“You are supposed to think about how you played when you were a kid,” Greenan said during the class at the Core Valley fitness area.
The course, created with logs fitted together in various formations, is designed for fitness and play for people of all ages. Some logs are joined like a “T.” Some zigzag down a hill. Some are stacked together to resemble stadium seating. Some are simply stumps in the ground.
Core Valley opened last June in the park near the community center, and it has attracted everyone from kids playing during the Eagan Market Fest to parkour practitioners from out-of-town perfecting jumps and flips. (The “Core” portion of the name stands for “community outdoor recreational exercise.”)
This summer, the Eagan Parks and Recreation Department started running classes at the obstacle course fitness area.
During Greenan’s recent Monday morning class for seniors, the four participants bobbed and wove around the uneven logs and then climbed over and under them. They did lunges and squats, and they worked on upper body strength. They swung their legs over the stumps as they ran down hill and then raced uphill to do it again.
“We’re going to move quickly from one thing to the next because that’s how you get your heart rate up,” Greenan said.
She said that type of fitness activity appeals to people because it’s different and fun and can be done outside.
After the class, Audrey Winbigler, of Eagan, said she liked the pace and the unique fitness challenges.
“I really liked the flow,” she said. “I thought it was awesome.”
Chad Zwadlo, an owner and head instructor at Fight or Flight Academy, a parkour and martial arts academy in Edina, said people have been practicing at Core Valley since it opened. Parkour is a type of fitness training that originated in France, based on military obstacle training. Practitioners move across a landscape as quickly and efficiently as possible, using only their bodies — climbing, jumping and rolling.
“As far as parkour goes, that place is fantastic,” Zwadlo said.
It’s especially good for simple, beginner movements, he said. Parkour can involve a lot of leaps, twists and flips. Unlike other public places where they practice, including Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis, Zwadlo said Core Valley has more forgiving ground.
Because parkour is “really about creativity,” he said people use the Eagan fitness area in all kinds of ways. But when they’re out there, he said parkour athletes vault over obstacles, work on grab-and-release holds on the bars, and do precision jumps on the stumps to work on accuracy, control and balancing. If a person consistently lands on a short stump, he said, they can be more confident when doing jumps at more challenging heights.
Zwadlo said he isn’t familiar with any other park in the state like the one in Eagan, but he has seen similar fitness areas in Colorado and New York. He said the popularity of the television show “Ninja Warrior,” with its obstacle course, and races like the Warrior Dash, a 5K through obstacles, might have contributed to the popularity of adventure-style parks.
Marshall Grange, Eagan Community Center manager, said the city got the idea from fitness areas in California. He and a personal trainer sketched out the design, then researched local log mills to find the logs. The park maintenance department built the course.
“We’re getting inquiries from other communities looking into doing something similar,” he said.
A group from northern Minnesota came out and toured Core Valley and took photos with hopes to build their own, and Grange has received calls from as far away as Chicago and New York asking about it.
Grange said he’s been happy to see the fitness area being used by people of all ages and abilities, as that was a primary goal.
“That’s what’s actually great about it,” he said. “The beauty is you can’t do anything wrong on it.”
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer. Her e-mail is email@example.com.