Free? You have no excuse not to get out there
Ditch the Gym
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Gyms and fitness studios may help trim your body fat, but they’ll probably take a chunk of your bank account along with it. In fact, the price of fitness is one of the biggest factors keeping people from getting off the couch, according to a survey form the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. And while going for a run is free, most of us need the versatility of gym equipment or camaraderie of a class to stay motivated. Luckily, summer is the best time to find free workouts since even gym rats and trainers prefer to sweat in the sun. So put your wallet away and lace up your shoes: We’ve rounded up 21 of our favorite classes and community-organized sweat sessions from around the country—all offered to you at no cost at all.
Shape Up NYC
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Location: New York, NY
New York is a haven for free summer fitness opportunities, but this program, which actually runs year-round, offers over 200 classes in various parks, schools, libraries, hospitals, and community centers across the five boroughs. All the typical gym offerings are covered—Zumba, boot camp, kickboxing, yoga—but they also have unique offerings like African Dance Fusion, the DeRose Method, and Bokwa.
Orange County Hiking Club
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Location: Orange County, CA
This nonprofit outdoor club organizes walks and hikes across the coastal hills, forests, rivers and deserts of Southern California. In the sunny Golden State, the hikes are offered year round and are all free, although there is a suggested donation of $35 to support future free outdoor events.
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This movement was born the same way all buddy-based fitness commitments begin: Two friends promised to help each other roll out of bed every morning and squeeze in a workout even in Boston’s cold winter months. Their commitment grew into the November Project and started to include others. Hooked by the camaraderie, participants show up for a basic but challenging rain-or-shine workout that included sprints, stair climbs, and bodyweight exercises. The simplicity and accountability spread like wildfire and the November Project now has 17 different city chapters and more than 1,200 regular participants, from Olympic medalists to reformed couch potatoes. Best yet, the two founders are adamant that the classes will remain free for life.
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Nike Training Club
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Location: Select Cities
N+TC is not just an app on your phone: Select Nike stores actually host an in-person Nike Training Club, where local trainers drill participants in circuits similar to the result-delivering strength and cardio workouts delivered to your phone. Classes are offered throughout the week and always vary, but only lucky cities—Austin, Chicago, LA, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC—have stores with the club feature.
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Location: Baltimore, MD
This meet up group knows how to have some innocent fun: The group gets together once every few weeks at a playground and goofs off playing double dutch, freeze tag, four square, hula hooping, and jump roping. They typically finish off their elementary school nostalgia with some grown up fun, by heading to a local bar.
The People’s Bootcamp
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Location: New York, NY
Trainer Adam Rosante’s bootcamp features only the pros of a good workout: 45 minutes of blood-pumping, sweat-squeezing, full body moves without the fuss of weights or thinning wallets. His body-weight workouts are pay-what-you-can classes—which means you can still score a sweat session those weeks you’re tight on cash—and word on the street is he throws regulars a few free classes (which is more motivation to hit it every week day you can).
Lululemon in Store Classes
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You don’t just wear Lululemon clothes—you have to live and breathe yoga to be a true brand devotee. So it is no surprise that you don’t even have to leave the store to get a practice in. Every week, the apparel powerhouse’s stores transform their showroom into a tranquil, mat-covered sanctuary. Classes, which are led by instructors from local studios, are always free and always open to the community.
It Burns Joe Fitness
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Location: Denver, CO
Fitness junkies gather at Denver’s beautiful outdoor Red Rocks amphitheater every Sunday morning for Joe Hendrick’s free workout, but this is no yoga in the park—it is a grueling, never-enough-sweat, survival-of-the-fittest session that, among other things, takes incredible advantage of the amphitheater stairs with moves like decline spiderman pushups and instruction to crawl up the steps while someone pulls against you. Oh, and did we mention it lasts three hours? No wonder Colorado’s the fittest state in America.
National Fitness Campaign Fitness Court
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Outdoor gyms may be a new craze, but the National Fitness Campaign has been installing courts across the country since the program began in 1979. Back then, the courts were basically just bars and planks, but the modern Fitness Courts are one of the best examples of outdoor gym potentials. Installed in over 4,000 U.S. cities, these bright blue public spaces are a combination of rings, foam, bars, and boxes creating a half gym, half playground for anyone to execute their own full-body workout for free. Most have plaques explaining different workout routines, and companies like Nike and Muscle Milk sometimes hold free group classes in them.
