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Get active in Detroit’s great outdoors on th...

Get active in Detroit’s great outdoors on the cheap

Don’t break the bank on a gym membership this summer

Anyone can tell you: there’s nothing like Detroit in the summer. That goes double if you’re watching your budget — suddenly, there’s fun, free events every night, often in the city’s parks and public spaces. Beyond the festivals, lectures, arts gatherings and parties, there’s an explosion of opportunities to take charge of your well-being with other Detroiters. Here’s Detour’s guide to getting active in Detroit for free or cheap (under 10 bucks) around town. Turn off that YouTube pilates video, get out of the gym and get moving!

This list was created with the help of our amazing Detour members in our private Facebook group — click here to become a paid member of Detour for just $3 a month and help us build our community. And add the calendar below (click that + Google Calendar button) to start fitting free classes into your schedule.

Free yoga classes

If you’ve got a longstanding yoga practice or are just curious to try it, summer in Detroit is the time and place. There are free yoga classes in the great urban outdoors almost every day of the week. Show up a few minutes early to get situated and sign up. Most ask you to bring your own water bottle and mat, though a few have spare mats to borrow.

Soulful in the garden yoga class with Alice Lucas of EnSoul Yoga at Lafayette Greens Urban Garden downtown. Registration required. Mondays through August 26, 6-7 p.m.

Baby and me yoga with Living Waters Yoga Detroit at Beacon Park downtown, for parents and kids of all ages. Tuesdays through August 27, 9-10 a.m.

Hatha yoga with Yoganic Flow in Shed 3 at Eastern Market. Tuesdays through September 24, 10:30-11:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

Hatha yoga in the park with Yoganic Flow and Sidewalk Detroit at Eliza Howell Park in Brightmoor. Tuesdays starting September 3 through October 8, 6:45-7:45 p.m.

Rooftop yoga at the GM Renaissance Center downtown with RenCen Fitness. Wednesdays 5:30-6:30 p.m. through September 25; Third Fridays 7-8 a.m. through August 16.

Yoga at the Wayne State University Farmer’s Market in Midtown. Wednesdays 12:30-1:30 p.m. through October 30.

Backyard yoga with Brittany Stoeckel at Hostel Detroit in Corktown. Thursdays through August 29, 6-7 p.m.

Yoga on the Riverfront with Urban Solace studio in the wetland area of Milliken State Park. Thursdays through August 29, 6-7 p.m., and Fridays through August 30, 10-11 a.m.

Yoga in the park with Yoganic Flow at Palmer Park (near the garden and at the end of the Splash Park parking lot). Saturdays through August 31, 9-10 a.m.

Gentle yoga with Caitlin Brown at Scripps Park in Woodbridge. Saturdays through August 31, 10-11 a.m.

Yoga at night on Detroit's riverwalk. Credit: pverdonk/Flickr
Yoga at night on Detroit’s Riverwalk. Credit: pverdonk/Flickr

Other free fitness classes

Yoga isn’t your thing? No worries, there are plenty of other great classes around town that you can try, with little experience and zero dollars.

T’ai Chi for all levels in Palmer Park (the northwest corner of the park at Pontchartrain and 7 Mile). Wednesdays through September 4, 7-8 p.m.

Workout Wednesdays’ variety of classes, from Zumba to Booty Box, with First Responders 4 Fitness at Cadillac Square Park downtown. Wednesdays through August 28, registration 5 p.m., classes 5:30-6:30 p.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Fitness classes with the Wise Decision Gym in Mt. Elliott Park. Saturdays through August 31, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Zumba, a high energy combination of Latin/reggae and salsa dance steps, with Sheila Gerard of LifeStyle Diva at Scripps Park in Woodbridge. Modifications for all levels. Saturdays through August 31, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

Cardio boxing with Pulse Fitness trainers Jon and Marci at Beacon Park downtown, who come highly recommended from a Detour member. Registration required. Sundays through August 25, 9-10 a.m.

Cardio kickboxing and ab workout after dark with Coach Kiwi and a live DJ at Beacon Park downtown. Registration required. June 20, July 25 and August 22, 8-10 p.m.

Running and biking

Running can be a pretty solitary sport, but running clubs are a good way to mix up your routine and meet some new folks. And while there are a bunch of pricier races and bike rides with registration fees, there are also more informal options.  

The Atwater Running Club hosts weekly runs on the east side, with 4- and 6-mile options. Runners get $1 off pints afterwards at Atwater Brewery. Thursdays, 6:30 p.m.

Detour member Jack Silver recommends the group run hosted by the RUNdetroit shop in Midtown. They’ve got a 3-, 6- and 10-mile option and keep it moving rain or shine. Saturdays, 8 a.m.

Downtown Runners and Walkers meet weekly for a group run at alternating locations around Detroit, with 4-and 6-mile loops. Tuesdays, 6 p.m.

