Melbourne's Best Free Workouts The Art of Sneak-Exercising
Sneak-exercising is a good way to work real exercise into your day behind your reluctant body's back. The best news is that all the equipment you need is free and already right under your nose
I recently had a job interview. Excited and nervous, I was up until midnight the night before pulling out one of my work suits from 2011 and making sure it was spotless, wrinkle-free, and perfectly co-ordinated with my favourite work shirt. The next morning I sprang out of bed to put on my makeup and batter my hair into place. I then put on my suit-skirt and zipped it up and the zip came right off in my hand. There it was. Out of nowhere I was suddenly faced with the harsh reality that my zip would rather take its own life than subject my suit to the resultant mass of my previous year as a student. I tried my other suits. None of the other zips would even pay me the courtesy of budging. Not even a millimetre. Despite turning up in an emergency outfit that did not quite belong in an interview, I managed to get the job. The joy had sort of been sucked out of it though.
As mentioned I am a student, so buying a new suit was out of the question. This left me with one terrifying alternative: exercise. I am not a fan of poorly air-conditioned sweatshops that make me black-out on the treadmill, frantic remixes of remixes being forced into my ears at Guantanamo Bay Interrogation Room decibel levels, waiting for hours for mothers' clubs of giant, cloud-shaped men to stop using the weight machines as a meeting venue, or falling down because the left and right hemispheres of my brain can't agree on what the pipecleaner-thin instructor is doing. I'm even less fond of paying large ongoing costs for these privileges (again, student!), so gym membership was out of the question. I had to do something though, and knowing me, I knew that it had to be sneaky or my body would rebel and quickly put an end to it.
Image source: 'Collins St., 5 pm' by John Brack / Wikimedia Commons
It then occurred to me: Melbourne, the city I love, is the perfect free gym! Walking wherever I can to get where I'm going solves the problem of having to summon the motivation to exercise early in the morning before my caffeine, or in the dark when I get home at night and am hungry. It is very easy to control incline or pace, all you need is a mental map. If you work or study in Melbourne and do not consider yourself a type A personality, read on. I believe I have found the formula to free fitness for you, and your body won't even realise that's what it's doing.
Downhill Strolling An introductory course for the sneak-exerciser
Hopping straight from watching Dr Phil on the couch into hard cardio can be at best extremely painful, and at worst put you off continuing your efforts, leaving you sore and in no way any better for it. So before you start taking your sneak-exercising seriously, begin with something simple. Walking down any of the roads between Spring Street and Elizabeth Street (perhaps hopping off at Parliament Station or St Vincent's Plaza) will take a bit over half an hour and will still leave you with an endorphin hit. You can easily adjust the length and pace down to twenty or twenty-five minutes if that fits better in your day. Taking a slight step up, the walk up Elizabeth Street from Flinders Street Station is fairly flat, and a good way to ease into inclines. Perhaps organising a lunch break at the end of this stretch of road (on Hardware Lane, for example) will help.
Simply walking instead of hopping on the tram when you normally would is a great way to kick-start your sneak-workout. Image source: Bahnfrend / Wikimedia Commons
Soft Cardio For the intermediate sneak-exerciser If you go to Melbourne Uni or work in Carlton or anywhere along the way, hop off the train at Flinders Street or Melbourne Central and walk up Swanston Street instead of catching the tram. The incline is gentle, so it won't leave you paralysed for a fortnight, but will elevate your heart rate if you control your pace, and leave you with that dull, warm pain from your calves to your abs that tells you your muscles have been used. If you can do this walk for 20 minutes, 5 days a week, you have taken a huge step towards health and weight-loss. When it starts to get too easy, speed up your pace and/ or just keep going for that little bit beyond where you're going and come back.
Image source: Bmra73 / Wikimedia Commons
Medium Cardio For the seasoned sneak-exerciser Once you have built up some confidence and muscle, try organising a lunch break that takes you rapidly up any of the roads running from Elizabeth Street to Spring Street, or perhaps hop off at Southern Cross or Flagstaff Station in the morning and walk up one of these to work. The Elizabeth to Spring incline is quite decent, especially towards the end. Again, all it takes is 20 minutes five times a week, and you have done all you need to keep that suit snug.
Hard Cardio For crazy people I'll level with you; I've really only tried this once or twice. And it hurt. It hurt a lot. However, if the Elizabeth to Spring walk has you cruising, it's time to step it up. Literally. Done two or more times a day, depending on how high up your office is, taking the stairs at work instead of the lifts will have your heart pounding and will tone your lower-end muscles like crazy.
Face wipes are not limited to the face. They can also provide a quick and effective shower after your sneak-workout
Lastly, The Aftermath If you don't have a shower at work or uni, and are nervous about the repercussions your newfound motivation may have for your colleagues, this is no excuse. Ducking into a toilet cubicle with a packet of moist face wipes (available from any supermarket) is a quick and effective way to give yourself a substitute shower. Just keep a pack in your desk or bag.
It really is possible to get fit and healthy behind a reluctant body's back. Doing it this way will also get you some fresh air and Vitamin D. These are only a few suggestions but if your wardrobe is slowly getting clingier and you're not the motivated type, consider giving them a try, or at least try coming up with a few of your own that work for you. At the very least you will end up fitter, but at most you also stand to lose some weight, improve your mental and physical health, and fall in love with your beautiful city all over again.
Loved your article, like a trip down memory lane. We are from Perth and have visited Melbourne several times tramping the streets till we dropped.
Just about know my way around as well as Perth. You see a lot more and get a greater feel for a place when you walk. We love it, a perfect walking city. It is great to see a local exploring your own city. We did that in Perth and gained a whole new perspective. We have few inner city inclines here for the urban athletes too.
Rebekah, I am currently studying to be a PT and this sneak exercise you speak of is what I have been preaching for years to all my friends and family!
BECAUSE IT WORKS!!!!! I am living proof of it.
Thanks for making it public!! And keep up the good work. :)