The Outside Blog

Adventure : Fitness

Active Cities: Seattle

Join Seattle’s active set for runs, rides, paddles, and more in one of North America’s most scenic cities. 

Trail Run

Discovery Park: Just ten minutes northwest from downtown, Discovery Park’s 534 acres make you feel like you’re tucked away in the mountains. The 11-mile trail system passes through pine forest, rainforest, and a grassy meadow overlooking Puget Sound and Seattle itself.

Run

Washington Park Arboretum: For runs of a few miles, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the Arboretum, with its mix of paved and dirt paths that wind from E Madison to Foster Island in Lake Washington. Need more mileage? Head across the Montlake Cut and hook up with the Burke Gilman Trail, a 27-mile paved bike and pedestrian trail that runs west, along Lake Union and the Shipping Canal, or north, toward Kenmore. 

Road Bike

Mercer Island Loop: This classic ride for downtown cyclists begins by pedaling about three miles out to Mercer Island on the I-90 Trail bike path. Once you reach the end, turn left or right to follow the smooth, rolling road that circumnavigates the island for roughly 13.5 miles.

Kayak or SUP

Lake Union: Bordered by Gas Works Park on the north, downtown Seattle on the south, and large steel bridges to the west and east, Lake Union is the city’s protected watersports pool. Rent paddleboards or kayaks by the hour at Moss Bay, on the south end of Lake Union (it’s closest to downtown). If you want to fuel up on one of the best breakfast burritos in town, rent from Agua Verde Paddle Club and Café, near the University of Washington.

Explore

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park: It’s only a 20-minute drive east of downtown, but this 3,100-acre park, which tops out at 1,595 feet, offers sweeping views of Seattle to the west, and of the Cascade Mountains to the east. It also offers more than 38 miles of trails leading to creeks, waterfalls, mountaintops, and marshes.

Work Out

Seattle Athletic Club: This downtown gym doesn’t go in for the most cutting-edge equipment and expensive decor. It just aims to give you what you need for a solid session on the machines or some serious laps in the pool. Day passes can be had for as little as $15.

Gear Up

REI: The company’s flagship store, just north of downtown Seattle, is where the outdoor industry giant got its start. This is a tourist attraction in its own right as well. If you’re using the city as a launching point for adventures throughout the northwest, you’ll find what you need here. And don’t forget to visit REI’s basement level for killer deals on gently used merchandise.

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Active Cities: New York City

It's a concrete jungle, but sneaking in a workout is easier than you think. Here's an athlete's guide to the Big Apple. 

Trail Run

Central Park: Yes, it's cliché. But the 1.5-mile cinder track around the reservoir is arguably the greatest urban run in the world, with majestic skyscraper views at every step.

Road Run

Hudson River Greenway: The five-mile stretch of smooth asphalt from Battery Park to 59th Street offers incredible people watching and a light breeze off the water to keep you cool.

Swim

The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers: The 25-yard pool has a wall of windows that look out on the World Trade Center. $50 per day for pool and gym access; chelseapiers.com

Road Ride

Palisades Parkway: Starting just south of the George Washington Bridge, the 36-mile out-and-back through Fort Lee Historic Park up to the artsy suburb of Nyack is a rolling, tree-lined ride that climbs 1,400 feet.

Explore

Governors Island: Run or bike the 2.2-mile waterfront around the 172-acre former military base and take in views of New York Harbor. Bike rentals from $15; bikenewyorkcity.com

Stay

Element Times Square by Westin: Take advantage of discounted parking for hybrid and electric vehicles at this modern hotel. Once settled, you can head out on one of the hotel's free loaner bikes. From $134; elementtimessquare.com

Work Out

Circuit of Change: This catchall fitness studio near Union Square starts its workouts with yoga, then transitions into a full-body cardio circuit, abdominal exercises, and kickboxing. From $20 per session.

Gear Up

Paragon Sports: Whether you want to scale a mountain, train for an Ironman, or find a surfboard, this is the one place that has everything—and has for decades.

Citi Bike: With 332 stations and more than 6,000 bikes spread across Manhattan and Brooklyn, the city's bike-share program is the largest and most convenient in the country. $10 per day, $25 per week; citibikenyc.com

What the Locals Have to Say

Local Pros: Rebeccah and Laurel Wassner, triathletes, Manhattan

"In the summer, we head to the Red Hook pool in Brooklyn—a ten-minute taxi ride from the financial district. It's a huge 40-meter outdoor pool with lane lines, a rarity in the city. For long runs, we'll start at city hall and link the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges. As a nine-plus-mile out-and-back, it's a killer."

Local Joe: Rufus Lusk, film producer and director, Brooklyn 

"I literally moved to be closer to Brooklyn Boulders climbing gym. At night there are really good climbers, and it's fun to work on hard routes. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the gym opens at seven, and there's hardly anyone there."

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Active Cities: Denver

As you’d expect from one of the fittest states in the nation, Colorado’s capital has everything you need to get—and stay—in shape for any adventure.

Run

Washington Park: “Wash Park” is metropolitan Denver’s outdoor gym. The 2.25-mile road that circumnavigates the park is closed to cars (with the exception of two short sections) throughout the year, which makes its undulating terrain ideal for speed work. The 2.75-mile shaded gravel track around the perimeter attracts hundreds of runners a day. Use one of the city’s B-Cycle bike share rigs to ride to the park and back: there are stations on both the north and south sides of the park.

Road Bike

Cherry Creek Trail: Where else can you hop on a bike downtown and go for a near-30-mile out-and-back ride without dealing with any cars, stoplights, or stop signs? That’s the beauty of this route. It ends at Cherry Creek State Park, where a pleasant 9.5-mile loop around the reservoir exposes you only to two stoplights and roads with 25-mile-an-hour speed limits.

