Tampa is home to a robust rotation of totally free outdoor workouts led by professional instructors and open to all levels. Nearly every day of the week, weather dependent, locals can find a complimentary outdoor exercise class at a variety of venues – from cardio and strength-based group workouts to yoga, dance and pilates.
The Bella Prāna Collective is one of Tampa’s longest-standing yoga studios and one of the veteran organizers of Tampa’s free outdoor classes. It has been hosting a free all-levels yoga class every other week at Armature Works since 2018, along with other pop-up classes at venues like Hyde Park Village and Sparkman Wharf.
“Having community events is really important to us,” Bella Prāna co-owner Tina Tidwell Bedore says. “One of our biggest missions is to make yoga accessible, affordable and inclusive.”
The studio owner believes that free outdoor classes are the perfect way to introduce beginners to yoga and dispel any misconceptions about the practice.
“Studios can be intimidating,” Tidwell Bedore says. “Teaching these classes shows people that yoga is just a fabulous way to move your body and get in tune with yourself and your breathing.”
Kamran Zafar recently graduated from Bella Prāna’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and has jumped into instructing at free outdoor classes.
“Teaching these classes allows me to build community and promote a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “Every class makes you feel connected to your city. You get the chance to get a great workout while also having views of your city and connecting with people who all want to promote an active lifestyle.”
With a beautiful outdoor space shaded by trees, Hyde Park Village is another hub for the community that offers free classes.
“Tampa loves fitness,” says Sarah Moore, senior marketing manager at Hyde Park Village. “We know that our customers love health and wellness, so it’s important for us to offer an amenity that folks are able to enjoy consistently. Afterward, people can go shopping for new gear at Lululemon or grab a bite at one of the surrounding restaurants. These classes complement our property and what locals are looking for.”
Tampa’s offerings are diverse, allowing locals to try new things. Jae Phillips Dance Studio offers monthly Salsa on the Pier at Armature Works.
“It’s such a great feeling seeing people that have never danced before join us, let loose and have fun,” owner Phillips says. “Dancing is such a great way to relieve stress, meet new people, build confidence and express yourself. To offer that opportunity complimentary is priceless.”
Jenny DePuy, who owns The Bar Method and teaches its free classes at Armature Works, echoes Phillips’ sentiment about the rewarding nature of creating new opportunities for locals.
“Programs like this provide an opportunity to preview healthy lifestyle choices,” DePuy says. “Sometimes it only takes one class where someone ‘gets it’ for that person to make the lifestyle improvements they’ve been looking for. It’s a huge energy boost to watch people working in unison feeding off each other’s energy. Since The Bar Method is less familiar than other forms of exercise, lots of people show up almost giddy to try something new and they leave pleasantly surprised because our classes aren’t what they expect.”
These free classes are held throughout Tampa’s neighborhoods, all you have to do to find them is do a little research. Jessica Fant Waschezen is the regional director and a trainer at Camp Gladiator, which offers free Saturday classes at MacFarlane and other public parks. Led by certified personal trainers, Camp Gladiator has been providing these cardio and strength workouts in the region for nearly a decade.
“We’re able to impact many lives because we teach in a group setting,” Fant Waschezen says. “All different walks of life and fitness levels gather to get in a great workout, but more importantly to have fun while doing it.”
Rafael Jimenez, an area director and trainer for Camp Gladiator, says the group setting adds an element of motivation that you don’t get in studio classes.
“Because you’re in a big group and everyone’s working together, you work really hard and don’t realize how hard or long you’ve been working,” Jimenez explains. “The sense of community completely changes the game. It’s easy to blow off your trainer, but it’s not easy to blow off your friends.”
Rachel Radawec, senior manager of public space and community engagement for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, coordinates weekly classes at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park Sunday through Thursday evenings. Hosted for 10 years, she also reflects on the ways that these classes create friendships and community, which lead to increased motivation.
“The most rewarding thing is that it’s free for everyone,” Radawec says. “You don’t have to pay for a gym membership to get that regular group fitness feel and build friendships. If you’ve ever gone down to the Zumba class, you’ll see that the group knows each other; it’s something that they regularly do together on Tuesday night. It really embodies community.”
For Meagan Floco, who has taught Zumba in the Park for eight years, as rewarding as it is for the community participants, it’s also been gratifying for her as an instructor.
“Inspiring so many lives over the years by using dance as a way to stay healthy and fit has been the best part,” she reflects. “I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that Zumba in the Park is the highlight of someone’s week and that they are so grateful for the class.”
The community responses to these offerings have only grown. Armature Works recently launched another regular yoga class on the first Tuesday evening of each month, led by Cocoon Yoga & Movement Studio.
Co-owner Marley Vigdorth says that she’s been surprised not only by the large turnouts, but also by the way these classes have helped grow her new business.
“Every time we’ve done a class, people come to our studio to practice afterward,” Vigdorth says. “And, not everyone has access to coming in and buying a drop-in, so since yoga is meant to be at its foundation a practice for everyone, doing a free outdoor class helps us to create that access and community and we’re proud of that.”
The studios and instructors mentioned above and many more have been integral to the availability of so many classes. Armature Works marketing director Amanda Wregg says that as the fitness program grows in popularity, they continue to add to the calendar.
“When we first opened our doors in 2018, we had four monthly fitness events and over the years we’ve grown to 10,” she says.
There’s no better time to take advantage of these free classes. Soak in the sunshine and vitamin D, take your friends or make new ones and work up a sweat. Keep an eye out because more classes pop up regularly.
AT ARMATURE WORKS
9 a.m. 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month
By Bella Prāna Collective
Happy Hour Yoga
6 p.m. 1st Tuesday of the month
By Cocoon Yoga + Movement Studio
Salsa on the Pier
By Jae Phillips Dance Studio
The Bar Method Class
6:30 p.m. third Thursday of the month
By The Bar Method
AT CURTIS HIXON WATERFRONT PARK
Zumba in the Park
6 p.m. Tuesdays
By Meagan Floco/Tampa Downtown Partnership
Pilates in the Park
6 p.m. Thursdays
By BODYBAR Pilates/Tampa Downtown Partnership
Yoga in the Park
6 p.m. (daylight saving time) or 5 p.m. (October to March) Sundays
By Lucky Cat Yoga/Tampa Downtown Partnership
Hyde Park Sweat
Re-launching in fall
Hyde Park Village Circle
By Hyde Park Village
Camp Gladiator Community Workout
8 a.m. Saturdays
MacFarlane Park and various locations
By Camp Gladiator