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Make Columbia's Campus Your Gym

By Mathew Katz | August 13, 2013 1:31pm
  Stay fit and get outside with these exercises tailored to the Columbia campus.
Columbia Campus Fitness
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MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Columbia University's bleak underground gym in the Dodge Fitness Center isn't a fan favorite.

The equipment is decent and the staff is friendly, but there are no windows and a run around the track can be depressing.

Luckily, Columbia's iconic Beaux-Arts campus offers a spectacular place to exercise while getting a little sun and fresh air in the warmer months. Take in the architectural scenery as you sweat in front of Butler Library or St. Paul's Chapel, all while burning some calories and keeping the dreaded Freshman 15 at bay (the 15 pounds that many people find they gain during their freshman year).

The workout below should last roughly a half an hour and takes advantage of some of Columbia's most iconic spots.

WARM UP — Easy Lap Around Campus: Starting at the school's entrance at West 116th Street and Broadway, jog through the center of campus to Amsterdam Avenue, down to West 114th Street, across to Broadway, then back up to West 116th Street.

Up the stairs, Rocky Balboa-style — Just like the Sly Stallone character, you could be a contender if you do enough of these steps. At a brisk pace, run up and down the stairs to Low Library. While not quite as many steps as Rocky's steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, about 20 or so laps should give you a good workout — just be careful to avoid anyone sitting on them. For an added challenge, skip some steps.

Lateral Hops — The chains that hang just a few inches off the ground and separate the pavement from the green grass in front of Low Library are the perfect height to do some side-to-side lateral hops. Hop quickly from side to side over the the chains to work on your speed and tone your legs. Just make sure it's at a time of day when you're allowed on the grass, otherwise you might get nasty looks from campus security.

Backpack Overhead Lunges — You just spent hundreds of dollars on textbooks that you'll probably never touch after this semester, but will weigh down your backpack as you walk around campus. Get a bit more value — and some burn in your quads — by hoisting your bag overhead and lunging either forward and back. Make sure to keep your arms locked out the entire time to get a good workout for the whole body.

Use that bench — The benches throughout Columbia's campus can make great workout tools. For an added challenge to your regular push-up, elevate your feet by placing them on the bench. Make sure your chest touches the ground during every rep, otherwise it doesn't count.

Benches can also be used for dips. Hold yourself up on the bench in a reverse plank, then  lower your body, in a controlled motion, until your arms reach a 90-degree angle. Push out and repeat.

Scaffolding Pull-ups — Construction is a constant at the Columbia Campus, but you can use the scaffolding that goes along with it to your advantage — the beams make great pull-up bars. Just make sure the scaffolding is stable before you jump up on. 

As with any pull-up, your goal is to get your chin above the bar. If you really want to make it a challenge, wear your backpack — full of heavy textbooks — while you do these.