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Washington, DC has no shortage of excellent gyms and studios to satisfy all of your fitness needs. But sometimes, all your body really needs is a change of scenery. For those times when you need a good sweat in the great outdoors, look no further than these accessible and fit-friendly outdoor spots that will rival any equipment-filled gym workout, any day of the week.
Nestled right next to the hustle and bustle of U Street N.W., you’ll find Meridian Hill Park… and all the stairs your legs can handle. But these aren’t your ordinary city stairs. The park is a tree-filled, architectural gem and you’ll be stepping your way through it all. Enter the park at the intersections of Florida Avenue N.W. and either 15th or 16th streets to start at the bottom of stair-climbing glory. Bonus: The top of the park is a flat rectangle which serves as a great mini track if you find yourself in need of a break from stair running. There are also grassy areas and park benches galore, so feel free to incorporate those bodyweight exercises, dips, step-ups, and whatever else is in your workout-du jour.
Running through Rock Creek Park is one of the many perks of being a runner or cyclist in the city, but the trail accommodates more than just cardio enthusiasts. The Exercise Course begins on the path right below the Calvert Street exit. The area is filled with benches, bars, wooden boxes, and more. Every station and piece of equipment along the 1.5-mile course is accompanied by a sign that outlines suggested exercises, but we recommend getting creative! As an added bonus, the steep running path next to the start of the Exercise Trail (leading up to Calvert Street) is sure to kick your butt and get that heart a-pumpin’.
Looking for another set of serious stairs to climb? Head to the Lincoln Memorial, located on the National Mall. To get from the reflection pool to the upper chamber (where the statue of Lincoln sits) you’ll have to climb 87 steps. If you want to avoid the packs of tourists, go early in the morning or climb the stairs on the backside of the monument, which you can get to from the Rock Creek Park trail.
Horizontal and parallel bars, incline and decline benches, steps: you name it, the Arlington Calisthenics Park-Arlington Heights has it. This full-service parkour course is perfect for when you want to get in a strength training or bootcamp session while soaking up some vitamin D. So grab your sneakers and a water bottle and get ready to sweat!
Ever wish you could take the elliptical or stationary bike and put it right outside? The Fitness Station at Anacostia Park is one step ahead. The Fitness Station is complete with a squat press, a lat pull, a rowing machine, bars and ladders, and yes, even an elliptical cross-trainer and exercise bikes. The Fitness Station is on the southeast side of the Anacostia River, near the intersection of Anacostia Street and Nicholson Street S.E. Maybe this means the elliptical will be a little less boring.
High-intensity cardio kind of your thing? Looking to run some hills? Stretch out those quads and head to Georgetown! Cecil Place, situated perpendicular to the Georgetown Waterfront and right next to Wisconsin Avenue, is a short distance but a long way up. For a longer option, start at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street N.W. and head north on Wisconsin Avenue towards Dumbarton Oaks. Really, we hope you like hills. And if you need to add a set of steep stairs to this hilly routine, find the Exorcist Stairs, which are a set of 75 concrete steps, located between M and Prospect Streets at 36th Street NW.
Once your legs have had enough of the Georgetown hills, let your arms in on the action! Rent a kayak and spend the afternoon rowing on the Potomac. It’s a great way to cool down and work your upper body while taking in the beauty of the Potomac and the Georgetown Waterfront.
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