Time: 45-60 minutes
Location: Urban Neighborhood or Downtown Plaza
Props: Steps and stairs, low wall or bench, and a curb or parking stop.
Purpose: Muscular Strength and Endurance, Cardio, Full Body and Core Strength, Multi-Directional Movement, Balance and Agility, Proprioceptive Awareness, Kinesthetic Awareness, Mental Focus. The props you’ll need for this multi-site workout are things you’ll find in any small or large city: a parking meter or a pole such as a stop sign, a bench or a block, a curb or a low parking stop. You can re-arrange the sequence of strength exercises to make them fit with your particular environment, and the order in which you find your props. Also, keep in mind that the workout moves from Station to Station, so each exercise falls under a particular station or site.
Tip: The best time to do an urban or downtown workout is early morning. The air is fresh, the streets are quiet, and you will feel as though you have the whole city to yourself.
Stage 1: Warm up 5-10 minutes
Joint Lubrication: Rotate all of your joints 3 times, in each direction. For example, begin with your ankles, rotating them in big circles, then move up to your knees with an out-and-back motion, and then up to your hips, with more circles. Include your wrists, elbows and shoulders.
Cardio Walk or Run to Station: Continue warming up with a fast walk or a slow jog for 5-10 minutes, gradually bringing your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE – a scale that is 1-10) to 6, a low aerobic level. Take a moment to stretch your hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves—anything that may feel tight.
Stage 2: Exercises 20 minutes
Perform each exercise for 60 seconds or 30 second per side. Repeat series as you become stronger.
1. WIDE-LEGGED SQUAT WITH OVERHEAD REACH
Tip: Observe how your lungs open up when you reach overhead and inhale at the same time.
Easier: Lower your hips only a couple of inches.
Harder: Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and pause at the bottom of the move for 1-3 counts before returning to your starting position.
2. HILL SQUATS
Works: Glutes, hamstrings, adductors, balance, environmental integration
Props: A sloping section of grass, sand, dirt, sidewalk, or ramp
Starting position: From the basic athletic stance, position your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width apart with toes angling outward from the heels. Align your body with the fall line—facing down the slope, with your body weight distributed evenly between both heels.
Action: Inhale as you lower your hips pressing your tailbone back as far as you can (without collapsing at the waist), keeping your knees aligned over your ankles. Lower your hips so your knees form a 45° angle. Pause for a moment. Exhale as you press up through the heels to the starting position.
Harder: Lower until your knees are at a 90° angle.
3. PUSH UP
Works: Pectorals, Anterior Deltoids, Core Stability
Props: Bench, low wall, curb, log, boulder, or any flat surface
I think this is the best all-around upper body toner because, it not only works your chest muscles as primary movers, it calls upon your shoulders, arms, serratus muscles and abdominals to play supporting roles.
Starting Position: Place your hands on the prop just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Step back to a distance that elongates your backside in a straight line from your heels to your head.
Action: Inhale as you slowly lower your body until your mid-chest is a few inches from the prop. Pause. Exhale and press firmly through your hands back to the starting position.
Easier: Use a taller prop to lean on like a wall, large tree, fence or a picnic table.
Harder: Use flat ground or go inverted by placing your feet on a log, bench, or step and hands on the ground.
Works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Balance
Props: A curb, root, berm or step with a three to 8 inch rise
Start out practicing this exercise on flat ground, and then you can add a curb or step to place your back toes on for more challenge.
Starting Position: From the athletic stance, step back into a long split stance, resting your right foot, toes down, heel up on the surface of the prop. Place your hands on your hips and distribute your weight evenly between your front heel and the back toes.
Action: Inhale, as you lower your hips until your left forward knee is at a 45°angle. Keep your eyes focused forward, your ribs lifted and your shoulders square; don’t collapse your upper body forward. Keep your knee inline with your ankle and exhale as you press back up through your front heel and your back toes.
Harder: Lower your hips until your forward knee is at a 90° angle. Place your hands behind your head, elbows out to the side.
5. FULL-BODY TRICEPS DIP
Works: Triceps, deltoids, abdominals, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes
Props: Bench, log, low wall, step
Starting Position: From a seated position, place your hands hip-width apart, palms down and fingertips forward along the edge of the bench. Extend your legs in front of you, knees slightly bent and feet flexed against the ground.
Action: Lift your right leg stick-straight out in front of you. Begin to lower your body as you curl your right knee toward your chest to engage your abs. As you return to the starting position, press firmly through your palms and left heel to engage your triceps, as well as your glutes and hamstrings.
Focal Points: Keep your tailbone very close to the bench as you lift and lower.
6. SINGLE-LEG DIP
Works: Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Glutes, Joint Stability, Proprioception, Balance
Props: Flat Ground or Prop
This is an excellent exercise for building proprioception and balance. It also does a great job at strengthening the ankle, knee, and hip joints.
Starting Position: Stand on the flat ground. Take a deep breath to get quiet and centered. Find a focal point in the distance and stay focused on that point. Next, ground down through your left foot and draw your right foot forward, about 12-15 inches off the ground. Bring your hands together in the palm-to-palm position.
Action: Inhale as you bend your left knee, sinking down through your hips, and balancing through your foot and aligning the center of your knee with your second toe. Exhale up pressing through your big toe, little toe and heel.
Easier: Only bend your knee an inch or two.
Harder: Lower greater than 45 degrees.