Kayak

Clear Creek White Water Park: Smack-dab in the middle of Golden, there’s a quarter-mile of drops, surf waves, and fast eddies that make up this urban kayaking park. Leave your car at the put-in at Lions Park, or downstream at the takeout near Vanover Park. Rent a kayak, paddle, and all your other gear at Golden River Sports, located three blocks north of the whitewater area.

Explore

Red Rocks Amphitheater: One of America’s most scenic concert venues is also one of Denver’s top escapes for killer workouts or for beautiful trail runs, hikes, and mountain-bike rides. On weekend mornings, you might rub elbows with a local pro athlete—and several dozen other supremely fit individuals—jumping up (and back down) all 69 rows of the amphitheater.

Work Out

Pura Vida: Call it the city gym that looks and feels like a high-end destination spa. This is where Denver’s beautiful people go to get, well, beautiful. Located in the heart of the Cherry Creek shopping district, Pura Vida has classes for fitness junkies of every stripe, from the mellow program called Thai Chi to the superintense all-around strength and conditioning classes held in the Underground. Each visit costs $20.

Gear Up

REI: The gear nirvana’s gigantic downtown-Denver store sits at the junction of three choice running and biking escapes—the Cherry Creek Trail, the South Platte River Trail, and West 23rd Avenue. This makes REI a popular meeting place for recreational athletes of every kind. Find all you need—including a canoe to float the adjacent South Platte River in proper style—within the retailer’s walls. Its proximity to hip restaurants in the Highlands area is another big plus.

 

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Daydream Yourself to a New Personal Best

It’s six in the morning on a Saturday and your alarm is blaring. Will you sleep in or get after it? According to the latest research from the University of New Hampshire, daydreaming about your last hike will get you out the door.

In a study published by ScienceDaily.com, 150 students were asked to recall either a positive or negative memory about past exercise. A third group of students were not asked to think about a motivating memory. A week later, all of the students were surveyed to take a look at their exercise adherence in relation to the type of memories they recalled. 

The verdict? Thinking about positive memories, like that time you crushed your marathon PR, serves you best when it comes to getting outside. Negative memories—surprisingly—weren’t far behind. “The act of thinking about exercise, whether it's positive or negative, means you're already engaged in the concept,” says Jonathan Katz, sports psychologist and managing partner at High Performance Associates. “Not thinking about it is a way of distancing yourself psychologically from the activity as much as possible.”

To make the most of your memory motivation, Duncan Simpson, Ph.D., sports psychologist, says to make a “success list” about previous exercise successes such as your first triathlon or favorite trail run. To rein in each memory’s power, use vivid imagery to play back the exercise experience “story” in your mind. “For this technique to be most effective, the image must be vivid (incorporate as many senses as possible), and control the image in terms of timing and realism,” says Simpson.

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Smile for the Finish: Kenenis Bekele in Pursuit of World Marathon Record

Great track runners don’t always make great marathoners, but on Sunday, 31-year-old Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele won the Paris Marathon in 2:05:03, which makes him one of the fastest first-time marathoners in history. Bekele is the world record holder at 5,000 (12:37) and 10,000 meters (26:17), and suddenly he looks like an odds-on contender to take a crack at the current world marathon record, 2:03:23, held by Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang.

Track fans have been speculating about Bekele’s move to the marathon for at least a decade, ever since he broke Haile Gebrselassie’s 5,000 and 10,000 world records, won his first of nine world and Olympic titles, and compelled Geb to move up to the marathon. After a few sluggish races, Geb eventually knocked almost a minute off the previous record and became the first man ever to run a marathon under 2:04. If Geb could do that, people wondered, what could Bekele do in the marathon?

Sunday’s race suggests that Kipsang better guard his mark carefully. On its face, a 2:05 marathon in this era isn’t that impressive: nine men ran faster last year alone. But Bekele is unlike today’s top marathoners, most of whom have come to the event without spending years honing their speed on the track. And track racing may be a slight disadvantage.

Recently, as marathon times have plummeted, some coaches have argued that prolonged shorter-distance racing forces runners to optimize fuel consumption for speed instead of efficiency, which is paramount in the marathon. Lots of fast runners don't make the transition well: Zersenay Tadese, the world record holder in the half-marathon, has never run a marathon under 2:10. Likewise, it took Deena Kastor—who holds the American women’s record at 2:19—six attempts to break 2:21. That trend holds true for plenty of other elites, too. (Next weekend in London, we'll see how well Mo Farah, the reigning Olympic and World champion at 5,000 and 10,000 meters, fares in his marathon debut. Unlike Bekele, Farah will test himself against both the distance and one of the best marathon fields ever assembled.)

So there was a risk that Bekele, who has spent 15 years training for 5,000 and 10,000 races, would struggle to run a fast marathon. And at age 31, with only a few top races to his name since 2009, it was possible that he simply never would. That’s no longer a concern. And given the course—compared to Berlin, Rotterdam, or London, Paris is somewhat hilly—and the lack of competition Bekele faced over the final 15 kilometers, there's room for him to go significantly faster. On the letsrun.com message boards, posters have been speculating that Bekele might soon become the first man to run under 2:03. The smart money is rarely on an aging runner with a history of injury problems, but after Paris, betting on a world record for Bekele by year’s end wouldn’t be stupid, either.

And if not in 2014, maybe next year. Last week, Bekele’s manager, Jos Hermens, told the New York Times that Bekele has recently been distracted by business projects in Addis Ababa. “He has to get his act together, and stay motivated and forget about business and run for five or six years,” Hermens said. 

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