No-Pain Gain

Urban sports for low-energy athletes

The 2012 Olympics in New York? What a fuss. This summer, let's stick to minor, low-energy athletics, please—the kind we can perform while squished into a pair of minuscule jeans. The Voice presents a sports guide for New Yorkers preternaturally proud of their puniness. Muscles not required.


Similar to marbles, but with much bigger balls, BOCCIE—an old Italian sport requiring little to no footwork—is one of the most recent sports to be added to the Special Olympics. Spaghetti Park's boccie court fosters some particularly feisty matches—benches are arrayed around the perimeter and Italian music plays from a do-it-yourself sound system, which (the last time we checked) was hanging from a tree. 108th Street and 51st Avenue, Corona, Queens.


The DOUBLE DUTCH DIVAS are seven middle-aged (42 to 55) ladies who go by names like "Faith," "Sassy," and "Spice" and spend summer afternoons in Central Park jumping rope and showing off their fancy footwork. Their practices usually attract an eager following of onlookers whom they encourage to join in (although audience participation usually ends in a tangle of ropes, says "Heart"). Sundays at 5:30, July 20 and 27 and August 3 and 10, Central Park at 72nd Street, 212-784-0738, doubledutchdivas.com.


Half a century ago New Yorkerwriter Joseph Mitchell described the Hudson as so filthy "you could bottle it and sell it for poison." Now, thanks to improvements in water quality, swimming around the city may still be a slimy affair, but it's perfectly safe. SWIM THE APPLE offers day and night group trips from various points around Manhattan, including Pier 63 near West 23rd Street, a small beach at East 23rd Street, and Ellis Island. For more information, e-mail Mark Heath at mh22@columbia.edu. columbia.edu/~mh22/swimtheapple.


With more than 14,000 feet of concrete ramps, ledges, bowls, ollies, trannies, lipslides, and other angled surfaces whose names mean something to only a small but elite subsection of the population, MILLENNIUM SKATE PARK is one of the best parks in the city for experienced skaters unashamed by frequent falls. Helmets are required and kids under 21 need a signed waiver from their parents. Owl's Head Park, 68th Street and Colonial Road, Brooklyn.


Built as a WPA project in 1936, the ASTORIA PARK SWIMMING POOL still has most of its original touches, including a grand art deco pavilion and flashy underwater lighting, once considered a "revolutionary development in recreation" (WPA administrator Harry Hopkins described the space as "the finest in the world"). The pool hosted the 1964 Olympic trials, but at this point there are far fewer Speedo'd swimmers than blubbery children splashing, running around, and systematically burning their skin. Adult lap swim from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m., 19th Street and 23rd Drive, Astoria, Queens, 718-626-8620.


The home of more than 550,000 corpses, many of them quite illustrious (Leonard Bernstein, Samuel F.B. Morse, and Jean-Michel Basquiat all lie here), GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY offers the most ideal situation for passive people watching. Showing off its extravagant tombs, ponds, pastures, and Gothic gatehouses, the cemetery offers a number of guided hikes, focused on various genres of the dead—women, soldiers, artists, and Brooklynites. 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-768-7300, green-wood.com.


Populated by the kind of unpretentious riders you don't usually expect at a sprawling equestrian park, JAMAICA BAY RIDING ACADEMY has three miles of beachfront and almost 300 acres of wooded trails for relatively aimless roaming and jumping. A 45-minute guided run is $30. The "Ladies Only" club, which meets once a week and requires no previous experience, costs $330 for six weeks. 7000 Shore Parkway, Brooklyn, 718-531-8949, horsebackride.com.


Someone drowned here last year. Moving on. PROSPECT PARK LAKE is a good spot to fish for crappie, bluegill, catfish, largemouth bass, and ample globs of seaweed. On weekends, bird-watchers take position around the edge of the water. 95 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, 212-965-8900.


Practiced in a squatting position on the gravel paths along Bryant Park, pétanque ("pay-tonk") follows the same basic rules as horseshoes—each player throws metal balls as close as possible to a smaller wooden ball, the cochonette ("piglet" in French). More of a social occasion than a rigorous workout, most games are played in teams and usually accompanied by ample drinks and snacks. The LA BOULE NEW YORKAISEclub gives free lessons from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday. 42nd Street near Sixth Avenue, 201-457-0844.


This summer the Long Island City Community Boathouse will host a series of inaugural ART PADDLES from Socrates Culture Park to DUMBO for gallery-goers. Although the river itself still has a pretty scary iridescent coating, the LICCB intends to change this by using the water—shaming government officials into making it clean. 41-20 29th Street #4A, Long Island City, Queens, 718-786-8388, licboathouse.org.

 
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