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City as a Gym: Stairways to Hell

Gaining power is literally an uphill battle.

Greg Bianchi, owner of Bianchi Fitness and a track coach, conquering Twin Peaks.

13 Downhill Dog (Suffer Meter: 1, Cakewalk): Hills can juice up an outdoor yoga session by adding a cardio challenge. Use them as a makeshift prop: If your hamstrings are tight, sit facing downhill, the incline serving instead of a rolled blanket, as you do a seated forward bend. You’ll find other props on your ascent, like a short wall at the Summit park on Russian Hill, where you can use the Transamerica Pyramid as a focal point instead of a candle. The city noise helps you put a good yoga lesson into practice: acceptance of things outside of your control.    —Laurie Sleep, Hiking Yoga

14 Stepdancing (Suffer Meter: 2, Workin' It): Dominate concrete stairs for more than just a calf-killer. Go up one set of stairs, like those on Lyon Street, in as many variations as you can think of—crossovers will work your hips, bunny hops your core; or crawl or wheel- barrow your way up for serious biceps power. —Sandra Possing, Basic Training

15 Eight-Minute Quads (Suffer Meter: 3, Ass-Kicker): This move is called the Waterfall: Stand at the top of a set of stairs with your weight on your heels, take one step down, sit down, then stand up—and repeat. It sounds simple, but it’s a sneaker, working the glutes, quads, and abs—which are essential for lasting strength as opposed to short-lived explosive power. To make it tougher, add a 12-pound kettlebell (or sub it out with a nearby rock) and hold it in front of your sternum. The Filbert Street steps offer bay views and the chance of finding a rock if you need one. —Brandon Irvin, owner, Urban Fitness

16 Crocodile Crawl (Suffer Meter: 2, Workin' It): Don’t underestimate the number of ways that you can climb a hill. The crocodile walk works many muscles beyond the ones in your legs: Get in plank position and move your right knee laterally to touch your elbow; then do a push-up. Repeat on the other side, moving forward as you go, as if you’re stalking prey. The steeper the hill, the greater the workout. Go-getters can try Bernal Hill. —Pattee

17 Stair Ninjas (Suffer Meter: 3, Ass-Kicker): For a sadistic workout, do a different exercise on each set of Liberty Hill’s six staircases. Some people have a love-hate relationship with the inchworm, but it’s worth the burn for back and hamstring flexibility and core strength. Do it up a short set of stairs by hinging at the waist and walking your hands out to push-up position while keeping your legs straight, then walking your feet in toward your hands. Repeat. If you’re in it for a ball-buster, bear-crawl up the next set. —Greg Bianchi, owner, Bianchi Fitness

18 Steep Attack (Suffer Meter: 3, Ass-Kicker): The trick to San Francisco’s terrifying hills is to avoid tackling an entire hill at once—break each block down with a different plan of attack. You can end up training for a half-marathon on one hill if you do it right. Use pieces of street furniture—streetlights, no-parking signs—as distance meters, and plan your sprints in manageable chunks. Tiered hills (for instance, Noe Street between 18th and 21st Streets) are perfect for this because you can sprint a block, then cross the street at a walk as a way to measure your breather interval while revving up for the next one. —Bianchi

Veer off-road: Trails and trees over treadmills and weights (Exercises 1-6)
Take back the streets: That’s not a bike rack, it’s an ab machine (Exercises 7-12)
Stairways to hell: Gaining power is literally an uphill battle (Exercises 13-18)
Reclaim Recess: Playgrounds make the best obstacle courses (Exercises 19-24)
Kick up some sand: The beach as resistance band (Exercises 25-30)
Boot Camps Unlimited: All the trainers in one place

Originally published in the January 2014 issue of San Francisco

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