About the ParkFit Project

About the ParkFit Project

About two summers ago, as I became interested in body-weight/calisthenic fitness I found that New York City lacks an accurate list of its park-based fitness inventory. Performing cursory web searches in the hope of finding a new pull up bar or set of parallel bars may bring you an article here or there about a particular spot, but as of the present moment there is no place to find a comprehensive source compilation of locations.

Through my readings, wanderings and conversations I have begun to find a number of these sites throughout the city and will be documenting them through this blog. My goal is to primarily document park-based workout spots and fitness equipment. All locations will be added as pins to the Google Map contained on the site. I will also add my knowledge of running tracks and other outdoor workout spots that I deem relevant. Information garnered from assorted websites may be used to further provide information to my readers.

While I hope that at some point this site will host a comprehensive review of all outdoor fitness equipment in the city, at the present time the information contained herein will be limited to my personal knowledge which admittedly contains a strict geographic bias to Manhattan. I most certainly welcome all emails and will happily post new verifiable information as it is provided to me.

To health, fitness and pushing limits,

- The Skyhopper

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Riverside Park - Traveling Rings


The Traveling Rings or Swinging Rings are New York City's most unique and unconventional outdoor workout equipment. The facility located at the bottom most tier of Riverside Park at approximately 105th street. It is comprised of a large sandbox containing two metal arched frames. Each frame has a series of 10 rings which are spaced approximately 5-8 feet apart from one another and about 6 feet off the ground.

The goal is to be able to swing from one ring to the next using a combination of strength and technique. On any given late-Summer afternoon you will find acrobatic individuals demonstrating skilled and artistic methods for crossing the rings and back. A simple youtube.com search will provide you with numerous examples of what is possible on these rings.

The second set of rings is much smaller and lower presumably designed for children.

While the rings are not necessarily designated for conventional bodyweight strength workouts it is possible to perform pullups, front levers, hanging leg raises and other bodyweight exercises on them. Do bear in mind that you will have to use the full extent of your wingspan in order to grab both adult rings at once. Working out on the children's rings may be somewhat easier although most adults will have to bend their knees in if they wish to workout. Of course please be kind and get out of the way if the kids are practicing there.

NOTE: Using climbing chalk will greatly enhance your experience working out or swinging from these rings and I highly advise using it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City neighborhood near the East Village is possibly New York City's most well known body weight fitness area. The park also has quite a history of its own and bears reading about especially for those fans of social justice and NYC history.

The workout area itself can be found on the north east corner of the park off of East 10th Street and Avenue B.

Popularized by fitness personality Al Kavaldo the park is home to many of NYC's bar athletes. Many of his YouTube videos and tutorials use this park in order to demonstrate the moves. The facility itself appears to be somewhat older and bears many hallmarks of a children's playground....for adults. Do be on the look out for kids looking to commandeer the space, and please be patient  with the little humans.

The facility itself is designed in a monkey bar style  with attached pull up bars, an arched horizontal ladder and a myriad of bars and poles designed to test your imagination as much as your fitness abilities. There is also a set of parallel bars off to the side.

As you may be able to discern from the pictures, the paint is fading on some of the equipment and is in need of a paint job. The park also features rubber matting designed to soften one's landings however it also appears to be wearing and in need of repair. 

Arched horizontal ladder

Parallel Bars  

East River Esplanade (Glick Park)

Located on the East River Esplanade on 37th street between the FDR Drive and East River lies a lonely and somewhat beat up pull up bar. Some sources refer to this spot as Glick Park. Based on random wood pieces and a low bar, this set up appears to be part of what once may have been a more comprehensive fitness center.

The survival of this pullup bar may be due to its well hidden location. To find it you must pass underneath the FDR Drive and pass the bike trail, make a right and walk all the way to the gate. You will find it hidden in the corner.

The pullup bar appears to be in rather poor condition and has grip-tape wound tightly around the bar. There is also a low bar nearby for use. A fading instructional signage lies next to the bar as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

East River Park

East River Park is part of the beautiful riverfront promenade stretching along the southern part of Manhattan's East River waterfront. The park contains amphitheaters, athletic courts and a bike trail that runs under the historic Williamsburg Bridge.


Nestled East of the FDR drive between East Houston Street and East 6th Street lies the parks fitness equipment as well as a full 400 meter track which can be seen in the background of the picture above. This Alphabet City parks features a pullup bar, set of parallel bars, decline benches, monkey bars (horizontal ladder) pull up rings and set of decline parallel bars shown in the picture above.

The fitness area is covered in rubber matting designed to protect participants who fall off the bar or perhaps take a hard fall. Most of the equipment is comprised of metal bars planted on wooden stakes. While the equipment is solid but it has definitely taken a beating over the years and might benefit from a paint job. 
Given the proximity to a first class running track, this workout location is one of the most comprehensive outdoor fitness locations in New York City.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Asser Levy Playground

Riding my bicycle up Manhattan's eastern edges I stumbled upon a compact yet useful workout station in Asser Levy playground on 23rd street. Well hidden behind the handball courts and right next to the FDR drive on the north eastern side of the park lies a small yet elegant muscle-inducing device.

