Urban Objects for Fitness Serve Multiple Uses

By Kyle Rich

With so many places in the city to run, walk or bike, it’s easy to miss other outdoor fitness options that capitalize on a full-body workout. Although extra equipment is usually needed for this, it is often already provided by the city.

A fitness site popped up at Navy Pier on Oct. 8 that demonstrated how everyday city objects can be used for strength training. The 30-by-30 foot site had different stations displaying these objects, including newspaper stands, park benches,

street poles and chain-link fences.

E.J. Barthel, a professional athletic trainer and founder of the training facility ETS Fitness helped design the workout and said the key to maximizing the fitness benefits of an urban environment is staying active.

“You want to use every piece of equipment in your surroundings,” Barthel said. “Whether it be a park bench, a crate or a scaffold, you want to make sure you keep your heart rate up and jog to

every workout.”

Some of the workouts Barthel helped design included bench step-ups, chain-link leg lifts, street pole squats, crate jumps, bench push-ups and scaffolding pull-ups.

“You can do stability holds and even time yourself to see how many [repetitions] you can get [in a certain amount of time,] he said. “There is a different variation of these workouts you can do with the pieces of equipment in your community.”

Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks forward and alternating captain, was also at the event. He said he utilizes his outdoor environment to get fit.

“I’ve run, and jogged, and biked and rollerbladed all up and down Lake Shore Drive,” Sharp said. “I’ve got a backyard with some pull-up and other equipment I’ve used, too.”

Sharp also said it’s important to get solid exercise outside the gym. People who are in an office or building all day may not realize that access to quality fitness spots are closer than they think.

“The best gym, I think, is right in your backyard,” Sharp said. “You can do a number of good exercises outside, you can put yourself through a good workout with really no equipment at all.”

Barthell agreed, noting that these exercises benefit people both with and without gym access.

“I think it’s great for both parties,” he said. “It’s a whole different workout, a whole different feel and method than your regular in-house gym workouts.”

The demonstration also trained participants in accordance with Urbanathlon, an upcoming race that capitalizes on urban workouts, according to Cresencio Victoria, account executive with the Michael Alan group, which co-sponsored the event.

“We did some research on the city to find what would be conducive,” Victoria said. “Also, we were widely inspired by the Men’s Health Urbanathlon.”

The Urbanathlon, a nine-mile stretch that utilizes the city to create obstacles, will take place in Chicago Oct. 13. Some stations will have participants climbing stairs at Soldier Field, hurdling police barricades, climbing taxis and buses and weaving in and out of traffic cones, according to the Men’s Health website.