Winter 2014 is looking to be a wonderland for those who like their cold-weather sports: they're making snow like crazy down at Yawgoo Valley, there’s pond-hockey games breaking out from Westerly to Woonsocket, and folks are strapping on snowshoes down in Arcadia and cross-country skis up in Lincoln.
But baby, it’s cold outside, so apart from a few diehards playing pickup football on the frozen tundra on Sunday mornings, most of our favorite sports have moved inside until the spring thaw. Just a few years ago, there was neither a major indoor sports center or even an ice arena south of Warwick, but the addition of the Boss Ice Arena at URI and the more recent opening of the Wide World of Indoor Sports in North Kingstown have given South County residents a lot more winter play options — regardless of the weather outside.
If you want to stay active this winter, take your gear out of hibernation and get ready to work up a sweat!
Looking for a late-night workout that will challenge your fitness — mental and physical — from head to toe?
Rock Spot in Peace Dale offers indoor rock climbing seven days a week from 10am to midnight, with climbers of all ability levels welcome. Start your visit with a warmup on the cardio machines before choosing one of the 100-plus ever-changing routes to the top of the towering climbing walls. Newbies can start with the tent auto-belay stations before moving up to the 35 top-rope paths and eventually learning to lead climb (without the added safety of a top rope). Routes range from beginner to advanced, with challenges and obstacles that include slabs, steep faces and overhangs. A trio of bouldering areas is also available.
Ice Skating & Ice Hockey
Strap on your skates for some cool indoor fun at URI’s Boss Arena, which not only has the best ice surface in the state but also offers a variety of public skating programs at minimal cost. If you’re just learning or want a fun family outing, public skating is available almost every day of the week, and you can rent skates if you don’t have your own. There’s also pickup hockey every weekday afternoon: for the bargain rate of just $6 you’ll get almost two hours of playing time, usually with a couple of goalies and 15-20 skaters. Open figure skating and adult-only skating are offered on weekday mornings.
Several groups also organize pickup hockey with contracted ice time in the evenings, such as hockey Night in Kingston (HNIK), run by former URI club hockey player John Matuszek. “I have been doing year round for three nights a week for 11 years now, and there have been over 100 guys playing over those years,” says Matuszek. “It’s a great alternative for guys who want a good, clean fast night of hockey without risk of being injured, as I do not allow any rough play. Most of the guys use this skate as a form of great exercise, especially for guys like me that don’t like going to a gym.” Some HNIK players come from as far away as Connecticut and Massachusetts to skate. “The rink is first class and is by far the cleanest most modern facility around,” says Matuszek.
The South County YMCA in Peace Dale and the West Bay Y in North Kingstown offer swimming daily in their heated indoor pools (the South County pool is the larger of the two, at 25 meters) as well as a wide range of swim classes (members only). URI’s Tootell Aquatic Center is open to the public for community swim programs on weekday afternoons and evenings as well as weekend afternoons; a day pass is $5, and a variety of individual, family, senior and extended family memberships are also available. Red Cross certified instructors also lead aqua-fitness, learn-to-swim and water safety courses.
In East Greenwich, Absolute Fitness has a 60-foot-long saltwater pool that’s heated to 87 degrees and is used for water fitness, lane swimming and learn-to-swim classes. And after a workout there’s no better way to ease your sore muscles than a dip in the gym’s whirlpool spa.
Unlike some indoor sports facilities converted from old warehouses, the Wide World of Indoor Sports at Quonset Point in North Kingstown was built from the ground up to accommodate a variety of team sports. The spacious, high-ceilinged building is perhaps best suited for soccer: both 10-on-10 and 7-on-7 leagues are offered for a range of ages, genders and abilities, with the bigger games played on a regulation-sized field. The ample dimensions mean no boards or walls to crash into, and the professional-grade surface is reasonably soft and forgiving.
It’s a little tough to pull off a full-squad indoor baseball game in South County, but Wide World of Indoor Sports in North Kingstown has a 200x90-foot field complete with painted lines, batter’s boxes and bases that can be used for softball or ragball games. League play is also available throughout the winter.
You can also work on your batting and pitching skills at Bomb Squad Baseball in South Kingstown, which boasts eight batting cages with 24-foot-high ceilings. In addition to a variety of pitching machines, Bomb Squad offers the opportunity to hit off of live pitching. hurlers can workon their stuff off of red-clay pitching mounds with on-staff catchers on the receiving end, and a variety of baseball and softball clinics and instructional programs are available. A padded turf field, expandable up to 100x40 feet, can be rented for fielding practice, whiffle-ball games, dodge ball or flag football. (Wide World of Indoor Sports also runs a co-ed whiffle ball league on Tuesday nights.)
