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posted: 2/26/2010 12:01 AM

It really is time to think summer

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I didn't clear this proposal with Mother Nature, but she won't mind.

The Winter Olympics offer a perfect launchpad for this idea - and the calendar will oblige, too.

With closing ceremonies set for Sunday, the last day of February, why don't we also declare that the last day of winter?

Seems nature has already beat us to the punch. For the first time in a month, I witnessed a ribbon of water cutting through the ice-crusted tundra the Fox River has been in recent months.

Is summer far off?

It's right around the corner, according to the Fox Valley Park District. On Monday, the District launches its Spring into Summer specials that will have us packing away the snow pants and pulling out the swim trunks.

But first things first. Before tearing up the closet and checking to see if those Polo shirts and stylish shorts still fit, there's a great way to make sure - get fit.

Starting a fitness routine has probably been on the "to-do" list for a while - but hasn't gotten done. March is a great time of year to wake up muscles from their winter hibernation and shake off any tag-along flab. And you don't have to do it alone.

The Fox Valley Park District is offering get-fit-with-your-friends opportunities that provide personal training sessions with certified fitness experts for as low as $10 per person.

Here's how it works: bring along two friends, and your group can sign up for four shared, 60-minute training sessions. The total cost - $120 - boils down to just $40 per person for 240 minutes of high-level fitness training that will transform your workouts into Olympic-like performances that produce golden results.

Pick your fitness venue, either the Vaughan Athletic Center or the Eola Community Center. There's motivation involved too - all training sessions must be used by April 15, when the warm weather begins in earnest.

Then it's on the pool - literally. Budget-savvy swimmers and fun-seeking families start thinking water parks before the first blossoms of spring. That's because season pass rates are at their lowest prices all year. For example, a 10-year old resident child can enjoy unlimited, wet and wild summer fun for just $45 - the price of a season pass that provides admittance every day to Splash Country Water Park AND Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center.

Think about that - a summer of cool fun for the kids that costs less than a Slurpee for each visit. And as an added perk, season pass holders get early admission on Fridays, when they enjoy exclusive use of the water parks.

Oh, to be a kid again.

The same type of opportunity is available at Blackberry Farm, where a season pass for residents is just $20. Translated, that means Blackberry Farm is your back yard for the summer, complete with unlimited rides on the steam engine-replica train, hay wagon, carousel and ponies.

But these blooms last only a short time; the early-bird offers fly off the radar after April 30.

Call me strange, but I have no trouble thinking about summer in February - even while watching Olympic bobsledding. See you at the pool.

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.