The Blog

Exercise advice, tips and workouts

Sneak preview of part of the fitness map.

Sneak preview of part of the fitness map.

Are you tired of being tied to a fitness class schedule? Tired of spending all that money too? Here’s a free fitness guide for you to download and print, and free classes to help you learn how to free yourself of other people’s schedules.

The Good News:  The Friends of Morningside Park and I have teamed up to create an innovative way to help you celebrate Independence Day every day.

Learn how to use Morningside Park’s Green Gym map and guide along with the program of 12 instructional banners installed in the park–and make it your own. I show you how to put together jogging or brisk walking and stair climbing with a variety of exercises using park features such as benches and lamp posts to work every muscle group and provide bursts of cardio, plus strength training and healthful stretching. The workout can be modified to suit any/all levels of fitness, strength and flexibility. Sponsored by the Partnership for a Healthier New York. Get your free Morningside Green Gym Fitness Map & Guide at the class, or download it here:

The class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 7:00 am- 7:45am until July 22nd… then you’re on your own. Meeting Place:  Recreation Center at West 123rd St. and Morningside.

Super Good News:  Email me at for a free pdf of the 12 exercises — infinitely adaptable to any park!  Or, email if you’d like information about ordering my book, “101 Things to Do on a Park Bench”– that’s right: 101 stretches and strengtheners that need no equipment other than a park bench and an open  mind.


Dips on a bench.

Dips on a bench… how many can you do?


You might not equate museums with physical activity, but the Museum of the City of New York is taking steps to change that.


Celebrating the Art of Fitness

As part of their exciting multi-faceted recognition of the city as a great place to get and stay fit, the museum offers an ongoing exhibit on the NYC Marathon (until March), a conversation about running in New York, (Thursday, Jan. 21), a film screening about the originator of the marathon (Saturday, Jan. 23) and a panel discussion about making the city your gym (February 22). They all sound worthwhile, but I have a soft spot for the panel discussion, because Nancercize fan Adena Long, Assistant Commissioner, Public Programs, NYC Parks & Recreation, is one of the presenters. Even more good news: since Nancercize is a co-sponsor, you can use the code RUN3 for discount tickets for this week’s events!

Conversation: Run this City: The Highs and Lows of Running in New York
Thursday, January 21 at 6:30 pm
What makes New York City one of the great running capitals of the world? Are there hidden runners’ gems in this city? To find out, join journalist and author Liz Robbins for a conversation about the New York runner’s soul with Mary Wittenberg, president and chief executive of New York Road Runners for over a decade. Click here and use the code RUN3 for discount tickets!

Film Screening: Run for Your Life
Saturday, January 23 at 3:00 pm
How did the NYC Marathon begin? Join us for a screening of a documentary film chronicling the life of Fred Lebow, a Romanian immigrant to New York. According to the New York Times, “Lebow was a dreamer and a schemer who combined a deep passion for running with a genius for promotion. Without him, marathoning in New York and around the world would never have reached its current mass appeal.” Followed by a conversation with its Emmy Award winning director, Judd Ehrlich and George Hirsch, a founder of the five-borough NYC Marathon in 1976 and Chairman of the Board of the New York Road Runners. Click here and use the code RUN3 for discount tickets!

Exhibition: The New York City Marathon: The Great Race.
Through March 8, 2016
The NYC Marathon is the world’s largest footrace and draws 50,000 participants and over 1 million spectators. This exhibit features over 100 photos of professional and amateur photographers alike, as well as video footage. Feel the thrill without breaking a sweat! For more info click here.

Panel Discussion: Make the City Your Gym
Monday, February 22 at 6:30 pm
Join us for a discussion with fitness writers, physicians, and leaders of the city’s public health initiatives to explore the free and low-cost fitness resources that already exist in the city, and how best to take advantage of them. For more info click here.

Events are co-sponsored by the New York Road Runners, the Crown Heights Running Club, the Galloway NYC Running Club, Harlem Run, Nancercize: The Benchmark in Outdoor Fitness Blog, and the Prospect Park Track Club.

