A Good Idea at the Time

Though I understand the reasons why some people prefer to walk indoors at the gym on a treadmill, I would be bored out of my mind in under 5 minutes of walking on that giant conveyor belt staring outside where I could be walking. Of course most gyms have many more options for exercise, but they are also fairly expensive. One of the nice benefits of walking outside, in addition to all of the interesting experiences, is getting a bit of exercise along the way. No sign-up fee and monthly charges. If I wanted more exercise on a walk and was creative, I could come up with other ways to exercise for free. Walk to a local track for some laps. Run up stairs. Stop at a park and do some stretching exercises on the lawn. But the option that intrigues me the most is the outdoor fitness course (commonly known by the brand name Parcourse). The Parcourse is a set of exercise stations set along a path or trail. There might be sit-ups, pull-ups, a balance beam, and others, along with instructional signs. You would do an exercise, walk or jog to the next station, and so on until the end. Growing up in the suburban Bay Area, I remember the popularity of the Parcourse. As this article from Outside magazine notes, the Parcourse peaked in the mid-1980s and then faded from popularity.

I still think the Parcourse was a great idea, but it appears to have faded here in Berkeley as with other places. I have seen Parcourses out at the Berkeley Marina, at the Aquatic Park, and along the Ohlone Greenway. I tried on a few occasions to do the Parcourse circuit, and failed mostly because the stations were damaged. The station I show here is actually still usable despite the missing sign, but in other cases crucial parts of the equipment were missing. On the Ohlone Greenway, there are at least two, if not more different Parcourses, and I got really confused trying to find the next station in a particular course. My best guess is that they were funded and installed by different cities along the Greenway. Also (thought while doing jumping jacks alone, as cars and people passed by), many people would probably be less self-conscious and more motivated to do the Parcourse if others were doing it along with them. Berkeley has many “Friends of” groups for parks, trails, creeks, etc., but it does not appear that anyone has yet organized a “Friends of the Berkeley Outdoor Fitness Courses” group.



  1. […] Lots of excitement here over the past few days. First of all, the traffic light is now functioning at University Ave. end of the newly paved section of the Santa Fe Right-of-Way. I happened to be there during the morning commute and school drop-off time, when University (a major thoroughfare) was busy and it was raining a bit. I pushed the button, and sure enough the light turned and traffic stopped. I was anticipating some surprise due to the newness of the light and its placement between intersections, but no cars came skidding to a stop. And if this wasn’t exciting enough, a few days ago I finally saw someone using the Parcourse along the Ohlone Greenway. I refrained from asking the man questions about whether this was a regular routine, how he dealt with the broken exercise stations, etc., because he looked intent on exercising. This reminded me that I had a couple of other things I wanted to point out recreation-wise in Berkeley. […]

  2. This is great! I came across your sight doing a Google ™ for ‘parcourse’. I have become an enthusiast for outdoor fitness courses.

    I currently live in Dana Point, Orange County, which has a beautiful, new “Timberform Fitcourse” . Better yet, the course stations are set on a rubberized indoor outdoor surface — in fact you can see them here in the top center and right pictures.

    Anyway, these things are great — I’ve lost a significant amount of weight and seen real, measurable improvements in other areas of fitness after about a year of doing the thing daily, coupled sometimes with jumping-jacks and/or other calisthenics, sometimes with a longer run after doing the course. I started the parcourse because I was extremely poor at the time, and it was free. Now I do it because it is effective, it is outdoors, and it is still free.

    Like you, I rarely notice people using the thing, and then only for a few stations at a time. I think its a great loss to that the public doesn’t use it more.

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