9 Creative Ways to Turn Your City Into a Personal Gym

Innovative exercises you can do in a city setting—no gym membership necessary


If you live in a big (and expensive) city, getting fit without a gym membership isn’t as impossible as it might seem. 

Jenn Pattee, founder of Basic Training — a San Francisco-based personal training service that leads exercisers through 55-minute “adventure” workouts through the city—  understands why people think effective full-body workouts don’t seem possible when all you have to work with is an outdoor space, but she’s on a mission to change that perception.

“Cities can be overwhelming,” she said. “They seem dark, dangerous, filthy and dense. But on the other hand, working out in cities is easy—easier and cheaper than a gym or studio. Put on your running shoes, walk out your door. Boom, you’re there. No class schedule to deal with. No car. No subway. No bus. No circling for parking. Just grab your city and go. Cities can overwhelm, but they can also inspire.”

The urban landscape has certainly inspired Pattee. Her outdoor workouts involve much more than just running through city streets. She’s created innovative ways to target nearly every muscle in your body using only what you can find in a common city setting.

Below, she shares her favorite urban-inspired exercises.

1. Do pull-ups on scaffolding or crosswalk signs.

2. Use lines on the sidewalk for lunges, one-legged hops or agility drills.

3. Use curbs for split lunges, toe taps and calf raises.

4. Use walls for climbing over and L-Sits.

5. Use hills for sprints.

6. Race buses and cable cars to see who can make it to the end of the line the fastest — Can I out-run the one California bus that I normally take home from work?

7. Use the rooftops of parking garages — for just about everything. 

8. Do push-ups up and down stairs, “walking” up them sideways with your whole body, not just your legs. 

9. Instead of weights, experiment with a resistance band or use the city as your resistance partner. Benches, fences, trees, walls, hills, curbs, scaffolding, poles, handrails — all of these provide opportunities to work your chest, arms, butt, core, shoulders, calves, hamstrings, feet, biceps, triceps, and more. Get creative! 

More Reading:
18 Ways to Change Up Your Running Routine
6 Ways to Turn Occasional Workouts into a Habit
The Best Exercises for When You Have Limited Time and No Equipment