July 7, 2016 at 1:37 pm EST | by David Magida
Breaking a summer sweat
summer, gay news, Washington Blade

The National Mall (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Summer is here and along with it is the opportunity to get outside, get some sun, get some fresh air and get in some workouts. D.C. is brimming with countless outdoor workout spots. Here are just a few to get your beak wet and your sweat dripping.

Rock Creek Park — The oldest and largest urban park in the National Park System, Rock Creek Park has a bit of everything. With more than 1,700 acres to choose from, the trail running can’t be beat. Want technical terrain for a hike? You’ve got it. Want to hit a flat, smooth run in the woods? Check out the horse trails, where you can turn your mind off and just go on autopilot. Or, even take a horse out on it. Want to hit a bike ride up? Beach drive is closed to car traffic on weekends so you can pull that bike out of storage and grab some amazing rides in the shade. You’ll also find the occasional water fountain and bathroom along the way, making it even more convenient. Great parking located around Peirce Mill in the northern portion of the park.

The “Exorcist” steps — One of the most iconic places to train in D.C. can also be one of the more frightening, not just because it was featured in one of the scariest movies of all time, but also because of the level of difficulty. Meet, the “Exorcist” steps: 75 steps climbing five stories in height that can take the wind and legs from even the fittest of athletes at a hard run. On any given day, you’ll see a steady flow of runners trekking up and down, as well as the occasional “nut” carrying heavy objects like rocks or tires. Give it a go. If nothing else, it’s an experience!

The National Zoo — The Zoo is a local workout favorite. What’s better than getting some running in while catching a glimpse of the pandas or the lions? There are plenty of water fountains and bathrooms on this route too. Our advice: start at the bottom of the hill and work your way to the top. It’s a nice climb to throw into your run. Please note it gets crowded during the day, so before 9 a.m. is ideal for this location.

Rock Creek Park Exercise Trail (Parcourse) — Located beneath Woodley Park by Calvert Street, the exercise course is a series of bodyweight exercise stations including pull-up bars, dip bars, rings, balance beams and more. It also happens to be located dead center in the middle of a pretty large hill, allowing you to create some challenging workouts. Make try loops on the 1.5 mile course or throw it into a long run to add a bit of balance to your workout.

Hains Point — Located on the southern tip of East Potomac Park, Hains Point provides not just a quality view, but an incredible place to train. On any given day, you’ll see the area flooded with runners, walkers and cyclists. This location is best for those who really want to get out and hammer on the bike, as you can often encounter challenging head winds that will test your fitness and truly make you stronger. That breeze blowing off the water can also keep you cool on some of our hotter summer days.

The National Mall — Want to get a bit patriotic? Head down to the National Mall for some sightseeing while you run. You can take a 4-mile loop from the Lincoln Memorial down asphalt paths by the reflecting pool, through the memorials, past the White House, onto dirt lanes that take you through the Smithsonian and then up the actual Capitol Hill itself. When you return, try a couple laps up and down the steps at the Lincoln Memorial.

Banneker Track and Pool — Looking for a public pool? Banneker’s got that. All you need is a valid D.C. drivers license or you can drop in for $7. It’s not really the place to swim laps though, but rather a place to enjoy some lounging, wading and relaxation. Want to play some baseball or hit the track? Banneker’s field is open 24-7. And the square-shaped track is one of the most unusual tracks you’ll ever experience.

The Towpath — For a consistent dirt trail, check out the C&O Canal Towpath. The dirt trail extends from Georgetown all the way to Pittsburgh with minimal change in elevation. It’s the very same path used by beasts of burden to pull boats up and down the canal for generations. Unlock literally limitless running, hiking and even biking when you make it to the path. And for a twist, you can branch off and meet the Capitol Crescent Trail as you hug the Potomac River.

Roosevelt Island — Still looking for some hidden trails? Located next to Roslyn is Roosevelt Island, a tiny, water-locked plot of land just waiting to make you feel like you’ve left the city. Muddy trails, dense trees and plenty of shade make this a preferred destination for runners, hikers and even bikers alike. Add it into one of your treks along the Potomac for a nice change of scenery.

Meridian Hill Park — One of the more iconic places to train in D.C. is Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park. The park has plenty of options for getting some exercise in, including stair running, soccer games on the upper fields, and yoga on the lawns. You can catch the occasional boot camp there, run the dreaded 15th Street Hill, or even jump on one of the slack lines people set between the trees on the perimeter. And when you’re done, relax with a nice picnic on the lawn with one of the best views of downtown.

D.C. is full of opportunities to get outside and be active. To feel like you aren’t trapped by the confines of a busy city. And to enjoy your summer to it’s fullest potential. All you have to do is know where to look. The options are endless.

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