Extreme Exercise: How to Get a Great Workout without Leaving City Limits

Think working out in a city has to mean sucking exhaust while you jog on the side of a busy street? Not with these fun, and at times, extreme-alternative workouts.

Remember the scene in “Casino Royale” where 007 himself scales a crane and frantically tries to catch what we initially assume is some kind of extreme gymnast? Turns out that villain was actually a parkour artist (or traceur as they are also referred to). Founded by a guy called David Belle, parkour is all about accessing the seemingly inaccessible, usually to escape or evade pursuers (or dapper English gentlemen depending on your situation). Unlike free runners (more on that later) traceurs try to clear objects – be it barrels, bars, bollards or other barriers – in the simplest and most efficient method possible. Incorporate parkour type moves into your own workout by heading to a “quieter” edge of the city and dodging, jumping or vaulting over barriers and other obstacles, swinging through railings and climbing up low brick walls (just don’t scare the neighbors!)

Free Running:
If parkour is the nitty-gritty, rough-and-tumble mode of transport for escape artists, free running is the more graceful, aesthetically pleasing method of moving for the show-off in all of us. Although incredibly similar to parkour (with free running actually developed by a childhood friend of David Belle!) free running’s philosophy centers around the idea of getting from point A to point B using free-flowing movements that make you happy (and that look pretty). When out for a jog, add some free-running elements by leaping (arms outstretched) over cracks in the road, swinging yourself around lamp poles or just adding the odd cartwheel or forward rollover (we warned you in advance it could get extreme!)

You understand parkour, you sort of understand free running, now it’s time to master buildering! Often referred to as urban climbing, structuring and stegophily, buildering is defined as any act of scaling or climbing on the outside of buildings or other artificial structures. Buildering can also sometimes be confused with a separate “sport” known as bouldering, whereby buildings are still scaled, but this time in smaller, bite-size sections. Although not technically legal uhhh…anywhere, you can borrow from this physical art by jumping on and off low building ledges, scaling stairs two-at-a-time or jumping off porches and decks (just don’t get caught!)

Indoor Rock Climbing:
If you like the idea of buildering, but aren’t willing to break the law, perhaps indoor rock climbing is the sport for you! Giving you a welcome reprieve from the weight room, rock climbing is not only a full-body strength workout but, depending on your skill and the course you choose, can also increase flexibility and provide a great cardiovascular workout. To learn more about rock climbing events in your city visit usaclimbing.net.

Think skateboarding is best reserved for trouble-making teens? Although it does convey a certain risk element – what with the high likelihood of incurring cuts, bruises and maybe the odd broken bone – skateboarding, to its credit, is a great cardiovascular workout and can also help improve coordination and balance. If you’re thinking of giving it a whirl, make like Tony Hawk (the God of skateboarding) and invest in a helmet and some serious knee and elbow pads. Also, if you’re a beginner, stay away from skate parks or other uneven surfaces – where studies suggest more than half of skateboard-related injuries take place – and opt for smooth surfaces such as quiet roads and large pavements.

Ultimate Frisbee:
Once the primary workout of greasy frat boys the nation over, Ultimate Frisbee has developed somewhat of a cult-following, with games-and even leagues-cropping up in the parks of most major towns and cities. Developed as sort of a combination of a classic Frisbee game and the most violent of football/rugby matches – depending, of course, on who you are playing with – Ultimate Frisbee is played on a rectangular shaped field with “endzones” at either end. The Frisbee is then tossed between players – who must stand still upon catching the Frisbee and have only 10 seconds to pass it along – with the goal of completing a pass in the defenses’ end zone. Although fouls can be called for physical contact, the games do tend to get a little rough so please plan accordingly (as in stock up on bandaids and have a medical professional on speed-dial!)

These extreme sports aren’t for everyone. As you can imagine after watching the videos, they are a great way to induce serious bodily harm, so be warned. With that said we think that, at the very least, they can provide motivation to be creative with your physical activity. What do you think? Do you prefer to keep adjectives like “ultimate” and “extreme” away from your exercise routine?

LexnGer Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Ultimate Frisbee

10 Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Workouts

Shoes are so passé.

