Urban Outdoor Fitness
Blast into Spring and Get Ready for Summer with Urban Workouts
It may come as a surprise, but urban workouts can be inspiring places to exercise, full of challenges and stimulation, along with the results that no gym can deliver.
There are lots of reasons to take your fitness regimen out of the gym: fresh air, natural light, ever-changing scenery, a variety of terrain and props to use… not to mention a better workout.
I often say, “Life is not a linear event, and our workouts shouldn’t be either!” To truly change the shape of our bodies and get strong both mentally and physically, we’ll need to move in the way we’re designed to – forward, laterally, diagonally, up and down using a variety of terrain.
Your Urban Gym
Choosing locations for your workouts can be a lot of fun. Whether you live downtown or in outskirts, once you start looking at your environment as a place of opportunity for exercise, so many possibilities come to life! Different locations offer different types of props and terrain. For example, if you live in the heart of the city, there is usually a square or area where people congregate. In San Francisco, there is Union Square, filled with concrete blocks for push ups and dips, steps and stairs for leg work, railings for pull ups, and grassy patches for core exercises. On the outskirts, there are a number of parks, promenades and playgrounds offering even more variety.
TIP—Checkout a map of your area. You’ll be surprised by how many parks, pathways and open areas that have always been there, you just didn’t know about them!
The Urban Gym – A Snapshot
Locations: Parks, plazas, playgrounds, stadiums, athletic fields, public walkways and paths, backyards
Props: Benches and tables. Curbs, concrete blocks and walls. Steps, stairs and bleachers. Stop signs, parking meters and lamp posts. Grass knolls, paved hills and sand pits. Playground apparatus and jungle gyms.
Environmental considerations for the Urban workout:
- Traffic and cars
- Pedestrian traffic
- Air quality: pollution, exhaust, unsavory smells
- Potholes and cracked or uneven concrete streets, sidewalks
- Dogs—and dog debris!
TIP – You’ll find the best time for an urban workout is in the morning when the streets are quiet, the air is fresher and you have locations to yourself.
How to do an Urban Workout – Cardio
Next month, I will post a total body urban workout (with video clips from our Athleta San Francisco store event!) that you can do on your own in any urban setting. Here, I’d like to address how you can incorporate steps and stairs for maximum results.
Amp-it-up with Steps and Stairs
Sure, you can get cardio just about anywhere with a long run or brisk walk. Here, I’d like to introduce you to steps & stairs for cardio conditioning and fat blasting.
Outdoor steps and stairs make excellent props for aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, leg strengthening and toning, as well as proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness training.
Techniques for Climbing
- Warm up for 5-10 minutes with walking and range-of-motion exercises for the ankles, knees and hips.
- When climbing uphill, the push of your legs should be directed to and through your center of gravity, which will add power and momentum.
- Incorporate entrainment: Your arms and elbows set the tempo for your legs. With elbows bent, set the tempo by pumping your arms into the slope of the hill.
- Breathe diaphragmatically to enhance the oxygen flow throughout the body, to relieve lactic acid burn and minimize its accumulation in the legs.
- Prevent lower back strain when ascending steps or stairs by tilting forward from the hips in a straight line with your back foot. Maintain a strong abdominal wall for support.
- Save energy and experience a more successful climb by using a technique called double-stepping. Develop a rhythm by lightly tapping both feet on the step in a right-left or left-right pattern. This pattern encourages consistency and will help to ease burning legs. With an alternating foot climbing pattern, the legs relax more, and receive more oxygenated blood to the muscles through lighter contractions.
May the Force be with You
- For advanced athletes, incorporate a rebound or impulse technique called ground reaction force. Rather than allowing the body’s energy to dissipate from under the foot to the surface of the step, use the impulse method. When the ball of the foot meets the surface of the step, use this energy to help spring up to the next step.
Techniques for Safe Descending
- To prevent spills, especially on wet surfaces, use the toe-heel technique. First, lower your foot onto the step and tap your toes and ball of the foot on the surface, then lightly snap your heel into the pocket of the step. As long as your heel makes contact with the surface, you will not stumble.
- Finesse is vitally important. To prevent slipping, use a softer touch through your feet. Too much pressure placed under the ball of the foot and you’re more likely to slip.
- Move straight down the steps and not across them.
For more tips, check out the Outdoor Fitness book – loaded with exercises and workouts for every outdoor environment – from the beaches of Maui, to Central Park in Manhattan!