Let’s hope more museums jump on the outdoor fitness bandwagon and promote the “art” of physical activity!

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10029  212.534.1672  Open Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

Nancercize for balance and strength.


While flying home for the holidays might lead to joy, the trip itself will likely be anything but. After the long lines and hours of sitting, you’re likely to arrive tired, thirsty, and cranky, with your brain and body feeling like they’ve been through the ringer. The good news is that many airlines and airports are trying to make travel healthier and more pleasant. And there are many things you can also do to prepare yourself for the experience.


Emotional and mental stressors include anxieties about the trip itself, making it to the airport on time, and all that happens when arrive. Sometimes, fear of flying gets thrown in too.
Physical stressors can include lugging and lifting luggage, walking faster than usual (or racing) to get to a departure gate, and having trouble finding healthy foods and beverages.

Hydration on high

Moreover, it is no secret that the air inside the plane leaves something to be desired. It draws in very dry air at high altitudes, which can dry out your skin nose and mouth. The solution is to hydrate frequently, preferably with water and diluted fruit juices. If the flight attendant doesn’t come around with water frequently enough, don’t be shy – ask. If your nose gets very dry, there are saline nasal sprays or gels to buy before your flight that might help.


Of serious concern is the possibility of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is associated with sitting for long periods of time. DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep in your body. It usually affects the legs and leads to swelling, pain, or tenderness. DVT can be dangerous when the blood clot breaks apart and travels to the lungs, blocking blood flow and damaging your lungs.

Sitting increases the risk of DVT, so try to get an aisle seat, so you don’t stir disturb other passengers as you get up to walk up and down the aisle. Try to find somewhere unobtrusive to stand and perform small stretching movements fit for a small space. Even while sitting, you can also do leg exercises. Plant your heels on the floor and then pull up your toes. Then pull up your heels, keeping your toes pressed to the floor. Alternating these movements will stretch your calf muscles and encourage blood flow.

Jet stress or jet lag?
The difference between jet stress and jet lag has to do with the direction in which you are flying. Jet lag occurs when your body’s circadian rhythms gets disrupted, which happens when you cross at least one time zone when you travel east to west and your internal body clock is not in sync with the time of your destination. Jet stress on the other hand, is due to the accumulation of stress before, during, and after the flight, and means you arrive fatigued, irritable, and maybe sore. Jet lag can cause insomnia, feeling sleepy in the daytime, difficulty concentrating, and troubles with digestion or menstruation. Unfortunately, you can have both jet lag and jet stress.
You can help avoid jet stress and jet lag by being well rested before you leave on your trip. Take care of your body by maintaining your exercise routine and a healthy diet in the weeks before you travel. For jet lag, you need to take additional measures to resynchronize your body clock. It’s best to fall in line with the time of your destination. Go to sleep when other people sleep and get up when they get up. Set your watch to the local time when you embark on the plane. For every time zone you cross, the recommendation is to budget one day for adjustment. Light therapy helps, and you can do this yourself by getting up early every day and exposing yourself to sunlight.

At the airport

The travel business has begun encouraging opportunities to keep travelers physically active. No one will look at you oddly if you walk briskly from one terminal to the other, adding a few stretches now and then. If your luggage allows, take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators. Do a Google search for “airport walking path” to see what your departure and arrival airports have to offer.

For something fancier, The American College of Sports Medicine has created a list of U.S. airports and their physical activity features, from yoga studios and health clubs to marked indoor and outdoor walking paths. Often, hotels connected to airports make their health clubs available to non-guests for a small fee.

Other examples include the Mount Vernon Trail near the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the 18-hole golf course at Salt Lake City international Airport, and numerous airports with fitness centers, massage stations, play zones for children, and more. Other options include what I spotted recently at the airport at Reykjavík, Iceland: stationary bicycles that can power up your electronic devices.

Don’t despair and plan ahead. And who knows? Instead of coming home a wreck after a long trip, you might well return in better shape than when you set out.

