Fitness Finds: Take it to the Trails

April 7, 2013

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It’s easy to fall victim to a workout rut in the city that never sleeps. We perform the same old exercise routine as our schedules allow, crossing it of the “to-do” list and moving on without a second thought. WSN’s new fitness column, Fitness Finds, challenges you to push past the confines of your local gym and discover a new favorite activity that takes your fitness to the next level. Follow Alena Hall, a contributing writer and ISSA certified fitness trainer, every Monday as she shares unique and creative ways to work out in New York City.

Now that spring has finally arrived, it’s time to reconnect with nature after six months of treadmill time and countless crunches. A variety of hiking trails map each of Manhattan’s neighboring boroughs, creating wooded getaways and exciting new workouts just a subway or bus ride away.

Climbing steep hills, scaling rocky surfaces and maneuvering uneven trails challenge almost every part of the body. From engaging your quadriceps to your core to your stabilizer muscles, hiking creates an entirely new workout experience that not only connects you with the surrounding environment but also keeps your body guessing what’s coming around the next bend. Hiking trails also vary in terrain, difficulty and distance, so muscles cannot adapt to the exercise like they do with a 30-minute treadmill jog. This inability to remember the next move in the routine keeps the muscles working harder and more efficiently, preventing a workout rut and a performance plateau. Unlike other gym-based cardio, hiking has a slower pace and prolonged focus that improves cardiovascular endurance, builds muscular fitness and simultaneously prevents joint injury. It can also be mentally and emotionally therapeutic, helping to relieve a week’s worth of stress.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation catalogues each hiking trail located in every borough outside of Manhattan. Try out one of the recommendations below, or visit its website for additional options.

Brooklyn
Lullwater in Prospect Park
Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy

Queens
South Preserve Trail in
Cunningham Park
Length: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Staten Island
Yellow Trail in Latourette Park
Length: 8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

Bronx
Cass Gallagher Nature Trail in
Van Cortlandt Park
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

For an additional challenge, bring along a hiking daypack. Adding more pounds to natural bodyweight increases the resistance placed on muscles. A daypack takes the workout to a new level, challenging shoulder strength, core stability and leg power.

More experienced hikers looking for an adventure close to home can plan ahead for a day hike this weekend at Breakneck Ridge. Accessible by car or the Metro North Railroad’s Hudson Valley line, Breakneck Ridge is just an hour outside the metropolitan area and offers five different trails worth trekking. The Taste of Breakneck Ridge Hike, a 2.4 mile-long hike with a medium-to-difficult trail challenge, caters to novice hikers looking to take their workout up a notch. The Breakneck Ridge and Mount Taurus Hike, on the other hand, will challenge even the most seasoned hiker with its 7.2-mile path and strenuous trail setting.

A version of this article was published in the Monday, April 8 print edition. Alena Hall is a contributing columnist. Email her at features@nyunews.com. 

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