Shana Schneider with walking tour

Step by Step

A Fitstyle walking tour with Shana Schneider is as much about the walking as it is about the tour.

A small group of colleagues from Yale’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies were ready to get moving with Schneider one recent breezy afternoon. A couple were first-timers. Others had previously walked with Schneider, who was as fresh and cheerful as if the day were just beginning. “I’m kind of just an innate host,” she says. “I love to introduce people to new places, … help them get to know a place.” She started the group with a few tips outside on the patio of Luce Hall on Hillhouse Avenue: shoulders back, posture tall, look straight ahead. Then we were off, walking at a brisk pace of about a 20-minute mile.

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One of the purposes of Schneider’s tours is to jostle New Haveners out of their usual routines. Most people tend to walk the same few routes over and over again. It’s invigorating, she notes, when you realize “how walkable and how connected everything is.” We followed Schneider down one path or another and found ourselves on the Farmington Canal Trail near the Yale Health building—a familiar spot for downtown walkers, approached from an unfamiliar direction.

Our route took us past Yale’s new colleges, down Lock Street, then Ashmun Street before turning in front of the Yale gym and cutting through Ezra Stiles College. Along the way, Schneider paused to share Farmington Canal facts, tips on where to use Yale staff IDs and general New Haven trivia. At each stop, instead of standing still, we did toe taps, one foot to the other. “If you want to add a little more to it, you can squeeze your inner thighs,” Schneider instructed, eliciting a laugh followed by reassurance that though it might sound “kooky,” no one else would notice.

“I want you to also remember about standing tall like a tree as you’re walking,” Schneider instructed at one stop. “Sometimes when we think we want to walk fast, we lean forward, but we only really need to do that if we’re going uphill.” Between stops, she suggested, “Let your arms actually swing. It’s a great way for you to naturally work your triceps.”

Not that this is meant to be an intense workout. In fact, it’s designed not to feel like a workout at all. “You’re learning about the place, so you don’t notice that you’re doing all the exercise,” says Schneider, who admits she herself prefers physical activity that accomplishes something else at the same time. “And you’re walking away… with some new fun facts, maybe some places that you didn’t notice were just down the street from you that you’re going to go back and check out.”

Even Schneider found a surprise along this route, a construction barrier off Park Street that forced a re-route. She hardly missed a step. We headed around the corner to Chapel, where she stopped to point out the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, both designed by major architect Louis Kahn, the former at the beginning of his career and the latter at the end. We covered about two miles on our Tuesday walk, followed by a gentle stretching session at the end.

A personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Schneider worked for a decade on and off in various communications roles at Yale, but her tours often step off campus. Walks can be tailored for different groups, both private and corporate. They might stop at Louis’ Lunch, or art galleries, or public art like the Amistad Memorial tucked along the front of City Hall or the mural on the wall outside Soul de Cuba Cafe. And there are plenty of Yale sites of interest: the medical school neighborhood; Yale Farm, a tour that may involve some squats to make up for a slower walking pace; the “really lovely trails” at Farnam Memorial Gardens. Schneider is also expanding into Milford, and this summer she’ll host three special walks in Morris Cove for the New Haven Museum.

Schneider’s ultimate goal is for people to make fitness fit their lifestyle, hence the name of her business, Fitstyle, which also includes workshops “helping people get the fundamentals of how you find time for fitness where you didn’t think it existed.” For example, Schneider says, turn business meetings into a “walk and talk.” Stand up at work whenever possible, and keep moving. “When you start looking for those opportunities, you start to see them everywhere,” she notes. She follows up workshops with text message check-ins to remind participants of what they learned and encourage them to keep going.

The cost of a Fitstyle tour depends on the number of people, the length (from 40 to 90 minutes) and how much it’s customized. Tours cover 4,000 to 5,000 steps in an hour, and Schneider knows that because, as far as she’s concerned, “Every step counts.”

Fitstyle by Shana

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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