If you’re in New York this spring or summer, join me in these warm weather hikes.  

And don’t forget–you can have your own Green Gym Day on May 31st — or any day.

Send me your pics or videos from the day, and we’ll include you in our video.


FREE! Community Outdoor Urban Hikes 2015

Walk the Heights in Manhattan

May 3, 3-5 pm. Free – via Municipal Arts Society Jane’s Walk

Meet at 193rd St. & Fort Washington Ave. entrance to Heather Garden

This walk explores two large parks in Northern Manhattan. Fort Tryon Park is a 67-acre historic park with breathtaking views of the Hudson River, the largest heather garden on the east coast, and the Cloisters, which houses a portion of the medieval art collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’ll meet up with a special expert guest and then continue to Isham and Inwood Parks, and see forested land, Indian caves, and more. The final touch is a visit to the newly developed Muscota Marsh Park at the northernmost tip of Manhattan Island.


Green Gym Day 2015

May 31, 9 AM- 2 PM (approximate) Free- via Nancercize and Outdoor Fest

Meet at Central Park West and West 110th Street (outside Cafe Amrita)

Come explore the cliff-side parks of northern Manhattan, traversing a total of six parks over six miles of breathtaking views of both the East and Hudson Rivers. Participants may choose to hike a portion, or all of the inspiring trek. Join Green Gym Day’s magical journey through New York City’s finest green spaces with Hiking-For-Life NYC 2015, fundraiser benefiting Moving For Life and their dance exercise and wellness programs for cancer prevention and recovery. Along the way, Moving For Life will lead health-giving stretches, and Green Gym Day will teach participants how to turn any park into a green gym. Sign up registration

Hike the Heights 11

June 6th (starts approximately 10 AM) Free via CLIMB

An annual community hike and celebration in northern Manhattan parks that promotes the use of the Giraffe Path. This urban trail connects 6 parks and is 6 miles long, connecting Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters to Central Park. This family-friendly event invites New Yorkers to explore and celebrate the area’s natural treasures by combining physical activity, art, and fun! Nancy will be leading one of the 3- mile hikes. For information about starting place and time, email For a printable copy of the map, click


Morning Fitness Classes (All levels) in Fort Tryon Park – Free via Fort Tryon Park Trust

Year-round, Tues. & Thurs. 7:30 AM- 8:30 AM; Sat. 8:30 AM- 9:30 AM

Brisk walk a 1-mile circuit around the park plus bodyweight exercises and stretches.

Meet at 193rd St. and Fort Washington Ave. entrance to Heather Garden.


Morning Yoga Walkabout Classes (Seniors 62+) Inwood Hill Park

April 27th through June 17th Free via City Parks Foundation

Peaceful walk through the park trails plus yoga-based stretches.

Meet at Isham and Seaman Street park entrance, at the flagpole.


To register or for information: or 419-962-6292

Join me in some outdoor fun!


I’ve just published the latest version my online magazine. Read excerpts or full stories:

  • Exercise better, feel better by getting outside.
  • Children need to play out doors.
  • Five ways to exercise with your children
  • Too much sunshine?

For these full articles and more:   The best news in outdoor fitness

Don't let fear of falling keep you from exercising in winter.

‘Tis the season to be falling! And nothing ruins your holidays or plans for outdoor activities like a big old cast on your arm or leg. In fact, a back injury from falling on ice sent my mother to Florida for her retirement—completely changing the last twenty years of her life!

True, when we think of fall prevention, we usually think of seniors. After all, we are at higher risk of losing our balance or tripping as we get older.

But did you know that during the winter, if we live where it snows or ices over, we’re all at higher risk? When the pavement becomes slushy or icy the slippery surface doesn’t care how old you are! And, if you live where there are hills and valleys in your topography, like I do, you need to be especially careful.

The young may be fearless and oblivious to the danger. I often see runners on the streets and in the park, regardless of the weather. Good for them, up to a point; a broken wrist or ankle can throw a real monkey wrench in your jogging program. And what about those ladies all dressed up in sky-high heels–fashion victims about to become falling victims as well?

