Lake Merritt stretch

A quiet moment to do a Flamingo stretch on Oakland’s Lake Merritt pathway.

When traveling, are you at a loss as to how to keep up your fitness program? With Nancercize, you can banish this problem by using the ordinary park bench as your exercise “equipment.” Ask the hotel concierge or log onto the local parks department web site to find the nearest park, trail, pond, reservoir, lakes—any open space will do. Then, be prepared to discover your travel destination in a whole new way, rubbing elbows with locals and other park users.

Whether you live in or are visiting the Bay Area, you’ll think about parks in a whole new way. I’ve just begun the national tour to promote “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench,” and I couldn’t have found a more perfect place to begin than the Bay Area. Prevention Magazine recently declared San Francisco to be one of the best cities for outdoor exercise. In addition to author talks and book signings, I led a series of outdoor group exercises classes in various settings. What you’ll find below is three of my favorite places to Nancercize, along with suggestions for strengthening and stretching exercises from my book, “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench”—the perfect book for travelers who are looking for a way to stay fit.

Nancercizers walking around Lake Merritt trail

Nancercizers walking around the 3-mile Lake Merritt trail.

Lake Merritt: Urban Oasis
For starters, I led a group of writers around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Home to a population of a variety of birds, this man made “lake” is actually a tidal lagoon that formed after the last ice age and is connected to the bay via a long narrow channel. Known as the “jewel of Oakland,” it was undergoing a major overhaul that didn’t get in the way of our enjoyment. With several clusters of benches, water birds, a gazebo, and access via public transportation, it’s a wonderful setting for walking, jogging, and Nancercizing. Try an energetic Classic 60-Minute total Body Nancercize Circuit which includes side, back, and arm stretches, a variety of leg lifts, several exercises for your core muscles, as well as three kinds of push ups.

Scottsdale Pond

Take a relaxing Side Stretch at Scottsdale Pond.

Scottsdale Pond: Tiny Treasure
Next, I met up with a group of chiropractic patients and we walked from the medical office to a hidden gem known as Scottsdale Pond in Novato. With plentiful water fowl–egrets, pelicans, cormorants, ducks and more–gracing the peaceful pastoral setting, it was a quiet getaway in north Marin. We put the various groups of Nancercizable benches and the gazebo to good use. You can too, with, for example, the 20-Minute Stress Buster filled with stretches to improve your flexibility such as the Seated Twist and the Dolphin Flow. Located just off the Rowland Boulevard exit of the Redwood Highway; free on-street parking.

Lafayette Reservoir

On our way to Nancercize at Lafayette Reservoir’s benches.

Lafayette Reservoir: Pleasure Among the Pines
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Lafayette Reservoir. This time, a nutrition coach, Laura Lewis, and I had joined forces to provide 11 local residents with a combination of food and fitness. We walked from Laura’s home office to the reservoir, which had a 3-mile path going all around it and divinely scented pine trees whose needles carpeted the ground. The benches were few and scattered, which is suitable for individuals or small groups, but not for all 13 of us! So we improvised and used the many picnic tables for our exercises and stretches. We took advantage of the two different heights of the tables and seats, for arm-strengthening push ups, core-toning planks, butt-firming squats and more. Located off highway 24 (metered parking) and one mile from the Lafayette BART station.

There are often hidden treasures like these in metropolitan areas. They might not all have the “ideal” bench—or any benches at all–but you can always make creative use of whatever you find, such as picnic tables, walls, and railings.

What are your favorite outdoor places to exercise? How do you use the features that you find there?

8 Responses to “Traveling in The San Francisco Bay Area: 3 Secret Places to Nancercize”

  1. I love this post nancy. Good job


  2. Nancy, great gems in the Bay area!

    One of my favorite California outdoor locations: Shell Beach Bluff Trail –


  3. Great recommendations. Fun Nancercizing with you. It keeps me one step ahead of the zombies … for now.


  4. Hey, Nancy! Congrats on your new book! Now that you’ve finished with the book, don’t you need to come to Colorado to market it? Surely we can find 3 Secret Places in Denver to Nancercize, too!


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