Your local YMCA or your town recreation department are your best bets if you want to shoot some hoops. The North Kingstown Rec Department, for example, has men’s 35-and-over and 50-and-over basketball leagues ($50 registration fee) that run from October to March on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. The Charlestown Rec Department also hosts adult pickup basketball on Sunday and Thursday nights at the Charlestown elementary School gym; there’s no fee, but you’ll have to be a town resident to play.
The South County YMCA also has family basketball time four days a week that’s open to all ages (members only), and South Kingstown’s Neighborhood Guild has a men’s winter basketball league, $1 drop-in women’s recreational basketball on Monday nights, and $2 over-35 pickup basketball on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Racquetball & Squah
Racquetball and squash were once all the rage in indoor sports, fixtures at almost any high-end fitness club. If these sports have become a little passé, it has nothing to do with fitness: both provide an excellent aerobic workout. In South County, these fast-paced racquet sports are available at the River Bend Athletic Club in Peace Dale, which still has one racquetball court and one squash court for members’ use.
Yoga, Pilates & Other Fitness Classes
Gyms like Absolute Fitness, Luxe, River Bend, the Neighborhood Guild in South Kingstown and the YMCAs in Peace Dale and North Kingstown offer regularly scheduled yoga, pilates and zumba classes for members, and you also can find drop-in yoga classes offered through some town recreation departments (like North Kingstown’s) and of course at individual yoga studios, typically for about $15 per class.
The North Kingstown Recreation Department offers adult coed volleyball onMonday nights in the Davisville Middle School gym from September to May, and a four-on-four winter volleyball league plays at the Block Island School gym, with all skill levels welcomed. For just $2, you can join a drop-in recreational volleyball game at the Neighborhood Guild in Peace Dale on Thursday nights.
The elegantly titled Pond View Racquet and Croquet Club in Westerly has three indoor tennis courts for winter league play, instructional classes for youth and adults and open play. Court rentals are $50 per hour or $80 for 1.5 hours for members; non-members pay an additional $10. “Pond View is a small, family owned facility where everybody knows each other, and ten- nis is a great sport for socializing and getting out and keeping active,” says Linda Camelio, who plays in a USTA women’s league at the Westerly club.
The Charlestown Recreation Department also has an indoor winter tennis program that’s open to children and adults; it’s $95 for eight weeks of Friday night tennis and runs from December to February.
CrossFit – a cross-training program that includes both core fitness and overall conditioning, is the hottest new workout and available everywhere from dedicated facilities like CrossFit South Kingstown and the new Post Road CrossFit in North Kingstown to the winter crossFit program offered by the Narragansett Recreation Department. Classes will improve your fitness regardless of what activity you enjoy most, be it biking, running, swimming, obstacle races, team sports or triathlons. Routines vary widely and can include everything from squats, dead lifts and pushups to rowing and work with parallel bars, medicine balls or jump ropes.
If you want to keep your golf game sharp over the winter, check out Olympic Physical Therapy in Wakefield, which has a special golf Performance program that starts with an evaluation of your swing and then targets the muscle groups that may be underperforming or impeding your form. Exercises aim to improve both flexibility andgolf strength; patients have included members of the Narragansett and CCRI school golf clubs as well as local USGA Tour players Brad Faxon, Patrick Horgan III and Brett Quigley.
Five-on-five flag football and 8v8 flag leagues run for nine weeks throughout the winter at the Wide World of Indoor Sports. games are high-paced and competitive: some teams play with dedicated offensive and defensive squads and even have their own play books, but even new teams and players adjust to the game’s occasionally quirky rules quickly. As with soccer, the big fields mean plenty of space for game play, so you won’t be constantly worrying about running into walls or having long bombs bounce off the ceiling.
You'll find some diehard bikers out on the roads even in the dead of winter, but if you want to avoid black ice and the risk of frostbite, NBX Bikes in Narragansett is offering yoga, fitness and wind-trainer classes for bikers at Busy Body Studios in Wakefield while awaiting the grand opening of The Studio at NBX, its planned on-site training facility.
All classes are led by world champion triathlete Amy Rice. The wind-trainer classes are the most targeting to cycling: bikes are attached to a stationary mount that can be adjusted for varying degrees of resistance. “It’s a good alternative to spin class because you’re on your own bike and getting a sustained workout, plus we do some isolated leg drills and get off the bike for core work,” says Rice. Classes are $20, plus rental of the wind trainer for those who don’t have their own.
You also can tone your biking muscles with a spin class at Luxe Fitness in Westerly and Wakefield, which offer a 45-minute Spin express class that cyclists will love.