The predictions for a dire winter have so far pretty much failed to materialize in some areas of the country. But if and when they do, there are ways to reduce the chance of mishaps. Fortunately, you don’t need to become a hermit and stay in all winter, if you follow these practical tips:

Work on Your Strength, Balance and Reflexes

  • Begin or maintain an active lifestyle that includes at least 30 minutes of moderate endurance exercise (such as brisk walking) each day.
  • Include strengthening and balance exercises (pictured) at least every other day. Your core (trunk) muscles are especially important.
  • Think about swimming as your exercise. A recent study shows that swimming reduced falls in in men more than did other exercises. Swimming is a great way to build strong core muscles.


Plan Ahead

  • Leave extra time so you don’t rush and aren’t tempted to take dangerous shortcuts.
  • Walk where the pavement has been cleared.
  • If the surface is icy, walk on the sides, on grass or dirt where there is more traction underfoot.
  • Buy shoes that have soles that provide traction—rubber is usually best—and with no or low heels.
  • Add traction devices to your shoes or boots such as Stabilicers or Yaktrax (pictured).
  • Try to remain unencumbered with packages so you can use your arms for balance—use a backpack for carrying instead.
  • Consider buying a walking stick or walking poles.
  • Limit alcohol consumption, especially at night.

While Walking

  • Be conscious and mindful of your environment; not distracted by talking or looking at your phone.
  • Take smaller steps than usual, and walk slowly, with bent knees.
  • Take advantage of handrails if available.
  • If in doubt, test the area in front of you by tapping it with your toe.
  • Watch out for “black ice” –a thin sheet of transparent ice.

If You Start to Fall….

  • Avoid the reflex to break your fall with your hands or arms, unless this will prevent your head from making contact with the ground.
  • Roll with the fall, preferably backwards instead of forwards.
  • Let go of any packages you’re carrying—don’t worry about damaging them. They can be replaced—you can’t be!

These precautions may seem like another bother, but remember: Injuries from falls can be deadly for seniors—but they can also lead to long-term health problems for anyone, not to mention time away from work, family, and the other good things in life. You don’t need to hibernate all winter to be safe—you just need to be informed.

The treasure hunt started on a cold day the winter of 2014

The treasure hunt started on a cold day the winter of 2014

Did you know that there’s a free gym right in your own neighborhood park? And that fitness mapping is a new way to find the hidden potential in any outdoor space? While every community and business can benefit, this approach is especially needed in city parks, in neighborhoods that lack health clubs. Now, everyone can afford to go to the gym and bring their friends and family for free to enjoy healthy hidden treasures.

Fitness mapping takes a fresh look at ordinary outdoor spaces and sees the potential ways that people can use what’s already there as “exercise equipment.” We don’t always need to install special gym machines, which are expensive, require maintenance, and can only be used for one thing: exercise. Fitness mapping on the other hand only requires only an open mind, and the ability to see and explain how park benches, walls, curbs, steps, railings, and paths can be used as the foundation for innovative workouts.

I created my first green gym fitness map for Fort Tryon Park—10 different routes and 10 exercises and stretches to do along the way–and we had a big outdoor fitness party to celebrate its first printing in 2008. Now I’m happy to announce the latest fitness mapping project will be ready for a big party on Saturday, September 27th, in Morningside Park located in New York City’s Harlem.

Together with the Friends of Morningside Park (president, Brad Taylor) and youarethecity (designer Kaja Khuel), and funded by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control via the Partnership for a Healthier New York, the map and brochure reflects the unique characteristics of that park, including lots of stairs and scenic overlooks. In a new twist, we’ve also designed banners with exercise instructions, which will be installed NYC Parks Department as soon as they give final approval to the design.

