Here’s one of the best fitness deals in town: Free classes in everything from yoga to Pilates to kickboxing led by instructors from local gyms and held outdoors with some of the prettiest views in St. Paul.
The program, called Fitness in the Parks, is now in its fifth summer with St. Paul Parks and Recreation, offering a variety of zero cost, low commitment fitness activities. The program is open to all fitness levels, and there’s no registration. All you have to do is check the schedule at stpaul.gov/fitnessintheparks, pick a class and show up. Offerings could range from sunrise kickboxing on Harriet Island, noontime yoga at Summit Overlook Park or after work Tabata training at Mears Park.
One of the more unusual and popular Fitness in the Parks offerings isn’t a class though. It’s a game of capture the flag at Como Park that welcomes all ages and skill levels every Monday night.
The capture the flag meetup actually grew out of a student group that started playing the game at Hamline University about a dozen years ago. As the popularity of the activity grew beyond students, it eventually moved to Como Park and became affiliated with the Fitness in the Parks program.
Capture the flag organizers plan on meeting Monday evenings this summer from 8 to 11 p.m. in a field near the Como Conservatory.
Teams are typically formed by designating newcomers as captains and having them pick sides to divide whoever shows up that evening into two squads.
“It mixes up the team really well,” says Cody Iisakka, one of the organizers.
A game equals three rounds of play in which a team is able to grab their opponent’s flag and run it back to their side of the field without being tagged. If you get tagged, you have to run back to touch your own flag to get back into the game.
“We play without a jail,” Iisakka says.
After each game, new captains and new teams are picked to play again.
The group’s rules are designed to emphasize safe play and fun, according to Aileen Nadeau, one of the organizers.
“It’s more of a social group,” Nadeau says. “People are proud when they grab the flag, but we don’t keep score.”
Iisakka says participants have ranged in age from 4 to 84. Fitness in the Parks officially runs from the beginning of June through the end of August, but the capture the flag group typically starts meeting in April and will play until there’s snow on the ground, Nadeau says.
“As far as I’m aware, there’s isn’t another program like this,” she says.