How to Get an Excellent Workout at Your Local Track and Field

Inside Hook

Summertime is usually something you prepare for in advance, whether that means booking some weekend trips or putting in extra gym visits to hopefully achieve the ever-elusive summer bod. This year is different for obvious reasons, and while we’ve all been focusing on flattening the COVID-19 curve, many of us have been gaining curves of our own — sometimes affectionately referred to as the “Quarantine 15.”

We understand if you’ve been itching to get back into the gym for those reasons and more, but while DC and Maryland are currently in Phase Two of reopening (Virginia has already sped ahead to Phase Three), we’ve got a bit of bad news for you: the entire region is reporting a bump in cases over the last month as openings continue.

Beyond this slightly concerning reality, we have many other reasons why you should instead consider opting for the outdoor workout. Namely, it’s probably, sadly, your only chance to spend time outside of four walls for a while, and with most of the DMV’s public track-and-field facilities now reopen, there is plenty of space for you to safely do that.

Helping you make sure you get the most of it: Arnie Gaither, fitness instructor and regional talent manager at the uber popular Rumble Boxing, who we chatted with for some tips on doing exactly that.

Where to Work Out

Gaither’s favorite spot in the city to workout is the expansive Meridian Hill Park, where he goes to do partner boxing and HIIT workouts. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking to get in some step running as well, since you can make your way up the side of the longest cascading fountain in North America. As mentioned, most of DC’s outdoor tracks are now open to the public as well, like Gaither’s choice of Garrison Elementary in Shaw, which boasts a basketball court, athletic field with space for baseball and soccer, and a running track.

A few of the other great public recreation areas around the city include the Banneker Recreation Center by Howard, which also features a football field and tennis courts, and Dunbar High School in NoMa. You can also take advantage of the outdoor tracks at any of DC’s many higher-learning institutions, like those at American University in Tenleytown, Gallaudet University in Trinidad and Howard University in Pleasant Plains.

A jogger takes on the stairs at Meridian Hill Park (Drew Angerer/Getty)
Getty Images

How to Work Out

Gaither tells us that the best, most effective way to maximize your workouts is by utilizing the HIIT method, or High Intensity Interval Training. “If you’re [working out] on the track, you want to have a nice variety. What I mean by that is, you will need both cardio and strength training, whether it means adding in some burpees or push-ups, some tricep dips or crunches — that strength training is super important.”

Try using Gaither’s method of “E.M.OM” or every minute, on the minute: first grab your phone or fitness tracker and set up the timer. Choose a few exercise moves to create a routine, picking a few strength training moves, like lunges or sit-ups, and interspersing them with some cardio exercises that you can fit into one minute or less. So your routine might involved something like 10 sit-ups, 5 lunges on each side, and then a run up and down 30 steps. After you finish each set, the seconds you have left over until you hit a minute are your precious rest time, then you’re right back at it again with the next exercise.

“It’s an easy way to keep yourself on pace and on track while keeping the heart rate up,” he says. “I would suggest the same interval type of training when it comes to running the track, like running 100 meters and then jogging 400, then doing it over again.” An easy rule of thumb to follow on a track is sprinting the straights and jogging the curves.

Staying Safe While Working Out

To keep yourself and those around you safe, make sure to always pack a mask with you when you head out for your workout.

Fortunately, according to Dr. I-Min Lee, a Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard, you’re already limiting your chances of contracting the virus just by opting for that fresh air workout versus lifting weights in the gym. “The wind disperses viral particles, and UV radiation we know degrades most viruses,” explains Lee. “Now it’s not to say it completely kills it, but the risk is lesser than indoors.”

You never know how many people might be at the track before you head over, so it’s always a safe bet to bring it with you just in case. Gaither suggests that with the record high temps and levels of humidity, you shouldn’t just be wearing any old mask you purchased on Amazon. Instead, invest in a higher-quality one designed specifically for working out — trust us, your lungs will thank you.

Gaither suggests these from UnderArmour, which he calls “really breathable,” or these ones from Athleta.

Work Out With Arnie

You can always work out with Gaitheer from wherever you might be by signing up for a class with Rumble TV, the boxing studio’s pandemic answer to interactive, live online classes.

DC residents can also ping him on his Instagram to schedule in person “partner training” sessions, which are basically like outdoor personal training lessons but with a buddy or partner for some extra motivation. “I wanted to kind of bring that entire element [of community] back a little bit, which is why I’m offering partner training,” says Gaither. “I thought it would be most beneficial to people on a social level.”