The eco-stewards at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes work to conserve a natural bundle of lakes, streams, marshes, fields, ravines, and forests on the lush site's 20 acres, in addition to teaching environmental-education classes and hosting community-building events. The household membership contributes to the cause and nets families a grab bag of nature-center goodies, including discounts on programs and workshops, facility rentals, and early registration for all outdoor adventure camps. Lapsed naturalists can hopscotch along two trails, where flora such as sycamores, hickory, and sassafras surround the habitats of raccoons, red-tailed hawks, red foxes, Redd Foxx, and salamanders. Or feel free to spy on the flight patterns of local birds; the Audubon Society dubbed Shaker Lakes as an Important Bird Area for its population of autonomous aviators.
Fairview Park Recreation Department at the Gemini Center hosts an impressive array of classes—20 each week. They take advantage of the brand new facility's amenities, holding spinning classes in dedicated cycling rooms or teaching aquatic skills in the aerobic studio. They also hold outdoor classes during summer months, taking advantage of the sunshine and green lawns. "It's great to see members push themselves and have fun while doing it," reports the Center's group-exercise coordinator.
Beyond fitness instruction, they also use the facility to host summer camps, athletic leagues, and families looking for a day at the pool. They even built a second pool, exclusively for leisure, with waterslides, a lazy river, and submerged beauty parlors.
Equipment: TRX, free weights, kettle bells, battle ropes, speed and agility equipment
Average class length: 30-60 minutes
Number of Staff: 1–5 people
Class location: Mix of indoor and outdoor classes
Good for beginners: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Pro Tip: Come through the door with a personal goal in mind to achieve at each session.
Runners lace up for a half-marathon quest through some of Stark County's most splendorous scenery. Launching from the Massillon Recreational Center, the marathon charters along the Cuyahoga river and across 3 miles of undulating hills before the final stretch—the flat and steadfast terrain of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath—where runners gape at natural and manmade marvels before dashing across the finish line at the Second Sole shoe store.
Adrenaline Sports Management corrals runners in an array of races to benefit several area charities, such as Back on My Feet and Fathers Helping Fathers. Each course winds its way through historic neighborhoods, lush lakefront paths, or energizing vistas, and most reward the top overall male and female finishers as well as the top-three runners in each category with medals or celebratory eye patches. Costume contests ramp up competition in the Halloween and Santa Hustles, with top prizes going to best individual costume, best group costume, or most-authentic centaur lookalike. At the many after-parties, finish-liners can revel in après-race accolades from family, friends, and shoulder-perched cherubs.
The Dirty Dash isn't the kind of race where runners try to set a new record. There are no ribbons or trophies for the first runner across the finish line either. That's because the real fun of this race isn't in winning, it's in the actual running itself. And watching groups of costumed adults play in the mud, of course.
Part light-hearted race, part military-style obstacle course, The Dirty Dash challenges runners with a course strewn with muddy obstacles with a focus on fun. In order to reach the finish, runners will have to hop over hay bales in mud pits, navigate rows and rows of tires set in wet soil, and even launch themselves down a foamy, 175-foot slip-n-slide. Besides the ultimate reward—the opportunity to spend a day in the mud—each participant also gets a t-shirt, pig tattoo, bandana, and pig decal, as well as a perfect excuse to visit their favorite dry cleaner.