Breakfast with Shana Schneider
By Cara Rosner / photography by STAN GODLEWSKI
Shana Schneider almost never stops moving – literally.
She’s been known to do squats in her kitchen while waiting for cookies to bake, whip cream by hand for a quick arm workout, use her carry-on as a hand weight at the airport, and do leg lifts while waiting in line for her morning coffee.
She loves being active so much, in fact, that she’s made it into a career. As the founder of Fitstyle by Shana, she shows people how and where they can fit exercise into their daily routines. She’s the author of the book “Fitstyle Your Life: 5 Simple Keys for Taking Exercise off Your To-do List,” a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and is licensed to teach Zumba and Walk 15® classes.
“I’ve always been interested in the fitness industry,” says Schneider, 41, who lives in New Haven. “I want to help people find what kind of fitness will connect with their lifestyle. I realized that time was everyone’s biggest challenge, so it’s about how to fit movement into things you’re already doing.”
To that end, she leads a growing number of Fitstyle walking tours throughout New Haven. Companies and universities hire her to lead group walks that not only burn some calories but also teach walkers about the city around them.
When she launched Fitstyle three years ago, Shneider, who is a Yale University alum, had more than 15 years of professional experience at places including Yale, New Haven-based Technolutions, and TV Guide. She is president of the board of directors of the New Haven Free Public Library.
She recently took some time over a cup of coffee – which she drank while standing, of course – at Maison Mathis in New Haven to share what she loves about the Elm City.
Q: What about New Haven prompted you to put down roots here?
A: I didn’t actually stay in New Haven when I graduated [from Yale]. I moved to New York and lived in Manhattan for a couple of years. There, I really fell in love with public transportation and the walkability of the city. Then I moved back to New Haven in 2003 and I felt that the city was different. There was an energy that I didn’t notice before, but also, I had a completely different perspective – I changed from a student who was focused on studies and campus, and now saw it as a resident and a community member. Then I was like, “Whoa, this has everything New York has.”
Q: What’s your favorite way to spend a day in New Haven?
A: I would take a walk up to the top of East Rock. The view from the top of East Rock, whether it’s the wintertime or summertime, is just priceless. I would get a group of friends and do a little bit of a brunch crawl; we’d pick a few different locations. There are so many places to eat; why pick just one? And you get to walk between them. Then I’d go online and see what’s going on that day in New Haven – maybe it’s a show at College Street Music Hall, maybe it’s the Shubert. Then spend the afternoon shopping for what to wear that night.
Q: What’s your favorite part of New Haven to walk?
A: My favorite part of the city is downtown because there’s just so much to look at, get distracted by, and see and do, all in a condensed area. Most [Fitstyle clients] do the New Haven and Yale route. We cover about two miles in an hour. You really do get a feel for how much is here and get to cover a lot of downtown.
Q: What’s a local hidden gem that you wish more people knew about?
A: The hidden gems are usually right in front of you. People, I think, miss the public art that is in New Haven. How many people have seen the mural that’s on the wall next to Soul de Cuba? How many times have people walked by City Hall and not noticed the cool red sculpture that’s in the courtyard back there or taken the time to learn the artists behind them? To me, those are the hidden gems in plain sight.
Also, the New Haven Free Public Library on the green. The Orchid Café, which is in the library now. People don’t realize that it’s such an amazing space with a lot of resources. And I often use it as a co-working space.
Q: What are your favorite ways to stay active during the winter?
A: I actually have a tendency to do the same things I do in the summer in the winter; I just layer up. I do a lot of walking because I think that is where I get a lot of my movement throughout the day. Living in New Haven, because it is so walkable, I can throw on my boots and my layers, and walk.
I will do ice skating once a year. I did curling – I look for super-random stuff that is very specific to the season. I also teach Zumba and that’s something that I will do in the wintertime. I’ll even go to someone else’s class; it feels like a summer party and you’re guaranteed to get warm.
Q: If you could eat your way through the city, where would you have breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Cocktails?
A: I would start at Olmo with a bagel. Unless it’s Friday, in which case I would go to Skappo for their fresh donuts, which are only available on Friday morning. Since I’m walking there, no guilt. For lunch, I would say Union League Cafe. It’s such a good deal. It’s really affordable, and the space is beautiful with the windows and the light coming in. For dinner, it’s Tavern on State. They are doing some unique things. They try to do local and seasonal, so the menu is always changing. For cocktails, which might happen before dinner and after dinner too, my go-to places are High George – with that amazing view and really great drinks – and also 116 Crown. The last spot, for dessert, is August. Not a lot of people know it because it’s a tiny little wine bar, which also has great food, but they have great desserts. You can also pair dessert with one of their great wines.
Q: When out of towners visit, what’s on your must-do list?
A: Definitely East Rock. Heading to Yale museums – they’re free and open to the public; whether you’re popping in for five minutes or an hour or more, I think those are a must. Of course, New Haven is a foodie town, so we’ve got to eat. Probably hitting up one of the ice cream places – Arethusa or Ashley’s – and of course, a Fitstyle walking tour, depending on the weather. And I would probably do an evening at East Rock Brewing Company. It’s a local brewing company and you can bring in food, so I could bring in pizza from all the New Haven places and do sort of a taste test.
For more about Fitstyle walking tours, visit fitstylebyshana.com.