You’ve resolved to put aside the doughnuts and sugary drinks that you once thought were necessary to help pry open those sleepy eyes. Instead, you’re eager to get your morning sweat on before tackling another workday.
Fitting a consistent workout into a crowded daily schedule can be tough, but studies show that people who make exercise part of their morning regimen are better able to stick to it. Early-rising exercisers have also been found to reap more cardiovascular rewards by increasing levels of hormones (such as adrenaline) and even benefit from a boost in brain power.
Westchester has many great places—both private businesses and public venues—for enjoying a little exercise by sunrise. Take a look at these 10 hotspots that promise a solid start.
1 Located in an Armonk business park, The Gym stands as a no-excuses place to get body and mind in gear. Services include everything from group fitness classes to nutrition counseling, with studios for Pilates, spinning, and yoga —and there’s even a fashion boutique. Club member and Armonk resident Lina Priore calls the classes “exhilarating as well as motivating,” and adds, “The instructors and the classes take me to a higher level of fitness.” Newbies can check it out with a complimentary three-day membership; chances are you’ll be impressed enough to keep coming back. Complimentary childcare is available, so stay-at-home parents can always fit in a workout. No wonder The Gym serves faithful members throughout upper Westchester as well as Southern Connecticut. gettothegym.com/armonk
2 The North and South County Trailways, which span 22.1 miles ofâ€„Westchester from Putnam to Yonkers, is a picturesque place for any walker, jogger, hiker, or biker to start the day. Runners especially love it because the relative lack of hills and rolling plains are easier on the joints.
3 Club Fit, with locations in Jefferson Valley and Briarcliff, has been a preferred workout spot for Westchester residents for more than 40 years. With some 14,000 members, its popularity just keeps growing. Having a friendly and knowledgeable staff of fitness pros definitely helps, but the club’s extensive list of group fitness schedules truly sets it apart. Among the offerings: spinning, barre classes, hatha yoga, kickboxing, zumba, aqua zumba, Pilates, ab express, vinyasa, mind/body aquatics, kettlebells, and e-kinesis. As Lynne Welling, General Manager of the Jefferson Valley location, explains, “It’s a place to work out and a place to unwind. It’s a place to play your favorite sports and a place to take charge of your health and well-being. It’s also a place to make friends and socialize. It’s a world apart from fitness as usual.” clubfit.com
4 Runners love Rockefeller State Park Preserve, with its more than 20 miles of groomed carriage trails, scenic vistas, and winding brooks in Pleasantville. This has long been a favorite spot for Coach Mike Barnow’s Westchester Track Club, which excels yearly in such Big Apple events as the ING New York City Marathon.
5 A spirited game of tennis always provides a good cardiovascular workout. One of the county’s best spots is Chestnut Ridge Racquet Club in Mount Kisco. “We are a year-round facility for particular and dedicated tennis players who have a chance to learn from nationally and internationally ranked tennis pros,” says Manager John Gyug. Chestnut Ridge offers six indoor courts, four outdoor courts, and instruction from nationally and internationally ranked pros. The town also has a rich tennis tradition: The legendary Arthur Ashe once called Mount Kisco home. chestnutridgetennis.com
6 Bronx River Parkway is a nearly 20-mile span from Southern Westchester to its northernmost tip at Kensico Dam. It offers spectacular scenery and flatter terrain than most spots in Westchester. It’s also a historic spot: The Bronx River Parkway Reservation, an 807-acre paved park dotted with ponds, is Westchester’s oldest park, having opened in 1925. It was Westchester’s first linear park and the first parkway in America. Bikers flock to the area select Sundays when a large portion of the Parkway is closed to motorized vehicles.
7 If your climbing habits are not limited to the social variety, bouldering can be a fun morning activity. It consists of climbing boulders, usually less than 20 feet high, without the use of a rope. A good place to give it a try indoors would be either The Cliffs in Valhalla or The Rock Club in New Rochelle. Each offers 2,500 square feet of bouldering terrain for climbers at any level of experience. On weekends, The Cliffs opens at 9 a.m. and The Rock Club at 9:30; both open at 10 a.m. on weekdays. Memberships and classes are available. This is one activity that provides both a mental and full-body workout. thecliffsclimbing.com and climbrockclub.com
8 Experienced bikers love Graham Hills Park in Mount Pleasant. It’s open year-round from 8 a.m. to dusk, and a county park pass is not needed for admission. The five-mile-long trails in this scenic park wind through diverse habitats. But cautious riding is a must: The trails are mostly single track, and can be used in either direction. You can even bring your pet, but it must be on a leash. Waste bags are provided.
9 New in 2014 is SoulCycle, a fitness center that has become something of a phenomenon across the country. Located in Scarsdale and Rye Brook, SoulCycle offers the kind of full-body workout that forever changes the way you think of indoor cycling. As intense music pumps and coaches exhort, the lights are lowered and you’re riding by candlelight in a workout designed to engage your mind, body, and soul. Riders work their core muscles while also using hand weights to build upper-body strength. There’s even a 60-minute workout called SoulBands in which resistance bands hang above the bike you’re riding. Talk about pedal power! soul-cycle.com
10 Life Time Athletic, based in Harrison, is also new in 2014 and offers an array of programs geared toward kids and adults, beginners and athletes. Senior General Manager Susan Setna Mistri notes that hundreds of certified fitness pros are available to help members “engage in their areas of passion while achieving their total health objectives, athletic aspirations, and fitness goals all under one roof.” Try this lineup on for size: 400 pieces of state-of-the-art cardiovascular and resistance training equipment, an extensive free-weight area, a tennis center with 10 indoor courts, a six-court squash center, two full-size basketball courts, an indoor and outdoor aquatics center, waterslides, lap pools and whirlpools, and an outdoor bistro. You can sign up the young’uns from ages 3 to 11 to Life Time Kids Academy, giving them access to fun classes designed to get them up and moving. lifetimefitness.com