“Fall” in Love with Outdoor Fitness by Sheryl Lynn Carvajal

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to working out and exercising, especially when life is busy, and we have tons of excuses as to why we don’t have time or energy.  Well, September 22nd was the first day of fall, and the weather is just starting to cool down in New England.  The record-breaking temperatures of the summer of 2012 have come to an end, and what better way to celebrate the beginning of fall than to liven up your workout and take it outdoors.

Boston is among the most active cities in the nation.  In fact, in 2011 Boston was ranked the third most active city in America based on the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Fitness Index.  There are so many places where people can take paths for running, biking, roller blading, etc.  But aside from those traditional outdoor exercise activities, Boston has a few spots where the city has implemented outdoor fitness systems.  They have been referred to by some people as “adult playgrounds,” and they contain equipment one would generally find in a gym that has been adapted for outdoor use.  Some examples include flat sit-up benches, incline benches where sit-ups and leg lifts can be done, and benches that have arms to do tricep dips.  These systems have many benefits for people in the Boston area: there is no membership fee, there is no intimidating atmosphere that some people feel in larger fitness facilities, and you get a dose of Vitamin D while being in the sun.

One of these adult playgrounds is located on the Charles River Esplanade near Boston University, and is accessible by the Green Line on the T.  It is just a short walk from the Blandford Street Stop on the B Train.  There is an area called the ParCourse FitCenter where people can go to work out.  I approached this area and was immediately intrigued by the big signs posted around the park showing different ways that the equipment can be used.

ParCourse FitCenter at Charles River Esplanade

There are four different series of exercises posted; the first one is for stretching, and the last three are for strength training.  I thought this was a great idea for novices to the world of working out.  For those who are not new to working out, the equipment can be used in many other ways, besides just those listed.  The activity area can also be useful for going back to basics by, for example, performing body weight exercises rather than using dumbbells and machines.  Since this area is on the Charles River, people can go for a nice long run or bike ride, and come to the ParCourse FitCenter to integrate strength training into their cardio routines.

The Charles River Esplanade isn’t the only place in Boston with an outdoor fitness system.  In East Boston, Piers Park also has different fitness equipment areas, as well as signs posted to help guide workouts.  Similar to the Charles River Esplanade, the East Boston Greenway is a large pedestrian loop that runs through Bremen Street Park, as well as Piers Park.  Students can access the Greenway and Piers Park from the Airport Station and Maverick Station stops on the T.  Several people use the East Boston Greenway to get their cardio action in, and what better way to add strength training into workouts than by making use of free gym equipment.

ParCourse FitCener at Piers Park in East Boston

If you don’t live near an area where you can easily access these parks, there are several other ways to get in your outdoor fitness.  Even if there are no pieces of equipment made specifically for exercise, you can make use of other things that are less conventional for working out.  Try using a park bench to do incline pushups, or using the steps of a playground to do some calf raises.  It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as you are having fun, enjoying the fall weather, and staying fit and healthy.

My less-conventional outdoor workout: setting up my TRX Suspension trainer on a pull up bar

Social media websites can help too.  I came across a website called http://outdoor-fitness.meetup.com/ where you can search for your city and find people to do group workouts with.  There are many resources available to help you stay out of a workout rut.

Now is the perfect time to enjoy the weather and stay ahead of the curve with health and fitness, especially with Halloween and Thanksgiving right around the corner!  It’s the perfect time to ‘fall’ in love with outdoor fitness.

Sheryl Lynn Carvajal is a first year Friedman student in the MS/MPH Program.  She is obsessed with football and loves anything and everything that has to do with being on the water.  She is a fitness professional/enthusiast and also loves Asian pears.

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