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Walking and Running Tips for City Dwellers

Get a Great Workout in an Urban Landscape

-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
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City Fitness Tip: The bigger the park, the better your workouts, as it will give you more places to explore and more foliage to release cleaner air. Check out your local parks and recreation department online. Most cities will list all of their parks, including its amenities (like bathrooms and drinking fountains), hours and features. This allows you to find the best open area for you and your workout, and it might also allow you to discover an entirely new place to walk or run. There may be a hidden gem just a few blocks away that you've never stumbled upon!
  2. Run in the place where you live. While parks are great for getting away, sometimes straying from the park can be a good thing when you need variety or a change of pace (pun intended). Jog or power walk through a residential area of town that has an interesting history or one that you find particularly charming or beautiful. Residential areas usually have less traffic and more flora and fauna than commercial areas.
Stay Safe Tip: Be alert to any suspicious activity or unusual situations while you're working out. While crime can and does happen anywhere, some cities are more known for their crime than others (Detroit, Memphis and Miami topped Forbes' recent "America's Most Dangerous Cities" list). But no matter where you live, it's always a good idea to run during daylight hours, carry your ID, and bring a phone and enough money for an emergency—just in case. Always trust your gut. Get more outdoor exercise safety tips.

City Fitness Tip: Pretend that you don't live in your city, and ask yourself where you would go if you were a tourist looking for a workout that could double as sight-seeing. Pick the closest spot for your regular run/walk, and map out a couple other options that are farther away for a future trip. Then grab a friend and see your city in a new active way! Or, if your city doesn't have many safe tourist spots that are suitable for running or walking, turn your trip to the park on its head by running or walking to the park and then using it as a site for strength exercises such as lunges, squats, push-ups and triceps dips on a park bench. Or do some yoga or stretching at the park as a complement to the cardiovascular exercise it took to get there. The possibilities are endless!
3. Play red light, green light. Next time you're stuck at a stoplight, don't just stop or jog in place, impatiently waiting for the light to turn green. Use the break to do some squats or use that street pole for a few one-armed push-ups or that city bench for an assisted plank. If you need a break, enjoy the interruption and do a quick hamstring or shoulder stretch. Instead of fighting against the city's nature, why not embrace it?
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • good suggestions. Thanks. - 9/18/2013 8:06:34 AM
  • My city has a "mayor's mile" skywalk. So that helps with inclement weather, and it's above the street so there's no traffic to slow you down (besides the other walkers). It connects multiple downtown buildings: the convention center, the new arena, a few hotels, a few parking garages, a food court, and a few restaurants. Since there are so many large businesses involved with lots of people around, it seems like a safer option crime-wise as well, though I still keep my eyes peeled for anything suspicious. It isn't open 24-7, but the hours of operation are pretty convenient.

    There is also a greenway to connect the parks along the river, with a pedestrian bridge that is almost completed. It's great to live in a place that uses my tax money for something that benefits us all! - 5/11/2013 5:29:20 PM
  • walking in the city is easy! lived in Chicago 14 years and walked everywhere. Walking in the country is easy, lots of open space and back roads. Walking in a crimeridden auto town is HARD. Even going to the park you need at least 2 others for safety and don't even attempt to walk the roads. (Think Flint (where I live) or Detroit...) - 5/11/2013 4:28:41 PM
  • I listen to music sometimes on the treadmill but never when walking. Earphones you can't hear when someone is coming up on you. - 5/11/2013 2:16:10 PM
  • Oh! And not wearing headphones is essential (thanks to the other commenters). Also, the new hybrid and electric vehicles are very quiet so be sure to look as well as listen! - 2/4/2013 7:41:37 PM
  • I chaired a teen driving school and this advice is the most pertinent to day-to-day life: always look where you want the car to go. That being said, drivers are often distracted and you can be one of the distractions if you're exercising on the road... That driver looking at you will head that car right on over. I will beg people to stick to the sidewalk unless there is an obstruction that forces you onto the road. Stay safe!!! And yes, I live and work outdoors in an urban environment; there is more nature out there than most people realize! - 2/4/2013 7:39:28 PM
  • Even in the suburbs you need to be aware of what is happening around you. For years I lived a block away from a street level train station in NJ. 2 deaths happened at the crossing (which included a railroad crossing light, and barrier,,,both wearing earphones). The other issue is, in the suburbs where you have TURN ON RED, you always need to be mindful of a driver who is in a hurry. Some people will make that turn even when they see a CAR, and they are almost blind to a pedestrian. - 2/4/2013 5:41:08 AM
  • I live in Pittsburgh and have found that since I work pretty much downtown, I run so much more. If you've ever been to Pittsburgh, there are bridges everywhere. My goal this summer is to cross each bridge in the general vicinity of downtown at least once. I am up to 6. After work, I head over to the Y to workout. Instead of jumping on the trolley, I head out for a nice run before step class. I also use red lights to stretch and catch my breath if I need it.

    My city-running mantra is that if I can keep going, I do. For example, I keep running through downtown until I come upon a DO NOT WALK sign. I don't stop until I have to. Also, if my intended course has me stopped but I could take a different route and not stop, I opt for that. That has really helped me to up my mileage slowly. Its like a game. Running through a city is slower so I leave it for the end of my run as a cool down. - 5/30/2012 1:31:22 PM
  • I use red light to catch my breath - yea so there's that.

    One advantage to running in the city is that there are water fountains around if you know where they are. There are also more and more greenways, you just have to watch out for the bikes.

    I'm surprised there wasn't any talk of headphones in this article as it relates to safety. - 5/30/2012 11:06:32 AM
  • This article is kind of a no-brainer. However, I did like the suggestion of using red light breaks to do squats or something else instead of jogging in place (which is what I usually do). - 3/31/2012 1:01:00 PM
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