Get Your Fitness On: Fun Ways to Get Fit This Summer

Are you looking for some fun ways to stay in shape this summer? Try Zumba on the Plaza, pole fitness or challenge yourself to running.


Free Zumba on the Plaza

Every Monday at 5:30 p.m. on Peace Plaza, a crowd—mostly of women (but some men too)—dance to a mix of Latin and pop music, following the steps of instructors who have taken the stage. The party doesn’t stop until around 7 p.m. If it rains, the dancers keep dancing, unless the weather is too dangerous and the sound guy says, “No.” 

“The energy, the smiles, the fun,” says Sara Pennington, the force behind this free workout offering in downtown Rochester, “and they’re all exercising. They’re smiling and they’re laughing, improving their coordination and their cardiovascular health.” 

Classes in studios tend to slow down in the summer, so Pennington felt she should bring Zumba to where the people want it: outdoors. Free Zumba on the Plaza regularly draws between 50 and 100 participants. 

“Come watch. It’s entertaining. The music—it gets you,” says Pennington.

This year Free Zumba on the Plaza will have a longer run, with dates extending to the end of September. “The summer goes by so fast. Cooler temps might draw even more people. I want to do it longer,” said Pennington. She also hopes that the longer timeframe will open the stage up to more instructors.

Pole Fitness Class

Music on, doors locked, lights dim. There’s a pole for each woman in class to spin around and climb on. First, learn how to walk around the pole, then how to spin and then how to climb. 

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” says Catherine, the instructor. “Beautiful. That’s beautiful.” She’s quick to point those moments out, focusing on the beautiful moves of the participants. 

“This was not on my agenda at all,” said Brittin Wanger, owner of Freestyl Fitness, which offers pole dancing lessons for fitness and empowerment in Rochester, Mankato and Minneapolis. Wanger was finishing her doctorate program and teaching classes at the University of Washington when her mom insisted she watch Jenyne Butterfly’s 2011 “BEST Pole Dance Ever” video. She admired the completely complicated but graceful moves in the video. 

“My mom bought pole classes for me,” said Wanger. “When I got to the studio there were no mirrors, no men.” Wanger was able to really pay attention to how her body moved, how it felt. “I didn’t do it for fitness. I did it for stress relief,” said Wanger. “I gained 4 pounds and lost 3 pant sizes.”

“Wear something you’ll be comfortable in,” advises Wanger. “When you’re climbing you’ll need shorts for sure.” Drop-ins are on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. To reserve your space, visit or call or text 507-351-7805. There are private group classes available as well. 

Run a 4, 5, 7 or 10K

“My favorite thing about 5Ks is that they attract every type of runner,” said Kasey Kuker, avid runner and lead singer of local band Nite Shift. “At the start line I’ve met 8-year-olds, 78-year-olds, moms and dads running with their kids in strollers, first-time racers and Olympians.” 

In July, August and beyond, from 5Ks to adventure racing, there are opportunities for all skill levels to get their race on. Don’t feel you’re ready?

On Independence Day, the ID7K4K race will be held at Silver Lake in Rochester. “The 7K will give 5K runners a chance to push themselves a little bit farther,” said race Director Dion Chapman, “and for those who do the 4K, they have a chance to push themselves a little bit faster.” 

“Let me get in shape before I join you,” is something triathlete Cathy Sell, part of the team putting on the Nut House Challenge (July 10, 11 and 12) in Rochester has heard people say. “The whole point of joining is to get in shape. There are lots of different clubs you can join, training groups and, of course, there’s an app for that.” One to check out is From Couch to 5K. The Nut House Challenge allows racers to participate in their choice of a 5K, 10K and/or a half-marathon. 

 “It’s off-road,” says Race Director Steve Dawson, of the Rochester Eco-Tri Adventure Races (August 9). The Adventure Triathlon allows participants to choose from three races: 5K, 10K or the triathlon, which includes running, kayaking and mountain biking. 

Melissa McNallan is a freelance writer.