While 2,200 cyclists depart from the UTSA Main Campus Sunday morning to pedal the steep slopes of the nearby Hill Country in the inaugural L’Étape San Antonio, consider the benefits of making every day of Fiesta a day of healthy community recreation.

I don’t advocate cancellation of the parties or other traditions, I just want to see healthy alternatives added to the mix.

Sunday’s first-ever cycling event in the United States affiliated with the Tour de France is the centerpiece of this year’s Fiesta FitFest, three days of organized outdoor activities created by San Antonio Sports to put a healthier face on Fiesta. It’s the FitFest’s first year as an official Fiesta event. With enough support from city government and local sponsors, it could serve as the foundation for an expanded FitFest becoming part of Fiesta’s everyday programming.

Fiesta could be made more appealing to out-of-town visitors, who might not be attracted to days and nights of social gatherings, parties and parades fueled by endless quantities of beer and junk food. Look at how many people travel to San Antonio for the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

I enjoyed this week’s column by JJ Velasquez, Viva Fiesta: San Antonio’s signature event is the soul that Austin’s SXSW lacks. I agree with the “soul” part, but I’d add that it’s the “body” part of Fiesta that requires our attention.

San Antonio has some of the highest adult and adolescent obesity numbers in the country. Fiesta does nothing to address that, and I would argue it does much to perpetuate it.

We can still have fun and revelry and, at the same time, infuse the 11-day festival with healthy outdoor recreational options that showcase the city’s great linear park along the San Antonio River, its urban amenities and its ever-growing greenway trail system.

Cyclists ride north on the linear Salado Creek Greenway Trail near Loop 1604 and Shavano Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg may very well be the fittest leader of any major U.S. city. Imagine a 5K Mayor’ s Walk Down Broadway from the Witte Museum to Hemisfair led by Nirenberg, with challenges to other Texas mayors to join in the first-ever City Stride.

Future years could take the mayor and walkers down the Mission Reach, around Hardberger Park, southeast to Brooks or to various other parts of the city.

A third Síclovía could be added Fiesta week.

Free yoga classes could be added daily at city parks, helping animate these green spaces that too often sit underutilized. There is no shortage of wonderful instructors who could be hired to make this happen. Alternative workout options could be included.

I was struck on a recent visit to Mexico City by the weekend activities in Parque México, visible from our short-term rental. Multiple dance classes were underway as we strolled by. Youngsters under the age of 10 were learning to skateboard. Seniors were engaged in tai chi exercises.

One feature in the park was an outdoor adult gym circuit busy with people of all ages hanging from pull-up bars, doing sit-ups, doing core work and stretching. A short distance away, dog trainers led canine groups through various commands.

Does this sound like any San Antonio park you frequent? Our parks system is in sore need of more programming. FitFest could be a catalyst for more year-around activities and the right infrastructure to support those activities.

On April 2, Urban-15 — the music, movement and media arts collective — staged Incognito, an illuminated night bike ride and masquerade, at Elmendorf Lake in the heart of the West Side. I missed the event due to other work obligations, but I am sure it was a delightful addition to Fiesta, one that merits city support and could be expanded under the tutelage of its founder, George Cisneros.

There is the costume-optional 5K run that signals the imminent start of the Fiesta Flambeau night parade and serves as a fundraiser for Spurs Give. It’s quite an experience running down a tunnel of thousands of hyped-up people, some of us dressed as ourselves, others as whimsical characters.

Fiesta is all about the traditions, but Fiesta can also be much more.

Healthy physical activity should be fun. It always feel good to participate in an organized sporting event, to cross a finish line. Let’s find some new ways to do those things and build on Fiesta FitFest. The time to start is now.

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.