Skip the Gym Membership: Seven Urban Guerrilla Workout Stations

Who wants to go to a sweat-filled, dark, expensive gym when you could be outside basking in the sun?

Mount Mitte in Berlin

It’s summer. Which means it’s beach season (yay!). Which, unfortunately, also means it’s time to revise your fitness plan (boo). Who wants to go to a sweat-filled, dark, expensive gym when you could be outside basking in the sun? And while programs such as those offered at Brooklyn Bridge Park (free yoga, free kayaking, and free pool access) are a step in the right direction—making working out seem less like work and more like play—there’s a need for more exercise initiatives that infiltrate our urban infrastructure.

Over and over again we are told that diabetes and obesity are prevalent problems in America (and many other countries). But no matter how often we point out the issues, actually convincing people to dedicate time, and often money, to exercise can be more onerous than climbing Mt. Everest.

Fortunately, architects and planners can encourage a fitter lifestyle through the built environment, making it more accessible physically and financially. Inspired by the Center for Architecture’s current exhibition, FitNation, which explores the concept of the urban playground as…well…just that. Based on their idea, we’ve rounded up our own favorite guerrilla tactics for gyms in the city.

Citi Bike Stands, New York

New York City introduced the Citi Bike infrastructure into the city this summer. Although these bike stations have ruffled a few feathers (thanks, Dorothy Rabinowitz), they have also inspired a wonderful plethora of urban hacking. The New York Times did a great roundup of uses for the bikes, which highlight the blatant lack of public seating in the city. However, why sit when you could instead have a free Citi Bike spin class? Alternatively, you can do pull-ups on the subway.


Parklets created by architects/developers, designers Berry and Linné, and builders Hensel Phelps. Photo via ArchPaper

Parklets, Los Angeles

Again, this is an urban move in protest of car transport in the city. These parklets replaced parking spaces throughout LA with a range of fun games, leisure spaces … and exercise bikes! This project was also featured in the FitNation exhibit.


Image via Posadzki on tumblr


Why wait for someone to designate an exercise area for you? Much like the guerrilla tactics of skaters, parkour enthusiasts have developed an alternative view of the urban environment that scans the built world in terms of how easily it could be scaled by a human. Also, take a look at our previous post on some famous building climbs to give you some inspiration.

Image via Berlinderland

Mount Mitte, Berlin

So, your parkour is a little rusty? This playground in Berlin could help you hone your skills.


Macombs Dam Park, Bronx, New York

New York has pretty strict rules regarding adults entering children’s playgrounds, so it’s about time for an alternative for adults. Macombs Dam Park, located in the Bronx, provides a free, fun alternative for those grown-ups who miss the monkey bars.


Photograph via BuzzFeed

Kachalka Muscle Beach, Kiev, Ukraine

The ultimate feel-good combination: exercise and recycling! Salvaged tank chains and tires have been reconfigured to make this DIY muscle beach in the Ukrainian capital.


Image via SkateLogForum

Muscle Beach, Santa Monica

Forgot to cram in some last-minute exercise before donning that swimsuit? Known as the “original,” Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach lets you exercise right on the sand with great views of the ocean. Drawing crowds since the 1930s, it has been nicknamed the “The Birthplace of the Physical Fitness Boom of the Twentieth Century.”
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