A man performs three exercises outside
New York Road Runners

A city park workout from a fitness pro

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Even if you’re not big on resolutions, the New Year is an opportunity to look at our health habits through fresh eyes. If you’ve got fitness on the mind but can’t muster much enthusiasm for the same old treadmill slog, try breaking your workout free of the gym: a city park or playground is the perfect place for an outdoor circuit routine, no matter what your personal goals may be.

Roberto Mandje is one pro athlete who’s embraced the park workout: an Olympian who’s lived, trained, and competed all over the globe, his favorite places to work out are still the public parks close to his New York City home. As a coach for New York Road Runners—the organization behind the world-famous TCS New York City Marathon—he’s also a part of a partnership with The Trust for Public Land to remake New York City schoolyards into healthy, green parks for everyone to enjoy.

Mandje bundled up and headed out to C.S. 154 in Harlem—one of the three schoolyards we completed together in 2017—to show us one of the New York Road Runners’ circuit routines.

Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Roberto Mandje’s 15-minute park circuit

Warmup

Slow jog: 5 to 10 minutes.

Dynamic stretches: Try leg swings, high kicks, and walking while pulling your knee to your chest.

Run a lap: After you’ve stretched, run another slow lap to shake out and prepare for the first circuit.

Circuit 1

Body squats: With arms at your side or on your head, squat while keeping your back straight. Aim to get your knees as close to 90 degrees as comfortably possible. Start with 3 to 5 reps and build.

High knees: Run in place, bringing your knees as high as possible. Start with 10 to 20 seconds and build.

Bench dips: Find a bench or other sturdy object and get in a sitting position. Support your body on your hands, placed slightly behind your hips. Then dip as low as you can before returning to your starting position. Start with 3 to 5 reps and build.

Run a lap: Run at a comfortable pace for 1 to 2 minutes to give your muscles a chance to recover.

Circuit 2

Bench step ups: Step up onto a bench or other sturdy object, alternating legs. Each time you step, drive the opposite leg up. Alternate legs until each leg has done 2 to 6 repetitions.

A man performs a bench step upBench step upsPhoto credit: New York Road Runners

Pullups: Find a strong structure (like monkey bars) and complete as many pullups as you can comfortably do. You can also try assisted pullups by jumping slightly or, if the bar is low enough, leaving your feet on the ground.

Superman planks: Begin on your hands and knees (easier) or in the plank position (more challenging). Raise your right arm and left leg, hold for a breath, and return. Then repeat with left arm and right leg. Alternate back and forth for 3 to 5 repetitions.

A man performs a superman plankSuperman plankPhoto credit: New York Road Runners

Run a lap: Same as in the previous circuit.

Circuit 3

Split leg squat (on bench): Using a bench or sturdy object place one leg behind you on the bench with the other leg firmly on the ground a bit in front of you. Bend down as if you were squatting before coming back up. After 3 to 5 repetitions, switch legs and repeat.

A man performs a split leg squatSplit leg squatPhoto credit: New York Road Runners

Butt kicks: Jogging in place, kick your heels back to strike your glutes. Start with 10 to 15 seconds and build.

Burpees: Start standing, drop into a high push-up, then spring up back to your feet and jump as high as you can with your arms over your head. When you land, drop back down to the push-up position and repeat. Start with 3 to 5 repetitions.

A man performs a burpeeBurpeesPhoto credit: New York Road Runners

Run a lap: Same as in the previous circuit.

You're done: Congratulations, and pat yourself on the back!

Have you found a way to take your fitness routine to the park? Tell us about it! Leave a comment or join us on Facebook.

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