LOS ANGELES—Autonomy. Isn’t that what we all really strive for? For me, using the outdoors as my gym is appealing. The rocks, the oak trees, the streams, hills, crevices and pathways become a multi-faceted workout arena, an area that allows me to be creative and move toward autonomy.
This month, I am going to talk about Runyan Canyon. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, minutes from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the bustling Sunset Strip, Runyan Canyon offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in true southern California terrain. Covering approximately three miles, the old estate, which is now reduced to a dilapidated tennis court and a few stone foundations, once played host to the likes of Errol Flynn and John McCormick.
Entrance to this gem is off of Franklin via Vista or Fuller. It can be accessed from the north via Mulholland Drive, east of Laurel Canyon and west of Outpost, by driving to Desmond Street and parking in the dirt lot.
For the purpose of this piece, I am going to talk about the area accessed from Vista or Fuller.
Used primarily as a dog park, the canyon has three distinct routes to invent your workout. I refer to the routes as the "right" side, which is mildly difficult and provides a good varied cardio workout. The "middle" road is a predominately paved steady incline, which becomes a little more challenging as you reach the clearing at the top. It is perfect for a good paced walk or a light jog. There are plenty of places to stop on this "middle" path and add push-ups, declining push-ups, abdominal work and balance training. Remember, all that is required is your imagination. Remember, it is your workout. You can make it as hard and challenging as you want.
The "right" side can be accessed via Vista or Fuller. The Fuller Street entrance will lead you directly up towards the "right" incline. Meandering at a slight grade past the dilapidated tennis court, it is perfect for a nice warm-up jog or brisk walk. At the base of the incline, there is a good area for stretching those calves, hamstrings and a set of warm-up push-ups. Remember, it is always good to warm up a little before stretching, and never bounce when you stretch.
Now that you are stretched and ready, head up the incline. The most onerous is the first rise. Take a good stride and keep it steady. Soon you will reach a plateau. Time for more push-ups! Sit on the railroad ties and do 20 "kick-outs" (hands slightly behind you on the ground and pump your legs in and out) hold your abs in. Oh and don’t forget to breathe. Ready for a light jog or good pace up the remaining way to the top? Aim for the benches. As you arrive at the benches, take a good stretch. More push-ups, kick-outs and of course, don’t miss that view of the Hollywood sign and the city below. Jog down the dirt path, which extends north of you. Ending at the Mulholland entrance, the path is a nice incline which leads you past stables, complete with horses and goats. Once you’ve reached Mulholland, stretch some more. Time for more push-ups and head back down.
You will see that there are a variety of ways to descend back to Fuller or Vista. One word of caution is that it is NEVER recommended to run down any sort of incline. It is bad for your knees, your hips and your back. You can take a good steady pace, but just be safe and watch out for the loose gravel.
Off of Vista and to the left of the main road, is the "left" side or the "gonzo trail," a much more demanding trail. It consists of three major ascents as you climb up this firebreak type path. Warm up and stretch before taking this one on. Don’t get me wrong, this is my favorite and anyone who is lucky enough (depending on your point of view) to accompany me on this particular course will experience quite a proprioceptively rich and arduous workout. But, oh the feeling at the end!
As you reach the plateau of each ascent, stretch, do 20 push-ups, sit on the ground and do some kick-outs, stretch some more and take in that view. On clear days Catalina, as well as other Channel Islands are visible. Try and keep a good fast pace or light jog between the ascents. The last ascent (and you’ll know the one!) is the hardest. When you reach the top, you are above the entire canyon. There is a dedication marker at that point. Put your hands close together on that and do 20-25 tricep pushups. Stretch. And jog along the path to your north, being careful, as it declines and is very rocky. After a brief descent, the trail goes up slightly veering to the left. You will notice that it starts going down. Be very careful. After a long dry spell the dirt is loose. I have had my feet go out from under me by just standing! The descent will take you down to another pathway. Take it up towards the pink house at the top of the hill. Come on, good jog or steady pace. At the top. You made it! Reward yourself with some more pushups. Like shadow boxing? Give it a go! Stretch out some more. Head to your right at a light jog along the dirt trail. When you approach the fork in the path at the power line tower, take the right fork, which will empty you out at the stables we talked about earlier.
Once again, head down either via the main road, the side by the benches or, if you are real adventurous, go back down the way you just came. But be careful! Nature can be very unkind. But that is why we love to train outdoors, right?
Runyan Canyon is rich in workout opportunities. Eschew that gym and put ingenuity to work. Your body, mind and spirit will love you!
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