Promising fresh air, varied activity and a good workout, Three Rivers Park District is offering an unusual alternative to indoor exercise: the Green Fit Club.

For an hour starting at 5:30 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at French Regional Park in Plymouth, the Green Fit Club gets about 30 adults outside for Nordic walking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, canoeing, kayaking, yoga and trail running -- depending on the season.

"You don't have to deal with recycled air. You don't have to deal with a sweaty, gross machine that hasn't been wiped down," said Dan Fjell, outdoor recreation specialist for the park district. "The other night we saw a bunch of owls fly over us when we were skiing."

Started in 2009 as a Nordic pole walking club, the year-round fitness club has become so popular it typically fills and has a waiting list. Three Rivers expanded the concept this spring to Scott County at Cleary Lake Regional Park in Prior Lake.

People enjoy the company and the structure of the club, Fjell said. "Our idea is that we have these parks and we have thousands and thousands of acres as a big playground. I would love to see it in every park."

Anita Decker of New Hope has been in the class from the beginning. "I am not interested in using machines to become more fit," she said. "I am interested in using myself and the outdoors and breathing the fresh air."

Being part of a group keeps her going because "you know someone is counting on you to be there," Decker said.

The only drawback to the club is the 5:30 p.m. start time, Decker said. Although she gets off work early, 6 p.m. would be easier for most people, she said. "You've either got to live real close or work real close."

Brad and Karla Anderson of Plymouth finished the three-month winter club program and have signed up for spring.

"I don't like gyms or treadmill running in the winter," Brad said. "I like to get out and be able to go somewhere."

Karla enjoys the fresh air and the variety of park workouts. "We explore. We pick a new route every week. I am just happier being outside. It's less routine, less boring."

Equipment is provided

The club costs $60 for three months. Any needed equipment is provided.

That allows people to try Nordic walking, kayaking, cross country skiing and other activities without buying the gear. Decker had her own Nordic poles and snowshoes but said she never would have tried kayaking if the park had not provided the watercraft.

Green Fit sessions have never been cancelled due to weather, Fjell said. "I have taken people out in pouring rain to do Nordic walking." Even during this winter's cold snap many showed up.

"Regardless of weather, there is always going to be a leader there," Fjell said. "It has turned into this community of people who just love getting together. "

The spring exercise lineup will include paddling, archery and trail running in addition to yoga. Keeping up with the group is a motivation to keep going.

"We have varying abilities, but we all do everything together," Fjell said. "It's about getting people to try new recreational activities in a controlled environment."

When a term concludes, people have a new familiarity with and appreciation for the park, he said. "These people could lead a hike anywhere they want in the park and be perfectly fine because they feel so comfortable with it."

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711