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Urban Workouts

Posted By Mark Sisson On March 10, 2010 @ 8:54 am In Fitness,Videos | 41 Comments

Remember Blair Morrison? He’s the dude who got Primal in the Netherlands [7] for his entry into the PB Fitness Video Contest, and also placed 7th at the 2009 CrossFit Games [8]. Blair wrote to me with his latest workout video – which will close this post – and a reminder: don’t forget about urban Groks!

I live in Malibu, just outside of LA proper, and it’s not exactly an urban environment. LA itself isn’t a classic urban landscape; it’s more urban sprawl than anything else. We’ve got hundreds of miles of wilderness – mountains, beaches, trails, canyons – to climb, run, crawl, or hike, but very little skyscraper to scale or subway turnstile to hurdle. We give a ton of attention to the great outdoors, partly because of my affinity for it and partly because it fits the Primal theme really well. For today, though, I want to address the urban warriors among us. If you’re lucky enough to live in a vibrant, bustling cityscape teeming with ledges, poles, fences, staircases, and tall buildings, you owe it yourself to expand your workout regimen to encompass your (un)natural environment.

Whenever I visit a new city, I like to go for a walk. Cities are meant to be traversed by foot, in my opinion. Sticking to taxis or buses erects a barrier. You gotta put foot to pavement and really connect with a city, especially if you’re just visiting (no time to spare). On my walks, I invariably find myself scoping out the scenery for possible workout “equipment.” I do this everywhere I go, in fact, not just in cities. It may mean I annoy my wife with my roving eyes (hey, at least I’m just scoping out park benches to jump, rather than beds to lie in!), but it also means I’m never unequipped for an impromptu workout.

There are no immutable laws governing urban workouts, because every environment is different. In LA, for example, an urban workout probably means climbing a fifteen-foot tree in front of some suburban house, doing pull-ups at the top branch, and running from an eventually pound-bound pit bull that’s broken loose. Or hitting the Venice drum circle for a bout of Primal dancing. But there are certain features that every urban environment should offer to the intrepid, kinetic explorer, and these include:

Ledges, overhangs, horizontal overhead poles – Perfect for pull-ups and muscle-ups. Hit some knees-to-elbows if there’s room to swing.

Vertical poles – Climb these. Pigeon droppings make for a worse payoff than wild coconuts, but at least you’ll build great grip and pulling strength. Traffic lights are pretty easy to climb (plenty of handholds).

Benches, turnstiles, weird public-owned stone cubes masquerading as art – Leap these. Box-jump them. If the bench is mobile, lift it. If you’ve got stones, try to lift the stone.

Hills – Sprint them. Grok crawl [9] up them, then back down. Don’t worry; you can wash your hands after.

Stairs – You can also sprint [10] these, but I like climbing them hand over hand (if there’s room to grab, that is) from underneath, ninja style. Just don’t let go at the top.

Construction sites – Sure, they’re slightly dangerous and it’s probably illegal to trespass, but there’s so much to do! Heavy slabs of metal to drag and deadlift, shards of concrete to hurl, structures to climb, and if you’re unwilling to go all the way in, you can usually find sandbags lining the perimeter.

Cars – Outrun them. Yes, I’m serious. No, I don’t mean in the street, neck-and-neck with the hulking metal beasts, but on the sidewalk, using the cars as motivation. And if you see a pregnant mother trapped beneath a wrecked one, you can always call upon your ATP and lift the back end.

Dumpsters – Push and pull them, treat ‘em like big stinky weight sleds.

Buildings – Scale them, if you dare. Enter them to reveal massive staircases (see “Stairs” above).

Little old ladies trying to cross the street – Carry them! It’s much faster than simply lending them an arm and walking them to the other side. Plus, it works your core.

And that’s just what I could think of off the top of my head. There are plenty of other options, many of which are just waiting to be discovered. The key is to keep your eyes open and your mind fixated on exactly how this feature or that object could be used to exert force or manipulate resistance. It may mean thinking outside the box or looking at the environment from a totally different perspective – you’ll have to see the urbanity as something to be accosted, assaulted, and conquered, rather than avoided or merely walked past. It’ll probably also have you end up looking a bit crazy, but if you’re eating Primal, you’re probably used to the weird stares from passers-by.

Just have fun! Living in the city doesn’t mean you have to work out at the gym… just ask Blair, who seems to get along okay without one.

Last, I’d be remiss not to remind you to be careful! Injury avoidance is top priority with Primal Blueprint Fitness, so take caution with your urban workouts just like you would any other.

Any Primal urbanites got workout tips to share? Do so in the comments!


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[7] Primal in the Netherlands: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/getting-primal-in-the-netherlands/

[8] placed 7th at the 2009 CrossFit Games: http://games2009.crossfit.com/competitors/athlete-profile-blair-morrison.html

[9] Grok crawl: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-grok-crawl/

[10] sprint: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/sprint-routine/

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