The Be Well Philly Wish List: Let’s Make Philly the Best City for Fitness in 2015

Be Well Philly Cross-Training Run, summer 2014

Be Well Philly Cross-Training Run, summer 2014

Over here in Be Well Philly Land, we’re pretty much always talking about what we absolutely love about Philly’s fitness-and-health-food scene (The Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk! HipCityVeg!) or, on the flip side, what we feel like it’s missing. I mean, after all, it is kind of our job to talk about this stuff all day.

Today, we got to talking about what we wish we had more of (or less of, in some cases)—the kinds of things that, if we did have more of them, could be just what we need to make Philly the greatest city for fitness in the world. It’s a lofty goal, I know. But Philly was just ranked the second best shopping city in the world (puzzlingly, but still) and third on a list of the year’s best travel destinations. Who’s to say we can’t be the be-all-end-all city for fitness, too?

Below, 10 things we think would make Philly the best city for fitness in 2015. And the best part about this list? A lot of these things, like more trail-running groups and more free fitness classes, are totally in our control. So consider this our rallying cry: Let’s make it happen, people!

1. More cyclists on the road.

Now, I’m sure some of you drivers out there are shaking your heads at the thought of more bikes on city streets, but the thing is, studies show the more bikes on the road mean fewer road collisions. In other words, streets actually become safer for everyone when more people ride bikes.

Plus, more cyclists creates a greater demand for bike infrastructure, boosting the likelihood that we’ll get more bike lanes and improving the odds for sweet ideas like the Spring Garden Street Greenway. Research shows that the more biking infrastructure a city has, the more people, well, ride their bikes. Sounds like a pretty fit idea to us.

2. Bigger, badder #RunToWorkPHL.

This year, our very own Be Well Philly editor, Emily Leaman, collaborated with Philadelphia Runner and Run215 to create Philly’s first-ever #RunToWorkPHL. The idea was to get a whole bunch of people to ditch their cars and SEPTA in favor of a running commute for one day—and it was awesome. Tons of people ran, and we’ve got the Instagrams and Tweets to prove it. This year, we’d like to see even more people trade their subway passes for running shoes—whether it’s #RunToWorkPHL day or not.

3. Even MORE free outdoor yoga.

Remember all the free yoga that popped up around the city last year? I don’t know about you, but I took serious pleasure in knowing I could get my savasana on for free—in the sun, at that!—pretty much any day of the week.

Call us greedy, but we think it would be truly squeal-worthy if even more free outdoor yoga options popped up around the city. Because how nice would it be to get out of the office after a long day of being cooped up indoors and have your pick of outdoor yoga classes to unwind at?

And good news: It looks like our wishes just might come true. Just yesterday, we let you guys in on the news that the dates for free outdoor yoga at Race Street Pier have been announced—and they’ve added a whopping five more classes to their weekly lineup!

4. And, while we’re at it, more free fitness classes all around!

In the warmer months, Philly gets its fair share of free fitness classes. But once it cools down, they can be harder to come by. It makes sense—outdoor spaces are free a lot of the time, but indoor spaces, not so much.

We’re doing our part: Every month, we host a free Be Well Philly Underground pop-up fitness event, and we always have a blast. But we want more. There’s that greediness again.

5. More awesome outdoor destinations like the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk and Spruce Street Harbor Park.

The Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk just makes working out more fun. A run along the Schuylkill Banks is alright—but a run that includes a jaunt over the Boardwalk? So much better. And the lovely Spruce Street Harbor Park got me to jump on my bike, even on the most unbearable of summer days. Because there is no better fitness motivation than the promise of a hammock on the other end.

Now, if only we had more outdoor destinations like these—places that get us excited to run, walk and bike around the city. Good news is, the Rail Park is a comin’. The bad news? It’s probably going to take a while.

6. Fewer smokers on the streets.

According to the 2014 Community Health Assessment Survey, 23.3 percent of adult Philadelphians smoke; that’s down from previous years, but Philly still smokes (Ha. Pun.) the national average of 18 percent, and we’ve earned the privilege of having the highest adult smoking rate of the 11 largest U.S. counties.

So we would like to take this opportunity to get something off our chest: Smoking is just gross, people. My boyfriend smoked an obscene amount of cigarettes daily until he quit a few months ago, so having been around a chain smoker for years, I feel like I can say that with authority.

Smoking also costs SO. MUCH. MONEY. New research shows the habit costs the average Pennsylvanian who smokes $1.4 million (million!) over the course of their lifetime. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Lastly, cigarettes make the air quality worse for everyone, and that so does not jibe with being the best city for fitness in the world.

7. More for-fun trail runs.

I’m going to be honest: I always get a little bit nervous running or walking in the Wissahickon on my own. And exploring new terrain? Forget about it. My fears of getting lost completely outweigh my need for adventure. Which is why Fairmount Park Conservancy’s guided trail runs last fall, which took runners along little-known trails in Fairmount Park, were so awesome. Not only are the woods a whole lot less scary when you’re surrounded by people, group runs are also a great way to see more of Philadelphia and connect with likeminded locals. What’s not to love? We just wish there were more of them!

8. Vegan restaurants galore! 

Don’t get me wrong: Philly has some fantastic options when it comes to vegan food. We’ve got spots like HipCityVeg, Blackbird Pizzeria, the newly-opened V Street and, of course, Vedge. But when it comes time to find a vegan spot you haven’t been to before, it’s kind of tough. So, we love you HipCityVeg, but we think it’s time for some more new kids on the block.

9. More gluten-free options, please.

You know why gluten-free folks get So. Freakin’. Excited. about stuff like gluten-free pizza from Pizza Hut? Because gluten-free options can be really hard to find when dining out. Case in point: A gluten-free eater in the office said to me today, “I’m so tired of eating salads,” because there is rarely anything else for her to eat when she goes out. So c’mon Philly, let’s give all the GF-eaters out there something to eat besides boring ol’ salad.

10. Glorious weather at the Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Marathon.

We might be pushing our luck here, but how freakin’ fantastic would it be if two of the biggest fitness events in Philadelphia—one that’s sometimes cursed with blistering hot weather and the other often stricken with freezing cold temps—had glorious, not-too-cold, not-too-hot, perfect running weather? There really isn’t anything any of us can do about this, but let’s all keep our fingers crossed. And hey, we’ll toss a weather-prayer up for Be Well Philly Boot Camp, while we’re at it.

{Psst! We’re sure you all have plenty ideas, too. List ‘em off in the comments section below.}

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