Every Wednesday, fitness enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels descend on Independence Park, ready to start their morning with a workout.
This summer marks the second year of Wellness Wednesday on Central Street Evanston. From June 15 to Aug. 10 Several of the fitness studios in the neighborhood offer morning workouts in Independence Park. Classes range from yoga to pilates to high-intensity interval training.
“The benefit of some of these classes is that they are for almost all levels and ages,” said Angela Shaffer, executive director of Central Street Evanston. “One woman came with her son, which was great.”
Shaffer participated in the first workshop of the summer hosted by Heaven Meets Earth Yoga. The class is designed for beginners, Shaffer said, and she was able to participate wearing her street clothes.
Shaffer started working on Central Street in the fall of 2021 after the first summer of Wellness Wednesdays and decided to grow the event. Since then, she said, classes have grown steadily, doubling attendance by the summer of 2021.
Most classes have an attendance limit of 15 participants, which some business owners said they appreciate. Donna Parise Byrne, owner of Pilates Central Wellness, taught classes last summer, and other teachers from her studio are leading classes this summer. For her, the implementation of a reservation system and an attendance limit were welcome changes.
“We provide bags and the ball that we use during practice, so we’ve been able to prepare for how many we need,” Paris Byrne said. “No one should go home empty-handed.”
Class times and structure vary by studio. Lisa Faremuth Weber, founder of Heaven Meets Earth Yoga, said in an email to The Daily that she opens each class by asking participants about their “intention and inspiration” for attending the class. She then bases the rest of the class on the participants’ responses and experience levels, she said.
Pilates Central Wellness offers both physical therapy and Pilates classes, and Parise Byrne said his Wellness Wednesday classes include elements of both formats.
Ann Lyman, who attends Pilates Central Wellness for physical therapy, said attending the studio’s wellness class Wednesday was her first time trying Pilates instruction at the business and found the exercises helpful. The outdoor environment was a plus, she said.
“It was fortunate that the weather was perfect,” Lyman said. “It was a beautiful summer day and it was nice to be outside and participating in a class with other people.”
The event also served as a way to highlight new businesses in the area, Shaffer said. Several of the participating studios are new to Evanston, as is Blended Health & Smoothie Bar, which offers discounts to attendees.
Pilates Central Wellness moved from Wilmette to Evanston in October 2020. Wellness Wednesdays are great for outreach, Paris Byrne said, because many of the enrollees are not current clients. At least one participant started going to the studio after trying the Wellness Wednesday workshop, she said.
The event was also an important community builder and break from the stresses of the world, Shaffer said.
“Our world is a little angry right now,” Shaffer said. “They have a calming effect. You learn to breathe, meet other people in the community and come together. We can all use it right now.
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