Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 11:30 am est

Fitness Finds: Take it to the Trails

Posted on April 7, 2013 | by Alena Hall


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.

Lullwater in Prospect Park
Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy

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

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 


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Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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