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Free Exercise in New York City

By Kristi Molinaro | August 17, 2012 5:58pm | Updated on August 17, 2012 6:00pm

NEW YORK CITY — Want to ward off the "Freshman 15" and get a taste of the city while doing it?

You'll likely be spending plenty of time inside classrooms and studying indoors. So why not get some fresh air and learn about the city while getting a workout — on the cheap, of course.

You can take in harbor views and city breezes on the great jogging and bicycling paths along the Hudson and East rivers and in Riverside and Central parks. There are also basketball courts and plenty of options for ultimate Frisbee or flag football pickup games.

For more intrepid urban adventurers, the season for free kayaking and rowing extends into the fall at many boathouses along the Hudson River and elsewhere.

Exercise classes are often held in Central Park during the warmer months.
Exercise classes are often held in Central Park during the warmer months.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

But if you go out in the cold, make sure to dress in layers, because you will warm up pretty quickly.

Here are some tips to avoid gyms and enjoy the city while still getting a great, sweaty workout:


- Riverside Park: Enter at 115th street and Riverside Drive, near Columbia University and it’s a straight 2-mile run to West 72nd Street for a scenic workout along the Hudson. The paths in Riverside Park are mostly flat and smooth with some gentle hills along the historic stone retaining wall. There may be some dog walkers or strollers to watch out for. To amp up the workout, there are some stairs to run up and down.

- Central Park: The iconic 843-acre park runs from 59th to 110th streets and has routes of varying lengths — all of which are perfect for jogging and biking. Many runners have a soft spot for doing loops around the serene reservoir (entrance at Fifth Avenue and East 90th Street), since the gravel along the 1.58-mile path is easier on the joints. For an extra kick, you can do some side shuffles (common in basketball and practices for other sports) at the Central Park Reservoir, facing the water for one loop and facing out toward the trees for the next. There's also Central Park Drive, or the “Big Loop,” which spans 6.1 miles in the park and includes some challenging hills.

- Hudson River Park: The sleek Hudson River Park stretches five miles from Battery Park City to West 59th Street and offers bikers and joggers views of the Hudson and cutting edge architecture in neighborhoods like Chelsea, the Meatpacking District and West Village.

- East River Waterfront Esplanade, Lower Manhattan to E. 38th Street:  The greenway along the East River starts at the tip of Manhattan and heads up to East 38th Street — though city officials are hoping to eventually have a continuous greenway up the East Side. The city is in the midst of revitalizing large chunks of this esplanade, starting with the 3.5-mile stretch from South Street Seaport up to East 23rd Street.

- East River Waterfront Esplanade, 59th to 125th streets: The esplanade picks up again at East 59th Street, where you can go for a five-mile run up to East 96th Street or keep going for a longer workout up to East 125th Street. Many East Siders have been advocating for the city to improve this stretch of the esplanade with stunning waterfront views that is crumbling in some parts and narrow in others.


You can turn any public park into an al fresco gym, jogging to get there and taking a brisk walk home to cool down.

Several people enjoyed a recent game of beach volleyball inside Central Park. The park has numerous amenities that are free of charge.
Several people enjoyed a recent game of beach volleyball inside Central Park. The park has numerous amenities that are free of charge.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

Here's a way to make the most of an outdoor workout in 20 minutes:

1.   You can find any bench or step to use for 20 push-ups with your hands in the wide position.

2.   If the bench or stair is sturdy enough, do 35 step-ups, by stepping up with your left foot followed by your right. Then step down with your left foot and follow with your right.

3.   Now it's time for 15 push-ups with narrow arms on the bench to work the back of your arms. 

4.   Then, do 35 step-ups, this time starting with your right foot.

5.   Use the bench for 30 dips using your left arm. Sit on the bench and place your left hand so it's close to your hips. Push the heels of your hand into the bench and straighten your arm so that your hips lift off the bench and move slightly forward.  Then bend your elbow so that your hips dip below the bench and your arms form a 90-degree angle and straighten back up.

6.   35 squat thrusts or burpees: Squat down and place your palms flat on the ground (take care to watch for broken glass or other trash), then hop or step into a plank position. Hop or step your feet back to your hands, and then hop or step back up. This can be done on the ground or with your hands on bench for an easier approach.

7.   30 Right arm tricep dips.

8.   Back to 25 squat thrusts or burpees.

9.   Finish with a decline plank for 30 to 60 seconds, with your feet on the bench and hands on the ground.