Are we having fun yet? Testing the map among park users, with project team members Kaja Khuel and Brad Taylor

Are we having fun yet? Testing the map among park users, with project team members Kaja Khuel and Brad Taylor

Tne Fitness Guide has three routes, color-coded to coordinate with the 10 stretches and exercises:
• The Serenity Stroll (blue)—Low-key and relaxing; the straight, level path includes 3 blue-coded stretches suitable for beginners, seniors, and anyone who wants to feel less stress. 2/3 of a mile long.
• The Power Path (yellow)—All-round complete body workout; brisk walk or run the straight level path with path with loops at each end, pausing to do the yellow-coded bodyweight strengthening and stretching exercises. 1 mile long.
• The Energy Circuit (red)—Intense, fat-burning, and revitalizing. Travel up and down the stairways through the upper and lower paths of the park, including the 2 red-coded cardio-boosting exercises; add the others for a total experience. 2 miles long.

Sneak preview of part of the fitness map.

Sneak preview of part of the fitness map.

Plus exercise guidelines, tips, and more.

Come get your free copy of “Your Green Gym—A Fitness Map and Guide to Morningside Park.” I’ll be there to do an exercise demonstration and answer questions about how to find the hidden gym in YOUR park.

Common Ground Festival
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014
1 – 6pm near the pond in Morningside Park at 114th and Morningside Avenue in Manhattan.

Join the Friends of Morningside Park and the Harlem and Morningside Heights communities as we gather for a fun day of activities and performances for the whole family in Morningside Park. The Common Ground Festival has been an annual community event sponsored by the Friends of Morningside Park for over 20 years!
They will be posting more details about the event on their homepage at and on their Facebook page.

Vermont has a beautiful park system, and in September, I’ll be giving a demo class, and then teaching a train-the-trainer workshop, at the annual Vermont Governor’s Conference on Recreation. This is the state recreation conference and the premier recreation training event of the year in Vermont. So, if you know anyone in Vermont who wants to be a Nancercize leader, let me know and I’ll get you in. Got a conference or other event in your neck of the woods? Let me know if you want a Nancercize presentation–complete with interactive moves designed to get you going.

Let's see.... what Nancercizes can we do on this fence?

Let’s see…. what Nancercizes can we do on this fence?

Early Bird Workout indeed–we’ll be doing an 8:00 AM circuit around the beautiful grounds of Lake Morey Resort, the gorgeous site of the conference. Oh, how I suffer for my work.

This pavillion was made for dips, don't you think?

This pavillion was made for dips, don’t you think?

Vermont Governor’s Conference on Recreation.

Vermont Governor’s Conference on Recreation.

Immediately after, we swing into the Train-the-Trainer Workshop. I’ll be teaching participants to use Nancercize as a way to increase people’s use of parks for recreational fitness. We’ll be looking at park benches and other park features with a fresh eye and an open mind, and see how you can turn any outdoor space into a natural “green gym.” Want to learn how to put together a simple 10, 30, or 60-minute outdoor workout? How to adapt exercises to suit any level of ability? How to create a “fitness map”?

Come on down to Vermont!

Hey, they're warming up without me!

Hey, they’re warming up without me!

Here’s the link to the organizer’s page:

Stretching our minds and bodies on Green Gym Day

Stretching our minds and bodies on Green Gym Day

What wonderful thing have you discovered lately? If you had come with us on the second annual Green Gym Day, you would have discovered a lot. A secret forest in northern Manhattan, above Harlem; a peaceful cove with a floating Victorian-style boathouse; columns from medieval European cloisters; the largest heath and heather garden on the East Coast; a 200-foot stone tower – and ethereal outdoor art. You would have hiked through and between five of the most gorgeous parks in the city, with the most spectacular views of the Hudson and East Rivers. You would have danced and stretched during the breaks in each park. And you would have eaten free mulberries from a tree.

Our Green Gym Day 2014 group hike in lush, verdant Highbridge Park

Our Green Gym Day 2014 group hike in lush, verdant Highbridge Park

I created Green Gym Day to be celebrated every year on the second Sunday of June, in order to encourage people around the world to get outside and make use of their parks. Here’s the post about last year’s Green Gym Day, the first Green Gym Day ever.

