Find Your Long Island Fitness Community

MOTIVATION IS A TRICKY THING, especially when it comes to exercise. A lot of people just have it—picture the folks who live in athleisure with their Fitbits clearing 15,000 steps before lunch. Whereas some, unless rousted, would prefer to spend downtime on the sofa watching others work up a sweat on Monday Night Football. But there’s no need to be a wallflower or languish on the sidelines. Plenty of opportunities abound across the Island to get moving and spend time with friends, old and new, which may be the most appealing motivation yet.

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Whether marathons are an annual ritual or that couch-to-5K app sits dormant, it’s much easier to go for a run when there’s a goal to chase. Even better? Having a coach and other runners for encouragement. The Farmingdale-based We Are Athletes racing team offers just that with weekly practices that attract runners from all walks of life. “I have elite athletes and people trying to break 40 minutes in a 5K,” said head coach Fred Benlein, who conceded that those extremes can sometimes make his job a challenge. “Everyone cheers on everyone and there are no egos. I’ve had people who’ve never done a track workout who think it’s amazing and the experienced athletes say the same—it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before.” One thing Benlein assures of everyone who puts sneaker to pavement is that under his watch, you will become a better runner. Tuesday track nights are 7-8:30pm at the Farmingdale State College outdoor track.

Before the cold weather relegates you to being a hamster on a treadmill, there’s still time to take it outdoors. The East End is home to some of the most beautiful hiking in all of New York, at least according to Marilyn Kirkbright, president of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, which counts nearly 300 miles of trails within town limits. Add the 200 or so miles enjoyed and maintained by the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, and there’s no need to take a hike anywhere but on the South Fork. “You would not believe what exists on our trails,” Kirkbright said. “World War II artifacts! Evidence of people having lived in the woods! Deer and turkeys and all kinds of snakes and cool things to see.” Both groups also host kayak and cycling trips and Southampton even goes horseback riding, though it’s BYOH-orse. Both may appeal to the altruistic as well, as there are plenty of opportunities to help maintain the trails.

Admit it: nothing reduces stress like heaving a rubber ball at an opponent. For those who pine for the halcyon days of pickup games in the park, Long Island is rife with adult kickball opportunities from the likes of LI-Kick in Glen Cove and Let’s Play Long Island in Long Beach, Huntington and Oceanside. The real appeal? “Kickball is something anyone can play,” said Max Feinberg, director of Let’s Play. “You don’t need a certain skillset, beyond being able to kick, run or throw. And it is a workout!” But the competition is there for those who seek it: LI-Kick’s all-star team won a regional tournament this summer. Also on the roster between the two organizations are soccer, hockey, dodgeball and baggo, not to mention post-game happy hours. “Our Thursday night games end with a party, with bar trivia and more,” said LI-Kick owner Sal Farruggia. “It gives the teams who don’t win their games a chance to win something else.” In either league, players can sign up solo, with a friend or two to be assigned to a team together or with a whole team.

There are few places to have more fun on two wheels than on the roads of Long Island—it’s not always a vehicular skirmish. At least that’s the premise of Long Island Social Biking, a Nassau County-based group of 600-plus pedal pushers who spin their wheels all across the Island and beyond. Speeds are more leisurely than competitive biking clubs, but with rides that are as much about the journey as the destination. That’s by design. “We want to give people a reason to get that bicycle out of the garage,” said group founder Barry Kaufman. Those may include tours of local vineyards or meandering afternoons along the Jones Beach Bikeway. What’s for certain is the chance to get a little exercise and meet some good people—Kaufman found the love of his life through the group.

If pseudo-celebrities can learn to lindy on Dancing with the Stars, why can’t everyday Long Islanders find their groove, sans the pressure of a TV audience? Swing Dance Long Island’s aim is exactly that: to bring the joys of the jitterbug to residents of the North Shore. “Everyone dances with everybody,” said Peter Perlow, SDLI president. “People do come in couples but a good 50 percent or more are unattached.” Members always greet newbies at the door and no one goes an evening without being asked to dance. All dance nights begin with a lesson for beginners or those just looking to brush up on their skills. The club hosts events weekly in Greenlawn and monthly at Stony Brook’s historic Jazz Loft and feature DJs or even live bands to really get toes tapping. Additionally, low-cost classes taught by a pro instructor in four-week sessions help novices solidify the steps and build confidence on the floor.

All of these groups were started by individuals with a passion and a promise: to bring the fun of their favorite activities to the masses. And with the power of social media, it’s easier than ever to gather the like-minded for any activity. Pondering parkour in Plainview? Angling for acroyoga in Amityville? Put out feelers on the web. Post it to Facebook, tweet it and advertise on Instagram. Depending on the meeting point, see about going old school and hanging signs. Or even approach people doing whatever it is you’d like to do and ask if they want to do it with you. Check out for guidance to get started, someone else might already have a group going.