By Stephanie Eckelkamp
Do you smell that? It’s that weirdly intoxicating combination of dirt, new plants, and rain hitting warm pavement. And it can only mean one thing: Spring is coming!
For me, that’s the smell that puts an extra pep in my step after a long winter and what motivates me to get my butt outside -- and far, far away from the stuffy gym.
But, if you’re anything like me, motivating yourself to get up and go on an early morning bike ride or jog can still be difficult, even when the weather is glorious. There’s no one to hold me accountable, so I’m never quite as consistent as I want to be.
That’s why Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind is so awesome. This free outdoor fitness group meets every Wednesday morning (rain, snow, or shine) in Allentown’s scenic Trexler Memorial Park -- and its members seem like they'd be the best accountability partners, cheerleaders, and workout buddies you've ever had.
I chatted with LV Rise & Grind founder Alexa M. Huzela to find out what makes this group so special -- and why you should be a part of it.
SE: What exactly is Lehigh Valley Rise and Grind, and what are the workouts like?
AH: LV Rise & Grind is a free fitness movement that I started in October 2016. We meet at 5:45 a.m. every Wednesday in the main parking lot of Trexler Park. We started with just seven people and soared from there.
It’s a place where anyone can come to workout for free, have fun, and leave to start their day feeling better about themselves despite what’s going on in their lives.
Our workouts incorporate running and cardio using just your body weight – no props required! Every week the workout is a little different, but many of our workouts include intervals of different moves like these:
Jogs and sprints
SE: Do you guys really meet year-round?
AH: We are #WeatherProof! And on the rare occasion that we do need to cancel, it’s announced in advance in the Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind Facebook group.
SE: Do you have a background in fitness?
AH: I've played sports my whole life and I recently got my personal training certificate for extra knowledge and the safety component.
SE: I have a bad knee. Do you make accommodations for people who have minor injuries or aren't super fit?
AH: We’re open to all age groups and fitness levels. For each workout movement or skill set, a modification is offered. I try to ask before we start if anyone has any injuries or needs modifications so that I can keep an eye on them during the workout. There's also a big focus on stretching to prevent injuries.
SE: What's the vibe? Competitive, supportive, a little of both?
AH: The vibe is definitely supportive! When we do partner workouts, everyone is always encouraging each other; and when we do individual workouts, I make sure to tell everyone that no one cares how fast you are or how quickly you do a burpee – you should only be competing against yourself.
One time we were doing partner sprints and I overheard someone say, “I’m sorry I’m so slow.” I caught it and said, “No one cares how slow you are, you’re out here pushing yourself and doing this for YOU.”
We do throw in a little competition when we do burpees to the Bring Sally Up, Bring Sally Down song. The goal is to stick together as a tribe to complete the challenge. We also do plank challenges.
SE: It can be tough to get any new project off the ground. How did you make your dream a reality?
AH: My inspiration to start LV Rise & Grind came from a similar free fitness group called November Project, which takes place in various cities across the country. They came to Bethlehem two years ago for the Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival and I attended their 6 a.m. outdoor class.
Afterwards, I thought, I CAN DO THIS! I can start a movement in the Lehigh Valley that is totally free, inclusive, fun, and makes a difference. And now, here we are celebrating almost a year and a half of Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind.
I keep myself motivated from the feedback I get. When people come up to me and say that this one-hour weekly sweat session has changed their lives and their outlook on fitness, or simply helped them form new friendships, it makes me feel amazing. That’s exactly what my goal was, and I can't wait to make an impact on even more lives.
SE: How has starting LV Rise & Grind changed you personally?
AH: It has shown me that I can actually make a difference in other peoples lives. I never thought in a million years that I could create my own workout, stand in front of 35 people, coach them, and be a fun mentor.
It’s also made me so appreciative of our community and the continuous kick-ass turnout that we get each Wednesday. Sometimes I drive there and wonder if anyone will even be there. But sure enough, all of the car headlights turn off, the doors open, and people are ready to sweat and have fun!
Our motto is #JustShowUp!
For more information on Lehigh Valley Rise & Grind, request to join their Facebook group. Or you could #JustShowUp and see what happens :)