Keep it easy and breezy at the massive Slow Roll bike ride, rolling through different areas of town each week. You need a Slow Roll membership, but you can choose your rate, at $60, $15 or $0 annually. Mondays, 6-10 p.m.

Join a group of cyclists and tool around Palmer Park and surrounding neighborhoods at a free weekly group ride, meeting at the Splash Park. Thursdays through October 24, 6:30 p.m. through August, 6 p.m. September and October.

Dress in your finest vintage apparel for the annual Gatsby ride, put on by Tweed Ride Detroit, and leaving from Woodbridge on Sunday, June 30, 1-5 p.m.

Community and donation classes

These classes held by fitness and yoga studios are usually cheaper than regular sessions and open to beginners. If there’s a studio you might want to try, it’s worth contacting them to see if they offer introductory sessions or community classes — but here’s a sampling from studios we love.  

Detour member Jenni Omness recommends the Lexus Velodrome, which “has really affordable fitness classes at a studio there (no biking involved) — around $3-$5 a class.” You can purchase a pass for classes ranging from pilates to dance fusion, or spend a few bucks to walk or run on the track. There’s also a free walking session for seniors.

Detour’s Ashley Woods Branch suggests the free community classes at Citizen Yoga Detroit downtown, Sundays 4-5 p.m. and 7-8 p.m., as well as the $5 happy hour class at Detroit Yoga and Cycle Lab in Midtown, Fridays 6:45-7:45 p.m. “They’re both excellent and welcoming spaces for all.”

Detour member Meta Stange is a fan of the monthly community classes at Detroit Barre. “Bonus: it’s a woman-owned independent business that’s dedicated to giving back to the community. Totally rad!”

Another Detour member recommends the classes at Detroit Body Garage in West Village. They have a free community workout coming up on June 22 at 10 a.m., with a potluck lunch afterwards.

Free walking tours and hiking

A stroll might not be a high intensity workout, but walking is one of the easiest ways to get the CDC’s recommended weekly 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, and the ensuing health benefits. Join one of the free tours or urban hikes in Detroit to learn a little local history, check out some culture and explore the vibrant natural world — all while getting your steps in.

Pure Detroit offers free tours of the Guardian Building downtown and the Fisher Building in New Center. Detroit Experience Factory hosts a variety of tours that explore different neighborhoods and themes, like art, eats and history. Prices vary, but plenty are $0-10.

The hikes hosted by the DNR Outdoor Center on the Riverfront are even more niche and unique. A few of the upcoming free tours include a hike through Milliken State Park with breaks to learn origami; a walk where you can bring your dog while learning about Prohibition and rum-running history; and another dog-friendly hike that explores the habitats of urban wildlife. They’ve got plenty of other activities, including fishing, archery and volunteer riverfront cleanup days.

Rec Center Excellence

Don’t sleep on Detroit’s Community Recreation Centers, one of the best ways to get active year round. Each site requires you to join, but it’s definitely worth it — memberships are $10 annually for Detroit residents and $20 for non-residents. They offer cheaper rates for youth and seniors. The facilities vary at each location, but include gyms, weight rooms, pools, boxing, racquetball, dance studios and more. Detour members recommend the Clemente Recreation Center in Southwest and the pool at the Heilmann Recreation Center on the east side. Many also offer classes with additional fees. Explore the different rec centers here.

Find your own fit

Maybe you’re not a fan of fitness classes, or aren’t great at planning out your workouts. Maybe you exercise to the beat of your own drummer. Here are a few suggestions for a fulfilling, spur-of-the-moment workout if the urge to get active strikes you on a weekend afternoon.

Detour’s Katie Vogel swears by “power walking the River Walk and then running up the sledding hill. Rinse. Repeat.”

Detour member Maggie Sisco has plenty of suggestions: “Run the beautiful waterfront, do some stairs at the Ren Cen. Run on Belle Isle, ladders/lunges in the parking lots, pretty jogs or strolls.”

Detour’s Kate Abbey-Lambertz recommends “push yourself on a bike ride to Belle Isle, then jump in the river to cool off. Hang out on the beach and then take a slower ride back to your starting point — or a bar.”

You can also take your gym routine outside. Get in some squat presses, pull ups and leg lifts at the Dequindre Cut’s Fit Park, by the Woodbridge entrance just off the Riverfront. Or visit Piety Hill, where Central Detroit Christian Development Corp has installed outdoor exercise machines on vacant lots.

You need to BYO equipment, but there’s courts all over town to practice your favorite activity alone or with a crew. Try handball in Palmer Park, baseball at Patton Park, tennis at Clark Park, join apickup soccer game at Wayne State on a Saturday and play basketball anywhere you see a hoop — whether at a school, park or among the crowds downtown. Get the lay of the land with a map of the city’s parks and list of their amenities.