Memphis Gets RiverFit

New riverfront fitness trail gets people curious — and moving

Mar. 16, 2015

Let’s make a bet:
Take a walk in Tom Lee Park and see if you can resist RiverFit.

Whether it’s the stump jump, the monkey bars or the obstacle course, something is going to tempt you to get moving.

It’s just what happens, says downtown-based personal trainer Lauren Phelps.

The sand volleyball courts are RiverFit's most popular attraction.

Whether it’s families playing soccer, kids doing monkey bars, or older couples going on a walk, RiverFit is all around you.

The goal was simple: get people active.

“People will stop and watch, or clap for somebody, and then they’ll try to do the station themselves,” says Phelps. “It sounds simple, but people just stopping to notice other people, or to talk to or encourage them — it creates a real sense of community.”

Originally a temporary “pop-up” fitness park, RiverFit has now become a permanent downtown fixture.Updated River Fit-4

It’s made up of two sand volleyball courts, a soccer field and six exercise stations:

  • Pull-up station
  • Monkey bars
  • Battle ropes
  • Stump jump
  • Obstacle course
  • Sit-up station

The goal of RiverFit was simple: to get people active and engaged.

And it’s working: Since its installation in August 2014, the number of people exercising at Tom Lee Park has more than doubled.

It’s also attracting a diverse group of people, from soccer players to tourists to senior citizens. There’s even a group of FedEx employees who play flag football and volleyball to stay active on their days off.

“You have fitness-oriented people at the pull-up bars and then student athletes playing beach volleyball,” Phelps says. “It’s very diverse. At this point, I’m not surprised to see any type of person here.”

The stations that pique first timers’ interest most: the battle ropes and monkey bars.

“I love the battle ropes,” says Phelps. “People think, ‘oh these look fun,’ and then they do it for 10 seconds and they’re worn out! It’s great cardio.”

RiverFit also gets a workout from groups.

Trainers hold boot camps or personal training sessions there; the Grizzlies host health and wellness events where you can meet the Griz Girls and win game tickets; and companies like Teach for America and Baker Donelson use RiverFit for corporate events focused on physical fitness.

The soccer field also draws a lot of Latino players, a group that didn’t come to Tom Lee Park as frequently before RiverFit was in place.

Most importantly, RiverFit gives people a free, easy place to gather and get some exercise when they might have chosen a less healthy activity in the past.

The obstacle course tests leg strength and coordination but watch your step – the ropes are pretty high.

“RiverFit has brought a lot of excitement and chatter about getting outside and trying something new,” Phelps says.

“Now people who might have gone to happy hour or out to eat before will say, ‘let’s go play volleyball’ instead. I think it’s so great that people have something healthy to do.”


To learn more about outdoor fitness in Tennessee, click here.


Photos by Spencer Soo and Ben Finch.