My home for over eight years, Washington, DC, does more than a few things right in the fitness department. DC was ranked “America’s Fittest City” in 2016 for good reason. The city spends $287 per resident on its public parks! No matter where you are in the nation’s capital, you are within 2 miles of a public park where you can work out. There are also a plethora of hip (albeit pricey) fitness classes to attend at studios like Soul Cycle, PureBarre and SolidCore. But, what’s the city’s best kept secret? Answer: The 50 FREE fitness classes and meet ups you can attend every week! Here’s a guide for visitors and locals on how to find these hidden gems in our nation’s capital. I have also included my top 5 favorite outdoor workout spaces.
A startup company that I advise called Fitiverse helps DC residents find these free workouts across different fitness zones in the city. For example, there’s the ever-popular Nike Store in Georgetown that hosts jam-packed classes that you can check out. Also, if you are game for some friendly competition, you can register for free for Fletcher’s Cove weekly park run. This is a timed 5K run with 100 participants competing to see who can beat who and which runners can beat their time from the previous week. Don’t be intimidated! If you’re more into mind/body classes, DC has lots of options for you too. There are tons of yoga classes to check out. Not sure if you’re interested in any of the classes I already mentioned? No problem. Check out all of DC’s weekly fitness class offerings here: Fitiverse.
If a large group workout isn’t your thing, don’t be disheartened! DC is a “no excuse” zone because there are opportunities abound. If you want a traditional gym workout but don’t have the desire or means to pay for a big-box gym’s monthly membership, you can now exercise in one of 22 city-run fitness centers. (Yes, also for free). Or hit up one of my favorite workout spots with a buddy or solo (with a good playlist to motivate you).
Here are my top 5 favorite places to exercise outdoors in DC
1) The National Mall (duh)
Who wouldn’t enjoy running alongside the National Mall’s reflecting pool or pushing past tourists on a sprint up the Lincoln Memorial’s steps? The National Mall spans just under 2 miles in length, so a full loop is a great distance for a run or walk. If you’re into long distance running, I suggest you keep the pace going and run the loop of the tidal basin in front of the Jefferson Memorial or continue to follow the Potomac down the popular Cherry Blossom loop on Ohio Drive. If long-distance running isn’t your mojo, you can do sprint-walk intervals along the reflecting pool or push-ups and step-ups on any of the memorial’s steps. Just watch out for tourists with selfie sticks – they might trip over you!
2) “The 3 Paths” by The Four Seasons
This is my favorite lesser-known place in DC. The Four Seasons in Georgetown is nestled right beside an intersection of three amazing running routes. If you’re facing the hotel and go down the hill to the left, you will see a foot path. At the bottom of the hill, you have three convenient running/biking options: 1) The Canal Path, 2) Rock Creek Parkway (north towards the zoo), or 3) Rock Creek Parkway alongside the Potomac River and Kennedy Center. I love going down this path and seeing which direction my feet decide to go.
3) Meridian Hill Park
This lovely park makes its home between the Adams Morgan and U St. neighborhoods. Anyone who has been here on a weekend will know it for its famous drum circle. There is plenty of level space for workouts, Frisbee throwing and sun salutations. And picnics! The stairs alongside the beautiful stone fountain make for a heart-racing workout if you run up them and make laps around the park a few times.
4) Rock Creek Park
While it’s “against the rules” to run inside the National Zoo (ahem…I may have broken those rules a time or two), Rock Creek is truly wonderful near the zoo. The wooded paths make for a relaxing run, walk or bike, and the outdoor exercise equipment that is sprinkled along the path gives you a little something to get creative with.
5) The Exorcist Stairs
These stairs are iconic for their appearance in the box-office hit movie The Exorcist. They are truly as daunting as they sound, but the die-hard fitness fanatics LOVE them. Just a few times up and down these babies and your heart will be pounding. Suggestion: run up and then jog or walk a block around and down to repeat, instead of running down them. These bad boys can be treacherous, especially if you’re a little lightheaded. But they’re worth it…and conveniently close to Georgetown Cupcake.
It’s summertime and now you have one too many options for your next workout. I hope this helps you make the most of summer in the area and/or your next trip to this majestic and very fit city!
Yours in health and wellness,