September 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm EST | by Kevin M. Norris
Boot camp, yoga in Meridian Hill Park

After a tough 45-minute boot camp, we’ll transition to an outdoor yoga session.

If the last few days are any indication of what Fall may be like this year, we are in for a treat. And now is as good a time as any to take your workouts outside, particularly since not everyone enjoys being inside the confines of a gym. Now that the weather will be cooler outside, workouts are a more viable and pleasurable option. Outdoor exercise routines can very well be more challenging than taking yourself through a series of machines, free weight exercises or running on a treadmill. And outdoor choices may stave off boredom and plateaus because of the vast majority of options.

But what do you do without equipment and where do you workout?  Well, Washington, D.C. has more parks and grassy knolls than most cities in the United States. Whether you are in the heart of the city or in the suburbs, there is no shortage of grass and green to take your workouts.

Rock Creek Park is award-winning and many areas have outdoor circuits with instruction that allow you to perform a variety of exercises that target all of your major muscles. There are also rolling hills and off-path trails throughout Rock Creek that allow you to vary your terrain — not to mention the breath-taking scenery.

Remember also, we have Great Falls for amazing hikes and bike rides and there is always tennis, basketball and rowing to name a few other outdoor activities.

I am partial to Meridian Hill Park at 16th and Florida Avenue, N.W. ( The park is an outdoor fitness haven and stunningly beautiful with statues, water fountains throughout and a giant lily pond at the base. The top of the park houses an enormous courtyard type “track” with vast grassy fields in the center. And scattered throughout you have the support of like-minded fitness enthusiasts.

And starting Saturday, Sept. 17 and running for eight consecutive Saturdays through Nov. 5, Meridian Hill Park will host an Outdoor Boot Camp and Yoga Class Combination. There will be 45 minutes of boot camp followed by 45 minutes of yoga.

Class starts with a warm-up consisting of light jogging throughout the park, up and down stairs and hills and throughout the maze of paths the park has to offer.

I will often continue the warm-up with what I call “stair suicides.” Most would argue that this drill is not in the least a warm-up, but it definitely revs up the body. The gist of this drill is to jog, walk or double step up one flight of stairs at a time and then down one flight. Continue by adding another flight going up two flights and down two flights and then three, etc. There are approximately a dozen sets of stairs to conquer at the park and I generally have participants run up the last leg to the top of the park for more fun.

Then we might navigate through more paths and hills followed by a variety of drills, calisthenics and body weighted exercises. Think back to your high school gym days and we do what you did then: jumping jacks, butt kicks, nausea-inducing squat thrusts, simulated jump rope, skipping, side shuffles, running backwards and more stairs and hills.

For more upper body work I simulate weight training moves using the body’s natural resistance and you will be amazed at how 40 overhead presses with no weight can burn like hell. It’s usually the men who whine during this phase particularly as we move from one exercise to the next with no rest.

After I have worked every major muscle in the body, we move on to 45 minutes of yoga, taught by local practitioner Paula D. Atkinson, who brings 15 years of experience. Atkinson takes participants through some strengthening, lengthening and then calming poses and movements for all fitness levels; once again in a beautiful and serene setting. Please bring along a yoga mat or towel.

The Mind Your Own Body Outdoor Boot Camp and Yoga Class at Meridian Hill Park, NW begins again on Saturday, Sept. 17. E-mail me for more information,


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