If anybody in Ocean City has ideas for making fitness seem like a day at the beach, it should be Tom Perlozzo. As director of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, he plans recreational activities for hundreds of thousands of people each year.
At the Northside Park Recreation Complex at 125th Street and the bay, you'll find everything from aerobics to table tennis to drop-in basketball. A gym also is open for walkers from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.
Outside, the 35-acre park has walking, jogging and biking trails wrapped around 23 acres of carefully preserved and beautiful wetlands. Three multipurpose ball fields host softball and baseball tournaments all summer, with batting cages for visiting players who just want to work on their swings while they burn a few calories.
Fees vary for the various Northside Park activities, but drop-in classes cost about $3 each -- half of what you'll pay at the private facilities in town. Schedules for each month's classes and activities are available at the park, or you can get information by calling 250-0125.
L Tom Perlozzo also practices what he plans for everyone else.
"I bike, I play golf, softball, soccer, you name it," Mr. Perlozzo says. "And I have two young kids, so just walking around behind them also helps keep me in shape."
Even if you don't have children to chase, walking may be the perfect vacation workout. The Ocean City boardwalk is 2.8 miles long, with markers every quarter mile. Walking its entire length in an hour, the average 150-pound person will burn approximately 250 calories -- about what's in a dozen Thrasher's french fries.
If you've eaten more than that (and don't kid yourself, those big buckets hold more than 12 fries), increase the fat-burning and muscle-building power of your walk by making it a barefoot stroll on Ocean City's 10-mile-long beach. Because your legs sink down farther in sand and must work harder to pull back up, you'll burn more calories with each stride and give yourself a great lower-body workout.
Volleyball is big at the beach. It's fun to play with friends, you don't need a lot of equipment, and you can burn about 350 calories an hour during a vigorous game. The Northside Park offers drop-in games Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at $2 per person. The rec department also keeps a list of those interested in co-ed volleyball on the courts at Dorchester Street and the beach. Call Kim Whitehead at 250-0125 for more information.
There are lots of locations in Ocean City for exercise. Municipal recreational facilities are spread throughout the 10-mile-long town. Depending on your personal passion, check out these other parks:
Third Street Park at (where else?) Third Street and St. Louis Avenue has basketball hoops, where drop-in games take place in all but the most scorching weather; a small softball field perfect for a pick-up game with friends; a playground for kids; and a very popular skateboard park.
The skateboard park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in season and features a 28-foot-wide, 11-foot-tall half-pipe. Non-residents can get a seven-day pass for $15 or a yearly pass for $30, while residents can get an annual pass for $15. Everyone must sign a liability waiver and use proper safety equipment at the facility.
Behind Third Street Park is Chicago Avenue Park, which features a larger, multi-use lighted ball field, as well as a fishing pier for those who prefer minimal exertion from their recreation (hey, just sitting still burns about 100 calories an hour).
Tennis enthusiasts can indulge their love (and burn about 420 calories an hour) at the 61st Street Leisure Center, which features six lighted hard courts and is home base for the city's tennis pro, Rennie Turner. There are also courts at 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue, at Centennial Park next to the Convention Center, 94th Street and Bayside Park, and the Gorman Avenue Park at 136th Street on the bay. Reservations are accepted at the Convention Center courts and the 61st Street courts. Call 524-8337 for more information.
Those who enjoy the social aspects of exercise as much as the health benefits may want to take advantage of the drop-in privileges available at the Ocean City Health and Racquetball Club. Located on 61st Street and the bay, the club offers cardiovascular fitness classes, an indoor pool and an outdoor weight-lifting deck. Call 723-2323 for information and schedules.
Did you know that the average person expends more calories in one hour of playing golf (250 calories spent by the average 150-pound person) than in an hour of leisurely biking (just 210 calories if you're biking down the boardwalk at 5 1/2 mph)?
That's great news if you're trying to stay fit in Ocean City. Four new golf courses are open this year, making for a total of 11 courses within a half-hour drive of the beach. The city's new municipal course is Eagle's Landing, located next to the O.C. airport on Sinepuxent Bay. For information, call 289-4900.
Despite all these options and their own best intentions, some people can't bring themselves to work out on vacation without a little push. Pushing is one of the things Esther Flaks does best.
"You can't say no when Esther comes, because she'll get you to do it," says the certified personal trainer and proprietor of One to One, a Rehoboth, Del., company that provides individual fitness instruction. For $35-$40 an hour, Ms. Flaks will visit you in Ocean City or at any of Delaware's beach resorts and guide you through a fitness program that she has designed especially for you.
"I can walk in without a lot of equipment and put them through a whole workout," says Ms. Flaks. "I use their stairs or their curbs, a can of beans for weights, whatever. I teach them to improvise."
She'll arrange workouts indoors or out, depending on a client's preference. She meets with clients as many times a week as they like, and will work with beach visitors for the length of their vacations or with O.C. residents for months or even years until they reach their fitness goals. But she suggests that people keep their beach workouts in perspective.
"It's all about feeling good," she says. "A vacation is a vacation. Take a long walk in the morning, or go for a power walk instead of a run. Something is better than nothing.
"Remember, relaxation is good for you, too."