Rice’s new outdoor fitness park debuts during Week of Wellness

The new Outdoor Training Park is located north of the Gibbs Rec Center. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

The new Outdoor Training Park is located north of the Gibbs Rec Center. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

You may have already seen the newest fitness offering from Rice’s Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center, beckoning like a giant jungle gym from its shady spot just south of the intramural fields, but this week marks its official unveiling. The Outdoor Training Park (OTP) is celebrating its grand opening in conjunction with Rice’s annual Week of Wellness, seven days of activities designed to encourage health and well-being on campus.

“Building the Outdoor Training Park was a way for us to increase accessibility to physical fitness,” said Tina Villard, senior associate athletic director and director of recreation at Gibbs. “You don’t need a membership to use it, it gives people another option other than using our weight room, allows people to work out outdoors, is easily accessible, and finally it allows users a wider array of choices for activities.”

The OTP contains the pull-up bars and parallel bars traditionally found in outdoor fitness parks alongside many other pieces of stationary equipment that allow for a well-rounded workout.

“We wanted to be sure the stations met the needs of all abilities and fitness levels, from beginner to expert,” Villard said. “The stations also include instructions and suggested exercises to provide support for users, and we hope that some individuals — should they be so inclined — will be able to do their entire workout outside.”

Now that fall has arrived, that should be easier. Yet Villard said they planned for Houston’s regular hot-and-sunny weather too.

“We were very thoughtful about the location,” Villard said. “We wanted to make sure there was enough shade that people could continue to use it through our tough, hot months.”

The park was placed close to the crushed granite running trail that loops around campus so runners and walkers can dip in and include strength-based activities in their workout.

“Later in the year we hope to add a water fountain close by as well,” Villard said.

Unfamiliar with outdoor training parks? A free training session will be held Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to noon, part of the Week of Wellness lineup.

“We know that people want and need options in order to build a healthy lifestyle,” Villard said, “and the OTP is just one more way we can encourage that behavior.”

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.