2008-07-26 / Top News

Mackinac Island Provides Opportunities for Fitness

By Ryan Schlehuber

Tim Leeper, next to Mile 1 on M-185, completes three 100- mile treks around Mackinac Island each summer. He says the Island is an ideal place for those who want to relax and those who enjoy fitness. "There's really no comparing it," he notes. Tim Leeper, next to Mile 1 on M-185, completes three 100- mile treks around Mackinac Island each summer. He says the Island is an ideal place for those who want to relax and those who enjoy fitness. "There's really no comparing it," he notes. Dressed from head to toe in appropriate gear, Island resident Tim Leeper set out to bicycle 100 miles, completing 13 laps around Mackinac Island early Thursday morning, July 17. About that same time, a small group gathered outside Mackinac Island Public School to participate in a daily "boot camp" exercise. And somewhere deep in the woods, Kris Clark and her friends were enjoying a morning jog on a forested nature trail.

Many people are motivated by Mackinac Island to get into shape.

Mackinac Island is eight miles in circumference and has 70.5 miles of roads and nature trails, all free of motorized vehicles. There are plenty of scenic views.

"Mackinac is a great place to exercise and bicycle because, on M-185, you have long stretches as far as the eye can see, with nothing but water and open space," said Mr. Leeper, who has been long-distance bicycling since he was 16. "There's really no comparing it. The sights, the smells, and the safety of knowing you don't have to check your rearview mirror for cars, it makes it so relaxing."

Mr. Leeper tries to complete a 100-mile bicycle trip three times a summer on the Island and even bicycled around the Island each day during the winter three years ago.

"If you bike early in the morning, all you have is the road underneath you and the wide open air and the great scenery in front of you to enjoy," he said.

Del Sol bicycle shop, owned by Ira Green, has tapped into M- 185's popularity by promoting bicycling on the state highway with T-shirts.

"We've been selling 10 Tshirts a day," he said. "It's a great idea that not only promotes biking but it promotes the whole island, as well."

The Island is also the site for at least three annual distance runs a year, the Lilac Festival 5K, Around the Island 5K, and the Great Turtle Run. Conventions at the hotels also host races.

Mrs. Clark, who lives on the Island's west side, enjoys the tranquility the many nature trails provide.

"It's very quiet on the trails, even on the busy days," she said. "It's beautiful and peaceful, and you really feel safe there."

For more difficult workouts, the Island also offers steep inclines, such as Fort Hill and Grand Hill, and joggers even use the rampart leading to Fort Mackinac's south entrance.

"There are definitely some steep inclines for people to really work out hard," said Mr. Leeper. "I ride with two professional bicyclists who enjoy biking on the Island, too. They've told me that they had to use their granny gear on their bikes, which is the smallest chain ring, used for the most extreme inclines, so you have a variety of workouts on this island that you can choose."

Mackinac also attracts kayakers and canoeists.

Mary Patay, who offers personal training to locals and visitors during the summer, loves the idea of only needing to step outside of her apartment to begin exercising.

"You don't have drive to get to a park here," said Miss Patay. "It's right here."

She walks her dog, Neeko, daily, and runs, bicycles and, in the winter, enjoys cross-country skiing.

She specializes in core workouts but offers her clients a full body workout at their pace, indoors or outdoors.

Since the beginning of the summer, many people have enjoyed participating in Jen Dunbar's unique "boot camp workout" outside at the playgrounds of Mackinac Island Public School.

Mrs. Dunbar, who coaches high school cross country and women's lacrosse at the University of Michigan, is offering the class Mondays through Fridays through the month of July, holding classes at 7 a.m., noon, 6 p.m., and a cardiovascular workout at 7:30 p.m. Mrs. Dunbar also trains people at the Detroit Athletic Club.

"It's great to be able to work out outside, especially with Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge in the background," said Todd Callewaert, one of Mrs. Dunbar's clients. "Jen also makes it interesting by mixing workouts up. You don't know what she's going to do next."

For indoor training, both Grand Hotel and Mission Point Resort offer a workout center for guests and visitors.

A Pilates workout session is offered at Lake View Hotel every Monday and Wednesday, with a 9 a.m. beginners class and a 10 a.m. advanced class.

Also, Joan Barch, a Woodbluff resident, is setting up exercise classes for residents and visitors during the off-season. Mrs. Barch, a professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University and a physical fitness and wellness trainer at Lansing Community College, is able to instruct many kinds of exercise classes, including step aerobics, kickboxing, and water aerobics.

"The Island really is a great place to exercise," said Mrs. Barch. "With the people of the Island being so friendly, and with no cars, people can really enjoy a unique experience of fitness on Mackinac."

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