Philadelphia’s outdoor offerings are getting better by the day, with new and improved running trails along both rivers, pay-what-you-will exercise classes popping up everywhere you look, and some of the best urban hiking trails in the country. With these free ways to get in shape—and they’re varied enough to keep you from getting bored—there’s really no excuse not to work out. Sorry.
Join scores of yogis getting their stretch on at the Race Street Pier, which juts out over the Delaware River just under the arch of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. You can stretch in the sunshine and practice your warrior pose while gazing at the Camden skyline. The classes run from early April to November each year, with a morning class every day of the week and additional evening classes some weekdays. There’s even the occasional 8:30pm class held to coincide with the full moon. Classes are free, although they take donations. BYOM (bring your own mat).
Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park is one of the biggest urban green spaces in America; and the Wissahickon, located in the northwest section of the city, is one of its jewels. The 1,800 acres of woods are threaded with streams and hiking trails both easy and more challenging. Walk along the curving gravel trail that borders the rushing Wissahickon Creek, or push yourself on the steeper uphill trails for a tougher workout.
Work out like Rocky
Every Wednesday morning, early birds can join a free workout hosted by November Project, a national fitness group with local chapters. The Philadelphia section holds its workouts – where else? – right below the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made famous by Rocky Balboa himself. You’ll have to set the alarm for this one, as they meet at 6:25am, but the hour-long workout of push-ups, burpees and hill runs with an astonishingly enthusiastic group of fitness nuts is completely free.
Running the rivers
The city’s recent investment in its rivers means that there are now design-forward running trails on BOTH sides of the city. In the east, hit the Delaware River Trail, which borders the water and stretches from South Philadelphia’s big box shopping centers all the way up to trendy Fishtown, passing plenty of parks (perfect for a short break) along the way. 25 blocks west, the Schuylkill River has its own well-cared-for trail that leads all the way out of the city to Phoenixville. The Center City section, though, is the most used, and it even has a new 2,000-foot boardwalk that stretches over the river with fantastic views of the city’s skyline.
The Oval, a green space in the middle of the city’s Parisian-style Parkway, is home to plenty of summertime attractions, including outdoor films, food trucks, art installations, family games, and a beer garden. On summer Wednesdays, some of the city’s most established gyms and studios hold free fitness classes here, open to everyone. Check out yoga, kickboxing, cardio dance, and hip-hop, all without paying a penny. Some Wednesdays as many as seven classes are offered (check the schedule here), so you can switch it up every week. And you can always hit the food trucks and beer garden afterwards, when you’ve earned it.
Photo credit: Kevin Burkett