Klyde Warren Park
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Location: Dallas, TX
This unique park is actually a five-acre deck built over Dallas’ Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The park has only been open for two years but is already contributing to the well-being of Texans: They offer free fitness classes like SWEAT in the Park boot camp, yoga taught by local studios, Insanity workouts, and Zumba all throughout the week.
813 Fit Club
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Location: Tampa, FL
It’s easy for any gym rat to organize a free sweat session with his workout buddies, but we love this group because it’s actually run by a group of certified Beachbody Fitness coaches. The trainers offer their expertise for free by hosting weekly P90X, Insanity, and other Beachbody programs at their downtown gym for anyone to come try.
REI Indoor Rock Wall
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We have serious arm envy of pretty much every female climber, but hitting the rock wall just to carve out beautiful biceps and delts can be a pricey endeavor. Luckily, select REI stores have an indoor rock wall that is free to store members. And while the membership isn’t free, the outdoor junkie mecca offers lifetime participation for a one-time $20, so most nature enthusiasts you know can probably get you on the wall for free.
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Location: Boston, MA
Bostonians are bringing their mats outside while the grass is still green: Post Office Square hosts a free morning and evening session of yoga, bootcamp, pilates, or Zumba four days a week. Coordinator Kendall Covitz, a certified holistic nutrition coach, also hosts a handful of free nutrition seminars over lunch in the park to offer guidance on food and health. But enjoy before the snow hits: Classes only run through late September.
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Athleta is proving to be a formidable opponent to rival fitness apparel giant Lululemon, not only in their comfy yoga pants, but now also in their fitness class offerings. All of their retail stores offer free yoga, but Athleta also hosts free barre, CrossFit, and cardio classes for the community. Athleta has stores in more than 20 states and, in proof of their soaring success, is rumored to be opening 100 more over the next few years.
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Location: New York, NY
New York has a lot of fitness meet ups, but The Rise is among the best: The group meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:30 in the morning to bust out a HIIT routine, hill runs, or core circuits in parks and squares all over Manhattan. Most events have a pretty reliable 10 to 20-person attendance rate so you have a solid group of motivators before everyone starts their busy day.
Fitness in the Parks
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Location: St. Paul, MN
Always miss out on the summer workouts because you don’t live near your city’s major green space? St. Paul solves this problem by scheduling fitness classes in nine different parks all across the city. Through the end of summer, locals can take yoga, kickboxing, or Primal Bootcamp, which combines bodyweight exercises and natural jumping/pushing/lifting movements.
The Gym Park
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Location: Brooklyn, NY
This Brooklyn-based gym opens their tumbling room three times a week for “free play” where anyone can come in and jump over, under, and off of their props which are conveniently and safely surrounded by cushioned mats. Unless you’re a seasoned tumbler, you should probably get your footing and take a few parkour classes before dipping into these free sessions, but luckily The Gym Park also offers Parkour for the People classes which start at only $1. (West Coast based? Check out Parkour Utah, which offers free classes twice a week.)
Boulder Rock Club
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Location: Boulder, CO
One of the first indoor climbing gyms to open in the country in the early 90s, Boulder Rock Club has now branched out to offer more than just a massive indoor climbing circuit. The club hosts a handful of group fitness classes—all free—to enhance the supplementary skills of climbers, including core strength and stability, full-body workouts (including one class enticingly named “Cry in the Dojo”), and even ski conditioning.
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Location: Columbus, OH
In 2012, Columbus turned the plot of a former mall into seven acres of green space. This summer, instructors from a local gym, Ohio Fit Club, have come out to teach boot camp, CroosFit, kickboxing, hip hop, yoga and Zumba throughout the week to the community. But locals should take advantage early: Columbus only offers these alfresco workouts through the end of September.
Hudson Valley Hikers
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Location: New York, NY
With over 10,000 members, this massive group offers free outdoor events practically every single day, often multiple times a day during the summer and fall. New Yorkers who like hiking, camping, rock climbing, caving, and mountaineering, or just lounging on the beach can get their nature fix—granted they can find transportation out of the city and into nature.
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Location: New York, Boston, Washington, DC
In 2010, Reebok signed a 10-year deal with CrossFit Inc., making the apparel company the official provider of CrossFit shoes and apparel—a pretty smart business move if you ask us. Certain retail stores now double as “FitHubs,” or part CrossFit box. The best part? Most FitHubs also offer free butt-kicking workouts for non-CrossFitters, including Les Mills Bodystep, HIIT routines, yoga, group runs, and strength and conditioning. There are only a handful of FitHubs in three U.S. cities so far, but Reebok has already started opening them across the pond in England, so hopefully they’re bringing these decked out stores to the rest of America soon.