Frontal view
While I must admit that the style and colors of the equipment are quite corny indeed, the equipment has everything you need for a full upper body workout. As you can see from the pictures, there are two benches, one decline and one flat. There are also two pull up bars suspended from the sides of the unit. A yellow set of parallel bars lies to the rear of the unit.

Rear view
 At the time of my visit the park was undergoing quite a bit of construction and it appears there may be many changes in the works. Visit this link for an idea of what may be in-store for Asser Levy Playground in the future.

Friday, April 4, 2014

John Jay Park

John Jay Park on the Upper East Side features a nice yet small collection of fitness equipment that is more than sufficient for most workouts. It also features some equipment that is only really useful for folks who are either extremely out of shape or disabled. Finally there is also a notable instance of hilariously incompetent equipment assembly which leaves a set of new parallel bars completely useless.

The park itself is located between East End Avenue and the FDR Drive. The fitness area is located in the far south east corner of the park, and is hidden away behind the basketball courts.

Note: As an aside, the children's playground equipment looks really cool and I wish we had equipment of that caliber when I was much younger. I do recommend bringing your kids here if you are so privileged.

 Useful Equipment

  1. Pull up bars - Two bars both of which are more than adequate for most adults. 
  2. Parallel bars - About 5 feet off the ground, these bars are very similar to the gymnastics equipment except that they are solid metal and do not bend. They also require a bit of a jump to mount; unless you have incredible strength. 
  3. Monkey bars - These bars are quite high above the ground and feature a portion that runs parallel to the ground as well as a portion that ascends/descends. Traveling the latter portion will most certainly challenge your back and arm strength.

    Monkey Bars

    Parallel Bars and Pullup Bars

    Slightly less useful Equipment

    Equipment designed for seniors, those out of shape or disabled include the following: A leg swinging device, a slanted board-thingie, an arm rotating/bending device (see Medieval Torture Device) and a Leg Press machine. While it is wonderful that the park is dedicating equipment for this specific population, it is my personal opinion that body weight and basic free weight exercises would be far more suitable for this population. These devices have absolutely no utility for anyone with basic levels of physical fitness and health.

    Leg Press

    Leg swinging device
    Medieval Torture Device


Unfortunately the park also put its money into what was supposed to be two new sets of parallel bars. However whomever installed the bars apparently had never seen parallel bars before, and certainly chose not to read the label. Instead they chose to install them as follows:

Bottom Line: Its got what you need for a full upper-body workout even if some pieces of equipment are largely useless.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Marcus Garvey Park (Mt. Morris Park)

Marcus Garvey Park, sometimes known by its former name, Mount Morris Park is nestled between Madison Avenue to the east and Mount Morris Park West to the west, and between 120th Street and 124th Street to the north and south. The park is essentially a square surrounded by quaint brownstones and older apartment buildings which provide a warm and local feeling. Most of the facilities including the pool, baseball fields, amphitheater, basketball courts, playground and workout area ring the lower portion of the park which is dominated by a hill and a former fire-watch tower which still stands on top.

The hill itself contains stairs which are excellent for those who wish to add hill sprinting to their workout.

The fitness area can be found on the Madison Avenue side of the park near the basketball courts roughly parallel to 121st Street. I found it to be a relatively standard NYC workout area consisting of two pullup bars, a set of parallel bars, a monkey bar, two low bars (waist high), a diagonal bar, a vertical ladder, a metal bench, pushup bars, and a three pedestal setup surrounding a pole.

The pullup bars were of slightly offsetting heights, with the taller of the two being just high enough for me to do hanging leg raises without touching the floor with my feet. The monkey bars were slightly on the lower side which meant that most adults would have to bend their knees while swinging from them. 

I found the parallel bars to be slightly on the short side of the height spectrum and would've preferred them to be a tad taller. The paint was wearing off the edges of this equipment as well (which you cannot see in this picture).

I am still in the process of discerning the utility of certain pieces of equipment such as the diagonal bar (seen on the left side of the first picture). From what I can tell it is meant for either testing ones vertical leap, or allowing for one to travel up and down the bar while hanging by only their hands.  This particular bar had numbers tagged on which may have originally stood for the height of the bar at that point. I must confess that these labels did not appear accurate to me.

I also noticed a three pedestal setup surrounding a pole towards the back of the fitness area. While I do not know what the designated purpose of this equipment is, I suspect that it was designed for stepping up. This would also explain the varying heights of the pedestals. If anyone can explain the purpose I'd love to hear from you.

Overall most of the equipment appeared sturdy enough, the area was fairly clean, and safely covered by rubber mats.

The park has a lovely neighborhood feeling to it, and certainly has a lot to offer in the realm of body weight fitness. However the equipment has a particularly bland feeling to it and I would not recommend traveling half-way across the city for a workout ..... unless you were going to see or participate in a Street Workout competition.