7. “REVERSE” PULL UP
Works: Upper back, Lats, Deltoids, Biceps
Props: Low gate, monkey bar, or tree limb
A pull up is tough, but reversing it so the lowering part is the resistance phase makes it easier and will strengthen your muscles just as effectively.
Starting Position: Grip the bar or limb with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you. Walk your feet out until your body is elongated and your knees are nearly straight, but not locked, balancing on your heels.
Action: Exhale as you pull your self up until your chest touches, or nearly touches, the bar. Hold for a count. Inhale as you SLOWLY lower your body back down until you feel the lengthening in your back muscles.
Easier: Get a little help from your legs by bending them and placing your feet a bit flatter. Remember, you’ll get stronger by SLOWLY lowering your body back to start.
Stage 3: Cardio! 5-10 minutes
8. LATERAL INCLINE PRESS: 1-2 minutes
Works: Inner and outer thighs, Hips, Glutes, Legs, Cardio
Props: Do these presses up an incline or up steps and stairs
Starting Position: Begin with the athletic stance, firmly press your palms together with your elbows level.
Action: Take a wide step out laterally, onto your right foot; weight both feet evenly. Inhale, pressing your tailbone back, while lowering only slightly (no more than a 45° bend at the knees). Exhale as you press through the arch of your left foot—big toe-to-heel–back to the starting position. Continue moving for a series of 20-30 steps, pressing firmly through the arch of the left foot—big toe to heel. Alternate between moving right and left.
Easier: Don’t lower your tailbone more than a couple of inches.
Harder: Lower your hips until you have a 45° bend at the knees and stay in this lower position throughout the entire exercise.
9. STEP LUNGES: 1-2 minutes
Works: Glutes, hamstrings, adductors, quadriceps, calves, hip-flexors, abdominals and core stability, deltoids, triceps, balance, kinesthetic awareness, mental focus
Props: Incline and Stairs
Action: Tighten your abs as you take a long step forward onto your left foot, so that your left knee forms a 45-90° angle and your right knee is pointed down towards the ground. Inhale as you sink down, leaning into the hill and maintaining even balance and weight distribution between both feet. Next, exhale as you push through your right toes drawing your right knee up to the next step. Continue traveling, as you alternate legs.
Tip: To protect your low back, keep your back straight and lean into the incline of the slope from your hips.
Quick Tip: Lunges
Lunges are probably the most effective lower-body exercise around. They strengthen and tone your legs, hips and glutes. When you add an upper body move like an upright row or overhead press, you also work your core. What’s more, every time you do a set of lunges your heart rate will land smack-dab in the middle of your aerobic zone. Every time!
10. DIAGONAL STRIDE: 1-2 minutes
Works: Glutes, abductors, adductors, calves, balance
Props: Inclines, ramps, hills, stairs
Think skater and get low to use your glutes and legs for this powerful exercise. Don’t let momentum do the work here.
Starting Position: Facing up the hill or steps, take a long step up the hill with your left foot, into a diagonal stride—with your right elbow forward and in line with your left knee.
Action: Lean into the hill, with your body weight evenly distributed between both feet. Slowly lower your hips until you can feel pressure under the heel and arch of your left foot and the big toe and ball of your right foot. Exhale as your press off the big toe and ball of your right foot to engage the adductors of the inner thigh. Step the feet together, and alternate with the other leg, using your arms to set the tempo and to assist you with power in your stride.
Harder: As you lift, move more quickly, brushing the lifted knee and ankle just past the support leg.
Focal Points: Move across your fall line in a zig zag
11. CARDIO BLAST RPE 8-9, 2-3 minutes
Let ‘er rip! You’ll spike your metabolism with several rounds on the stairs to get your heart rate up and blast some calories. Take off slowly. Gradually build your RPE to 8 or 9 by pumping your arms to set your tempo. Work on your quickness and agility by hitting every step on the way up and the way down. Use the down trips to recover completely.
Stage 4: Cool Down 5- 10 Minutes
12. CARDIO COOL DOWN RPE 5
You’re almost done with this challenging workout! Head back to your starting point, holding at an RPE of 5. Use your low and slow breathing to wash your body with oxygen and clear out any lactic acid. Also, use this segment to clear your body and your mind of any tension.
~ Bonus Exercise ~
PARKING METER PRESS
I call this exercise the parking meter press, but in reality it can be done virtually anywhere, with a variety of props. In the mountains, I use trees. At the beach I use the lifeguard stand. You can also use playground structures, stop signs, flag poles, and fence posts.
Works: Glutes and hamstrings—intensely!
Props: Parking meter, post, wall, tree
Starting Position: Wedge the ball of your left foot up against the base of the meter by bracing your toes against pole so that your heel is planted firmly on the ground. Standing straight, lace the fingers of both hands around the pole at the height of your navel. Hook your right foot around your left ankle.
Action: Sit back as far as you can, so that your arms are straight and your left knee forms about a 45 – degree angle. With your left heel supporting all of your weight, press up through it, allowing your tailbone to rise only about 3-4 inches, before you slowly return to starting position.
Harder: Bend your knee to 90-degrees. Extend the time and the repetitions.
Tip: Be sure to support yourself through your heel and not with your arms. By pressing firmly through your heel and leaning away from the pole, you ensure that you’re working the correct area—the spot where your glutes and hamstrings come together.