For the second annual Green Gym Day, June 8th 2014, we hiked for 5 miles through 5 gorgeous parks in northern Manhattan. Thanks to Moving for Life for dance breaks and OutdoorFest for spreading the word. A first time partner with Green Gym Day, Moving for Life writes, “Moving For Life seized this opportunity to explore these beautiful Manhattan parks that we pass every day and very seldom take the time to enjoy. MFL brought in routines from the classroom into the shaded patches under the trees. As we got our hearts pumping to music during our dance and stretch breaks, our lungs opened to fresh air while we built our energy from the gentle aerobic movements and enjoyed the pleasure of being around each other.”

Unbeknownst to me, a cartoonist from the New Yorker magazine was there. Here’s his charming take on what he, for some reason, called “Fitness Day.”

How cool is this? The New Yorker magazine's cartoon of the day

How cool is this? The New Yorker magazine’s cartoon of the day

Here are some of the photos taken by participants Beth Ranney and Brad Taylor, Moving for Life, and me.

Let's get moving--the start of Green Gym Day at Jackie Robinson Park

Let’s get moving–the start of Green Gym Day at Jackie Robinson Park

Can you believe this is New York City?

Can you believe this is New York City?

Here I am in Highbridge Park, "splainin' 'bout the oldest standing bridge in NYC

Here I am in Highbridge Park, “splainin’ ’bout the oldest standing bridge in NYC

Dance stretches in Fort Tryon Park, courtesy of  Martha Eddy & Moving for Life

Dance stretches in Fort Tryon Park, courtesy of Martha Eddy & Moving for Life

And as a grand finale, the video: Green Gym Day 2014: Discover.

GGD: The Video

GGD: The Video

For more info about Green Gym Day, visit
For Moving for Life,
For OutdoorFest:

Any form of activity gains something from the natural environment. Here, yoga instructor Shawna Emerick, one of the yoga teachers in the summertime yoga program I coordinate, writes beautifully and eloquently about what doing yoga in nature means to her. Do you agree?

Let your Spirit Soar

Let your Spirit Soar

At this time every year, I get really excited! Not just because summer has officially started, or because we can all eat outside, or because I weigh ten pounds less without coat, hat, boots, and gloves, but because the outdoor yoga starts (ok, and all those other reasons too)! Classes being totally free to all people is a great perk, however, there is so much more that makes doing yoga in nature so magical.



Appreciation for our fellow live beings of this earth is heightened. Trees seem to talk to us in unconditional support to spread our own “branches” as we dig deep into the “roots” of our essence; they breathe with us on the journey. Tiny insects remind us that no matter how `small` our thoughts cause us to feel, that we are actually very important and play a big role on this planet. Birds flying high above, and those watching us as they waddle past our mats, remind us that it doesn’t matter where we have been, or where we are going, but what matters is being right here, now. As we appreciate all things, we laugh to see that they are appreciating us, and reminding us of this ever evolving cycle of life.

Community grows from this place. From the communion with nature, to the communion with friends, old and new, we share in the practice of “union”(yoga) together. We come to see that we share so much more than just flesh and bones, breath and movement; we share in feeling. We have all, I am sure, at some point or another in our lives, felt sadness, happiness, joy, sorrow, pain, and peace. And, yet, when we come to the grass, with the sky above, and our fellow beings and friends around us, we are all one. We can let go of grief and be loved just the way we are. We can celebrate our uniqueness while embracing the common thread of spirit.

All of this, and so much more that words cannot describe, seem to fire up the practice! Your Spirit might soar, you might strike that awesome pose, you might be so inclined to sing out loud or dance freely! Or, you mind feel that inner shifting, that letting go you have been waiting for, or the inner peace you thought could never happen. I can’t promise anything, for it is up to you; offer yourself the time for yourself, you deserve it. When you serve and honor yourself, you serve and honor all things, even that little ant that just crawled over your big toe!

So, I hope you will join me, and Nancy, and many others in bringing your yoga outdoors this summer!

Shawna is the owner of Breathe and Believe and “Your Wellness Navigator”