New York City's Top Outdoor Spots To Exercise (and the Album To Listen To During Your Workout!)

May 31, 2019
Outdoor Exercise Couple

(Jacob Ammentorp Lund/Getty Images)


With Summer fast approaching, it’s time to throw on some workout gear and head outside for some sunshine and fresh air. And while we love breaking a sweat without a roof overhead, we really love it when we have a good album to motivate us all the way to the end. Here are some iconic outdoor NYC spots to burn calories and the awesome albums to listen to while you do it!


Roosevelt Island
591 Main St.
Roosevelt Island, NY 10044

Album: This Year’s Model, Elvis Costello

If you’re an indoor person, go to the magnificent Sportspark Facility south of the Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island. For rigorous outdoor training or a vigorous fresh air workout in the sun, take the West Road in Manhattan to get to the island’s outdoor exercise park. For the outdoor park, membership is not required but you might have to walk around to get the exercise apparatus you need. Hey! Walking around is good for the circulation and an effortless way to warm up. You can choose where to do calisthenics, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, pole balancing or whatever. You can even do tai chi on tai chi spinners if you don’t want to go through a routine.

Still going strong and doing albums, Elvis Costello is one of the pioneers of alt-rock. His 1978 album, “This Year’s Model,” has undergone several re-releases and become an alt-music cult fave. Called visceral, fiery, witty, reckless and other things beyond music genre labeling, the album is musically a literary touchstone for nearly every mood corner. If one must choose a song for workout inspiration, it’s “Pump It Up.”      


Central Park, Manhattan 
Between 59th Street (Central Park South) and 110th Street (Central Park North) 

Album: The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour

Beyond the hysteria that invaded Carnegie Hall for those lucky enough to gain entrance when The Beatles first stopped in NYC in 1964, the mop tops made rock music appealing to the masses through their myriad recordings. In fact, the Fab Four’s 1967 double-LP dubbed “Magical Mystery Tour” gave way to one visitor highlight that’s part of legendary Central Park. It is a small section of the 840-acres sitting smack dab in the middle of Manhattan that recalls a hit from the popular album, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Aptly termed Strawberry Field, this serene spot is a great place to begin your Central Park exercise routine with a bit of stretching as you take in the stirring memorial to John Lennon, who was shot and killed not far from there at The Dakota where he and Yoko Ono lived. The rest of this particular Beatles album should remain on blast as you run to cover more demanding areas of the park, particularly the 6.1-mile loop that encircles this marvelous Manhattan attraction while boasting rolling hills, one of which is especially steep. Still, don’t shy away. Beatles songs on the Magical Mystery Tour playlist like “All You Need Is Love,” “Penny Lane” and, especially, “The Fool On The Hill” will get you through the course with flying colors. Promise.


The Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan/Brooklyn 
New York, NY 10038

Album: Billy Joel, Turnstile

The Brooklyn Bridge, which debuted in 1883, stands proud as one of Gotham’s major landmarks. Crossing this hybrid suspension bridge and cable-stayed engineering marvel not only lets you pass through the 5,989 feet between Manhattan and Brooklyn without falling into the East River but the bridge obviously cares about pedestrians on foot and on bikes, each with their own branded paths. But don’t forget to stay in your own lane, especially if you are walking, because your two-wheeling counterparts won’t put up with that sort of tomfoolery. To accompany you on your ride or your walk, take along native son Billy Joel’s album, Turnstiles. The disc, released in 1976, is one of those soft rock classics that every New Yorker knows for its everlasting anthem called “New York State of Mind.” In fact, even if you’re an out-of-towner, this is where you’ll be as you hum along with Joel while seeing some famous sights, most especially the Statue of Liberty, a true symbol that shows the Big Apple is a force with which to be reckoned, just like the Piano Man promises.


The High Line, Manhattan 
New York, NY 10011

Album: Madonna, Like A Virgin

For a lively, feel-good morning run, head for The Highline to be there when this trendy outpost opens at 7 a.m. That way, you’ll avoid the inevitable crowds yet still get the full experience of this railway track turned counterculture park. You’ll start on Gansevoort St. in the hipster-loving Meatpacking district and wind up on West 34th St. between 10th and 11th Avenues. That said, don’t dare to step foot on this flat platform that takes up 1.45 miles and is 30 feet above the ground until you’ve downloaded Madonna’s second album, “Like A Virgin,” onto your portable device. Yes, this is dance music from 1984 but don’t discount its motivating power as Madge can make anybody move at a fast clip with the power of promising rhythms and uplifting (and sometimes goofy) lyrics. The title song still has an allure for everyone, from boomers to millennials, and the first track, “Material Girl,” has a bouncy beat that makes you want to live in her material world, too.


West Harlem Piers Park, Manhattan
Henry Hudson Pkwy. @ 132 St.
New York, NY 10027

Album: Femme Fatale by Britney Spears

West Harlem Piers Park, also known as West Harlem Waterfront Park, often has free summer dance fitness classes under the sponsorship of Shape Up NYC. This Manhattan park is a spontaneous spot on the Hudson for aerobic dancing, zumba and interim dance fitness exercises to condition the core muscles.

Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale keeps pace with every type of dance. When compiling musical collections for this pop blockbuster, Spears’ intent was to release a “fresh-sounding and fierce” dance album. That’s just what the album is. An electrifying 16-track mashup of pop dance, electropop, dubstep, and techno styles, the album keeps you dancing — yea! It also includes the video release, “Criminal.”


Bryant Park, Manhattan
1065 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10018

Album: Fifty Shades of Gray (Various Artists)

A privately managed public park, Bryant Park is the main location of the New York Public Library as well as a parcel of green space for outdoor activities. Full of horticulture, culture and history, the park often holds free classes in tai chi, yoga, pilates and dance. There are also boot camps, capoeira and fencing classes for the intensely active.

The music album from the movie, Fifty Shades of Gray, tracks the momentum of a relationship that mimics a day at the gym. One moment you expend energy and the next moment take a break. Fifty Shades of Gray is a good listening album because in the movie, the lead actor kills time with a few gymnastics. Another reason to choose this album is that legendary crooner Frank Sinatra immortalized one of the songs, “Witchcraft,” a wakeup call to help you unwind after a rigorous workout.


Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Seaman Ave. between 207th and 218th
New York, NY 10034


One of the most beautiful parks in Manhattan and rich in colonial history, Inwood Hill Park has hiking and bike trails, athletic fields, playgrounds, marinas, picnic areas, and fitness equipment. The park attracts bird watchers and is also the center for aerobic fitness, meditative exercises, and boot camp and dance classes.

An ABBA album suits any outdoor activity at Inwood Hill Park, whether dance, weight lifting or a fitness boot camp. In Sweden, ABBA Albums have become a collective national anthem. And in the U.S., iconic pop singer Cher has released an album of ABBA covers as a tribute to the group. Across all music genres, ABBA has attained classic status. The catchy lyrics and upbeat tunes, with the key elements of rhythm, harmony and melody, are hard to resist.