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DIEDRA LAIRD

For many, January means change. A fresh start. And making and keeping New Year’s resolutions about getting in shape. Whether you like the sun at your back and the wind in your face, or the safety and warmth of an enclosed facility, UCity has a variety of venues to help you ring in a healthy new year – without breaking your bank. Grab some gear and check out these outdoor and indoor locations to get moving. OutdoorsClark’s Creek Greenway and Mallard Creek Greenway:By definition, a greenway is “a corridor of undeveloped land, along a river or between urban centers, that is reserved for recreational use or environmental preservation.” UCity is home to Mecklenburg County’s longest stretch of this corridor, spanning more than seven miles (or more than nine miles, if you count the entrances along the way.) Walkers, runners, bicyclists, in-line skaters, skate boarders, strollers and leashed pets all take to the Mallard Creek and Clark’s Creek greenways year-round. The western end of the greenway, with Clark’s Creek, is a paved trail passing through many university area neighborhoods. In the middle, a gravel trail runs through University Research Park, which accounts for about 1.2 miles of the entire greenway. The eastern end, Mallard Creek, is a paved trail which passes through a mature floodplain forest, under Interstate 85 and Highway 29, and on to the Kirk Farm soccer fields near UNC Charlotte. Another two-mile addition is underway with the proposed Toby Creek Greenway.“I run three to four times a week either on the Clark’s Creek Greenway or on the trails at Reedy Creek Park,” says UCity resident Josh Duncan, referring to the 116-acre park on Rocky River Road. “I like the greenway because it is marked every quarter mile, which has helped me measure my progress as I’ve added miles to my runs.”There are four different areas to park for the greenway: at Kirk Farm fields, located at East Mallard Creek Church Road near North Tryon Street; along Saxonbury Way at the greenway; and at parking spaces closest to the street at Countryside Montessori School and Mallard Creek Elementary, both along Mallard Creek Road. See more by going to www.parkandrec.com, and following the “Greenways” link. Areas at UNC Charlotte: With access from both North Tryon Street and University City Boulevard, walkers and runners find creative ways to exercise on campus. The Botanical Gardens and McMillan Greenhouse, with plants to see year-round, provides scenic strolling for visitors. The Hayes Recreational Field complex, off of Highway 29 not far from W.T. Harris Boulevard, has a walking path around the fields that also connects to running and biking trails throughout the campus. The path has plenty of foot traffic and lights at night. Twice around the path is one mile.Laurie Hardin, a member of the UCity-based Athleticore run training group, likes the Hayes complex in the winter months for its variety and safety.“The fact that it is lit, and a group can run and stay pretty close, as well as the diversity in hills, is why I like it,” says Hardin. “Hayes Field provides a measure of safety and a good variety and degree of difficulty so you can improve your stamina.”

Highland Creek Parkway: A challenging “course” in a scenic, leafy residential setting, Highland Creek Parkway is full of rolling hills that build leg strength through cycling or running. The parkway is 3.5 miles from one end to the other, making for a seven-mile, well-utilized loop.“If you walk or drive along the parkway any given time, you will see someone,” says Marty Kirby, franchise owner of Stroller Strides of Lake Norman, which trains in Prosperity Park in Highland Creek on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The fee-based workout program, designed for new moms, includes the baby stroller.Along the parkway, “there are wonderful hills and beautiful parks,” Kirby says, “and Highland Creek is so family oriented. It eliminates the excuse of, ‘I don’t want to leave the house.’ ” Lori Chivers has been a resident of Highland Creek for five years, during which time she has taken up biking. She loops the parkway stretch, and also detours into various communities along the way. “I find HCP safer than some other roads in the area, despite the fact that there’s no bike lane,” says Chivers. “Frequent drivers of the neighborhood are accustomed to seeing bikers and runners on the road and are, for the most part, quite courteous and provide us with adequate space on the road. It also comes down to familiarity for me. I’m comfortable staying close to home and I know the distance of the parkway, so there’s no need to map my course before hitting the road.” Huntersville Business Park: The Park-Huntersville is a premiere location for riders and runners alike. The main loop offers 1.88 miles of easy slopes and long straight-aways. Located off of Interstate 77 and exit 23, The Park encompasses over 920,000 square feet of business space, with cul-de-sacs and roads that intersect with the main loop, offering a variety of training routes. The Pedal in the Park bike ride in the summer and The Harvest Fall Run 10K race in October are just two of many races that include The Park in their routes.The Spirited Cyclists’ Cycling club has been offering free bike rides for all levels for the last four years, and includes The Park in its beginners, intermediate and advanced rides. Ty Burns, owner of the Spirited Cyclists, says for the true beginner, the very best spot to ride is in The Park.“Starting inside and going clockwise, there’s not much traffic pulling out, and the roads are nice and wide (and include bike lanes),” he says. “Plus, so many people (ride) it.” Indoors Concord Mills: The Mills Milers have exclusive access to the outlet mall in the early mornings. The doors open at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday for Mall Walkers. Sponsored by Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, Mills Milers earn a free water bottle after they complete 100 laps, and a free luggage tag after they complete 200 laps. One lap around Concord Mills, including all of the entrances, is one mile. Sign up is available at the customer service desk. See more by going to www.concordmills.com and clicking “Guest Services.”Northlake Mall: Northlake has offered the Mall Walkers program since it opened in 2005. Currently there are 850 registered participants, according to Nan Gray, Northlake marketing and sponsorship director. The mall doors open every day at 7 a.m. for mall walkers. One full lap around the upper level, plus one full lap around the lower level, adds up to approximately 1.25 miles.“Walkers may sign up during mall hours at the Customer Service center or at the Mall Walkers meeting, held the first Wednesday of each month,” Gray says. The 8 a.m. monthly meetings include a free breakfast.Registered participants receive a free mall walkers t-shirt and free pedometer when they attend their first meeting. They also have access to the LiveWell Carolinas! office located inside the mall. LiveWell, part of Carolinas Medical Center-University, partners with Northlake on the mall walking program, and provides speakers for the monthly meetings. The LiveWell office also provides free blood pressure, body fat and glucose screenings. See more by going to www.shopnorthlake.com, and clicking “Dining & Entertainment.”So, pick your place, get motivated, and get moving!

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