You don’t need a mountain to prepare for a Spartan race. Turning city streets into your training ground is a matter of mindset, says Dan Edwardes, CEO of London-based Parkour Generations, an award-winning parkour and freerunning company that also trains obstacle course racing athletes.
“The key is viewing space, architecture, and urban furniture not for its intended function,” he says, “but as terrain that can be explored, navigated, and overcome.”
Edwardes’ gym is built to mimic the conditions of the outside world. This, he says, gives users a more expansive view of how to engage with their urban surroundings as part of everyday fitness training.
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“Ask yourself: Can I climb it? Can I jump or vault it? Can I balance on it?” he says. “Then look beyond that one structure to see how you might tie it to another, and so on, to create your own small version of an obstacle course.”
Example: Adapt your usual 45-minute run so that it includes a street bench, steps, a low wall to jump up on, and a high wall to hang from. “This encourages you to solve the problems that space creates,” says Edwardes, “which is necessary to prepare your body and mind for overcoming obstacles.”
Even if you have access to an indoor gym, train outside too, says Daniel Mercurio, a Spartan SGX coach and co-owner of O2 Bodyfit in Daly City, California. His OCR boot camp uses both environments in a complementary way.
“An indoor fitness facility enables you to practice the techniques you’ll need to overcome the obstacles,” Mercurio explains. “The outdoors better simulates the race-day environment.”
Mercurio suggests checking out city-center playgrounds. “They provide opportunities for you to add inclines, crawling, jumping, monkey bars, and burpees into your training.” Run up a slide. Walk down a see-saw. Make use of the climbers. Don’t scare the kids.
For an effective playground workout, he proposes:
- ½-mile run (“run around the block, up and down the playground, or if there’s an urban trail nearby, use that,” Mercurio says)
- 30-second bar hang
- 20 steps up
- ½-mile run
- 100-yard crawl
- ½-mile run
- 10 hanging leg raises
- 30 burpees
- ½-mile run
Depending on your fitness level, you can progress or regress the exercises and reps above so that you’re being appropriately challenged.
And if you’re visiting a city for work and have only 30 minutes to spare? Find a hill or a staircase and get moving. For an added performance boost, hum the Rocky theme song.