff encourages people of all abilities to give outdoor running a try, especially those who are tired of the treadmill routine. “It’s nice to have your foot strike against different surfaces, to use different muscles,” he says. Entrance fees run $7-$20 and usually include T-shirts, refreshments and awards. More information can be found on the group’s Web site at

If you’d rather remain under the vent of an air conditioner, metro Detroit’s exercise classes provide a cool alternative to the hot summer heat. In addition to the tried-and-true methods — yoga, Pilates, etc. — some of the more creative options are offered at Birmingham’s Functional Fitness (1185 S. Adams, 248-988-8098). For instance, body rolling involves the manipulation of a small ball at the origin of a muscle to combine the release of massage with the stretch of yoga, while Nia (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) involves creative movement set to music. Both provide a way for even the non-athletically inclined to get in shape.

With all that the city has to offer, it looks like we Detroiters really do have the means to combat the effects of the 52-cent cheeseburger. Now it’s just a matter of stepping up to the plate. Cantor, who shapes up for her 10-kilometer runs in a tri-weekly kickboxing class, offers some advice about sticking to any fitness plan this summer: “The key is to find something that you like, whether it’s outside or inside,” she says. “As long as you like doing it, it’ll keep you coming back.”

Take me back to the index of Metro Times' Summer '03 Guide. Ronit Feldman is a Metro Times editorial intern. E-mail [email protected]