If you’re looking for an outdoor StairMaster, the metro escalator isn’t your only option.
We know it too well: Unless you’re climbing Massachusetts Ave or exiting Rockcreek Parkway, sometimes it’s hard to find a decent hill in the city. Luckily, you can still fire those glutes by working stair intervals into your routine. We’re sure you’ve ran a few sprints on the Watergate Steps (you probably just didn’t know the name), but there are a few other scenic climbs to try. Just do not—we repeat, do not—run sprints on the memorials. You’re classier than that.
Here are five stair workouts better than the metro. (Plus, it’s a lot easier to focus on your workout when you’re not asking tourists to stand to the right.)
No, you’re not in Rome, but this gem hidden between Decatur Place and S Street is just as beautiful. Built in 1911, the Spanish Steps are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They make for a popular location wedding and date night spot—but we think it’s the perfect place for your next set of hill sprints.
If you’ve ever gone bike riding or running on Rockcreek (which we all know you have), chances are you’ve run by the Watergate Steps. This is the perfect place to complete a stair workout—and you’ll be in good company. These steps, just a stone’s throw from the Lincoln Memorial, are always filled with athletes fitting a few intervals in mid-run.
That’s not a creepy name at all, now is it? Named for the 1971 movie The Exorcist, these steps form the shortcut between Prospect St. and M in Georgetown. [Fun fact: During filming, Georgetown University students charged people $5 to watch from their rooftops.] Ignore the StairMaster, and try your next glute workout on this official (Fitt-certified legit) DC landmark—and don’t forget to do your pull-ups at the bottom of the steps!
With an ounce of creativity, you can always find a workout to do in Meridian Hill Park (even if that workout involves participating in a snowball fight mid-winter). The multiple levels of stairs lining Meridian Hill are no joke. For an extra-killer workout, complete a Meridian Hill lap: Climb the steps, sprint across the field behind the Joan of Arc statue, then run down the other side—that’s one round.
You may have to play a game of Frogger between the tourists, but the National Gallery of Art makes for a great stair workout. Yes, it’s a short climb, but you can mix up those short bursts with side-steps, two-legged hops, and even running backward. Do your warm-up on The Mall, then move your workout to the stairs.
The community center in Shaw (right across the street from Howard) may just be one of the nicest DPR facilities in the area. There’s an all-weather track where you can run intervals (with lights for when the days get short), tennis courts open to the public, and an outdoor pool. Built into the hillside are cement stadium steps—which are the perfect place for a circuits. You’ll see personal trainers and bootcamps gathering before work and into the evening for an outdoor workout. Claim your set of bleachers, and get after it.
If you’re over by Brookland, it’s hard to miss the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. If you’ve never heard of it, a pretty important character visited there in fall of 2015 (starts with Pope, ends with Francis…, you get the idea). You’ll see students and residents alike jogging in and around campus. So explore up-and-coming Brookland, and take a few sprints up the Basilica Steps.
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