Tips on Practicing Safety for Extreme Sports

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

21 thoughts on “Extreme Exercise: How to Get a Great Workout without Leaving City Limits”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. As a student of parkour myself, I can say that it is phenomenal in what can be developed. I actually wear my five fingers when I do this (although landing from a tree to soft dirt means stopping to shake out shoe crumbs). I’ve got a set of stairs that go up about 300 feet with a rail up each side with concrete pillars. I like to monkey walk it. It’s incredible balance training…being on all fours on a rail that slants up…great training for hands, forearms, core, and feet. Another thing to mention for great training in this thread is Chinese acrobatics and grappling (any martial sport). There are also a number of circus apparatus that require incredible skill but most can start out on them if they have at least 3 limbs. People can do handstands in their on home whenever they want. Try holding for 1 min and working up to 10 min. There are many body weight exercises one can do.

    One more thing, be careful doing parkour. Yeah, there’s the potential for injury, but there are signs popping up all over saying “No Parkour allowed”. In the Yerba Buena gardens in San Francisco, you can be arrested.

  2. I saw a video on the web not too long ago of what I believe was a competition on Japanese TV where the contestants complete the mother of all obstacle courses. Absolutely amazing!

    Extreme running for me was maybe jumping a small creek in a cross-country race! 🙂 But I really did enjoy the two or three of those a year that used to appear on my running calendar. It broke the pattern of standard asphalt 10Ks.

  3. It seems that a lot of folks have, especially guys have a sort of Spiderman complex. Now I like Spiderman too, but he has his flaws. Spidey certainly has had his issues with the ladies and he certainly has some sort of complex regarding splashy entrances, but hey that Spiderman for you.

  4. Back in college we used to call it “Running from the cops at 3am…” It was a fun sport from what I remember and we all seemed to keep in shape!

    1. Yea, it’s considered an exemtre sport I guess. The thing is, knowing your limitations, working within them, and being safe is stressed in the sport. Like most sports, there is always the possibility of injury, but it can be done safely without injury by building up to things slowly and gradually. Parkour is a sport where you constantly challenge yourself to do better. So going at your pace in your development is critical to your safety. When I started putting tutorials on the website I purposely started with the basics and in particular with the roll. For example, before people start jumping off of buildings they should be very comfortable doing a roll on the ground and then at 4ft, etc I like that they’re pretending to play tag too. He probably would have tagged him sooner if he hadn’t been doing all those flips Silly Free Runners. Style vs Practicality. Both have their purpose. Fundamentally Parkour and Free Running are rooted in almost identical philosophies. Check out the and Parkour History posts to learn the differences. Simply stated, free running and parkour both focus on child’s play and survival. Parkour focuses more on survival and free running focuses more on child’s play.

  5. Thanks for the videos, I love watching those parkour guys. I wish they’d cast a Batman movie with someone like that instead of giving a big star a rubber suit, too many gadgets & a tank. :/

    Dave c, that show is called Ninja Warrior and I freakin’ love it! I get so excited for the people who make it to the end, it must be exhilirating to even try the course.

  6. This is my first time on this blog and I really like the content ; ) Have you guys checked out thedailyskinny.com yet? It’s mainly for healthy weight loss, but they also get into some great nutrition and exercise advice.

  7. I would love to learn free-running, that is just so darn cool.

    I’m a girl though, and, not being sexist towards myself, but do women have the physiological capacity to complete things like that?

    As in… develop enough muscle, I suppose.

    I’m 17 and I’m afraid it’s too late to learn ):

    1. I know this is a old post, but I thought what the hell I’ll reply. I’m a girl (22) and I’ve been training parkour for about 3-4 months now. It definitely seems easier for young guys to learn this stuff faster, and there’s the difference with guys having stronger upper body and girls having stronger lower body. You can make up for it by conditioning and strength training. It takes a lot of commitment, that’s one thing that’s for sure. But girls can definitely do it. I’ve only trained kong vaults indoors on mats (as well as tic tacs). Instead of going too far into it and filling 1/3 of the comment page I’ll just point you to this website, it’s a great resource and inspiration for girls who want to do parkour: http://www.girlparkour.com

      My recommendation is to start right now on increasing your pull up reps, that’s an important skill. Even if you can’t do pull ups yet, there are ways to work up to them (negatives, using a chair for support, etc.) that you can find online. I started out not being able to do a single pull up. Now I can do 5 good consecutive reps and I’m working upwards (my goal is to do at least 20, so then I can reach my REAL goal, to do muscle ups)

      Please don’t ever doubt yourself just because your a girl and you don’t see many girls doing something. If you want it enough, you’ll do it! 🙂