Discovering Outdoor Workouts in San Francisco

October 10, 2011 6:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

By Kate Freeman

Working-up a good sweat in the great outdoors sounds like an impossible feat for a city dweller, but San Francisco’s steep hills, numerous parks and pleasant weather creates the perfect landscape for an al fresco workout. Need a little encouragement to run up the Lyon Street Steps? Try one of the numerous outdoor workout classes in the city that will either push you to your physical limit or ease you into downward dog in the middle of Nob Hill. Not only do outdoor workouts provide a great way to get some exercise in a beautiful setting, they’ll introduce you to new areas of the city! Plus, workouts like the ones featured below can save you a gym membership! Here are a few outdoor workouts for free or cheap:

Eucalyptus Grove in the Presidio

Lover’s Lane starts on Corner of Presidio Blvd and Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94129

Breathe in deep while you jog through this forest of towering eucalyptus trees. Stroll through the domed- path created by gracefully slouching foliage, called Lovers’ Lane. This footpath offers a glimpse into San Francisco’s native landscape while providing a break from city buzz.

Cost: Free.

running up steps for lyon st steps thinkstock Discovering Outdoor Workouts in San Francisco

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Lyon Street Steps

Lyon St and Green St
San Francisco, CA 94123

Whether sprinting, walking, jogging or leaping up the Lyon Street Steps, this popular San Francisco workout will have you huffing and puffing all the way up the nearly 300 steps to Broadway. There are small plateaus at various points in the massive staircase where you can stop and take a stretching break if needed.

Cost: Free.

Run Chuggers

Meets up in various San Francisco locations

How do you balance your busy social life while also maintaining your fitness? Join Run Chuggers! The group’s name pretty much explains it all– they go on a run and then meet at a pre-determined location to down some brews, guilt-free. The group meets every Wednesday night for “a little running…a little drinking.”

Cost: Bring money for beer, run is free

pushups outside for outdoor boot camps thinkstock Discovering Outdoor Workouts in San Francisco

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Outdoor Boot Camps

VyAyr Crissy Field Boot Camp
Crissy Field
1199 E Beach
Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129

It’s not easy to force yourself to hold a seated squat until your thighs burn and shake, that is, unless you have an instructor shouting with military-like authority. If you want to break a sweat and torch calories in the breezy San Francisco weather, there are dozens of boot camps in the city to choose from. Want a view of the Golden Gate Bridge while in a deep lunge? Check out VyAyr Crissy Field Boot Camp or REACTT Boot Camp. Get in some gardening- appreciation time with Koi Fitness’ workout at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, or get fit around the city with BodyCore’s program in more than a dozen city locations.

Insider tip: Sign-up for daily deals sites like LivingSocial and Groupon, which often feature trial-passes for outdoor workouts, such as CrossFit and others.

Cost: Varies, but rarely free

Open Water Swim

Meets at grassy hillside at end of Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109

Looking for something a bit more challenging? Try an open-water group swim in the Bay. The group trains at the Aquatic Park, which sounds like it would be an indoor facility, but it’s actually just a sectioned-off area of the Bay. Swimmers need to decide if they want to participate in coached swim sessions, best for beginners, or casual swim, for those who are preparing for an open water race. Print out the online waiver before your first class. Upon arrival you’ll check-in with a coach and pick-up your swimming cap.

Cost: $10 drop-in fee for causal swim, $20 drop-in fee for coached swim, $70 for eight causal swims or $80 for five coached swims, plus $45 wetsuit rental.

yoga outside for hiking yoga thinkstock Discovering Outdoor Workouts in San Francisco

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Hiking Yoga

One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 261-3641

It’s the age-old workout quandary: should I blast calories with a cardio routine or develop flexibility and lengthen muscles with yoga? Hiking yoga provides a solution to both of the fitness goals in one 90-minute heart-pumping workout. The group meets on Saturdays at the Ferry Building.

Cost: Drop-in rate is $20 per class, package deals available

Golden Gate Running Club at Crissy Field

Meet at the Warming Hut at Crissy Field
Crissy Field
1199 E Beach
Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129

Join the Golden Gate Running Club for a Sunday morning run. The group runs anywhere from four and 12 miles and meets at 10 a.m. Just show-up for one of their runs; details can be found on their website calendar. After participating in three runs, you are eligible to join the club for a $40 yearly due.

Cost: First three runs are free, $40 for yearly dues

Kate Freeman is a freelance features writer living in San Francisco. Tweet her at @KateFreeman415 or check out her blog, eyeonsanfrancisco. Samples of her past work can be found at

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