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Jungle Gym Calisthenics

L-sitAl Kavadlo demonstrates the “L-sit.”

This past Saturday, the best of the best from the NYC calisthenics scene met
in the East Village to train at my favorite outdoor gym, Tompkins Square Park — and I was fortunate enough to be a part of the action!

Members of the world-famous Bar-barians, as well as Team Beastmode, Calisthenics Kings and many others all united to train together, share their knowledge and feed off each others’ good energy. Also on hand to represent
NYC’s parkour community was Keith Horan, who dazzled the crowd with his
blend of calisthenics and freerunning.

Over the last several years, the jungle gym at Tompkins Square Parkhas become a mecca for calisthenics and parkourenthusiasts everywhere, with Saturday afternoons being the unofficial time for one and all to come out and strut their stuff.

Throughout the afternoon there was no shortage of pull-ups, muscle-ups and
handstand push-ups — and that was just the tip of the iceberg! In spite of
the intensity of the exercises, the vibe was casual and welcoming. In the
end, we all had a good time and a great workout — my arms are still sore as
I type this!

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

A Street Workout for Spring

Human FlagThe author executes a human flag pose on a signpost. Warmer weather provides new opportunities to workout on scaffolding and other public spaces.

The East Village has so many great places to work out for free – you just have to be creative. For those of you who have a hard time fitting exercise into your day, remember that fitness and life are one in the same. You don’t need a gym to work out when the whole world is a playground.

I’ve got nothing against working out in a gym, but with spring finally blooming after a long, snowy winter, my brother Danny and I couldn’t wait to venture back out to the streets of Manhattan to do another scaffolding workout.

We all have the opportunity to better our bodies every single day. Instead of sitting around waiting for things in your life to magically fall into place, go out and make opportunities for yourself. Learn to improvise with whatever’s in front of you – it’s a helpful skill in the world of fitness, but it’s an even greater asset in everyday life.

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

A Spring Scaffolding Workout

For Spring, A Jungle Gym Workout

Untitled 0 00 06-22Courtesy of Al Kavadlo The author demonstrates the jungle gym workout technique.

With the cold winter weather finally winding down, more and more people are thinking about getting ready for summer. For a lot of East Villagers, this means it’s time to ramp up their exercise regimen. This neighborhood is home to some of the city’s trendiest, most high tech fitness facilities, but sometimes the best things in life are free. Tompkins Square Park has all
the equipment you need to get a great workout, and you don’t need to purchase a bank-breaking membership to use the facilities.

Tompkins has several jungle gyms that were made with children in mind, but near the Northeast corner of the park, there is a jungle gym that seems to have been designed for full-grown adults. The set up there is ideal for parkour training, as well as pull-ups and many other fun exercises. Besides, training outside in the fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun adds to the enjoyment (though I don’t mind working out out in the snow, either).

I recently got to exercise at Tompkins Square Park with my friend Rick Seedman, another local personal trainer. We had a great time and a great work out without having to spend a penny.

Watch the video below for more:

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

Locals | Tai Chi in the Park

Jeanette Chi does Tai Chi in the ParkJeanette Chi in Tompkins Square ParkClaire Glass

In a particularly secluded part of Tompkins Square Park — on 10th Street between Avenues A and B — Jeanette Chi, 53, a nurse at an area hospital, practices an ancient form of Tai Chi, to channel her Chinese heritage and find a personal sanctuary within the East Village.


What’s this form of Martial Arts called?


This is Chen Tai Chi Quan. It’s supposed to be the oldest style of Tai Chi, the one off of which all of the other styles are based. It’s practiced in the Chen Village in Henan.

A General named Chen Wang Ting, decided to study medical Qigong, which concentrates on breathing exercises. His objective in the new form was to develop a form of movement that would combine meditative awareness with combat technique. So, the practitioner can develop wisdom and fight.


How did you become interested in this particular form?


I started many years ago with a teacher in California in 1982. From there I studied with another teacher and now found another teacher here named Yu Guo Shun who I feel have taught the most.

I thought it was really beautiful and wanted to learn something traditional that was also applicable to self-defense. Read more…

Designing A Workout In The Snow

Untitled 0 00 27-15Al Kavadlo The author during a recent workout in the snow at Tompkins Square Park.

This snowy weather may be keeping many East Village residents cooped up indoors, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing my usual workouts at Tompkins Square Park. In fact, the snow makes my routine a lot more fun!

In addition to my standard regimen of pull-ups and dips, I also did some parkour
. After all, parkour is about overcoming obstacles and the snow is just another obstacle to work around!

If you’re serious about getting in shape or improving your fitness, there is no reason that you can’t make time for exercise no matter what craziness is going on with the weather. Even if you have to fit in a quick at-home workout with no equipment, you can always dedicate at least a few minutes a day to improving your body.

I’m not saying you have to go out in a blizzard, but once you get moving out there in the snow, you might be surprised how fun and invigorating cold weather workouts can actually be.

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

A Runner Waits Out Esplanade Delays

102410 Al RiverRun (3)
1123101256aColleen Leung The author at the end of the East River esplanade construction project just south of Delancy Street. The project is expected to be completed in July.

The East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers Project was conceived in 2002 as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s “Vision for Lower Manhattan,” yet almost 10 years later, the plan to extend the esplanade from East River Park down to the Battery Maritime Building on the southern tip of the city, creating attractive open space and exercise opportunities for East Village and Lower East Side residents, has not made much progress.

With estimated completion dates that continually get pushed back, the completion of the East River Waterfront Esplanade sometimes seems like a mere pipe dream.

The mayor’s plan promised new bike paths, more seating areas and even a dog run along the water. Yet during a recent excursion to East River Park, I instead noticed a sign with a new projected completion date: July 2011.

According to the official government Web site, Phase I of the the project was scheduled for completion in fall 2010. However, sticking the small piece of paper on the sign over the old scheduled completion date seems to be the only work that has actually gotten done lately.

I proceeded to walk alongside the torn-up rubble next to the water for over a mile, hoping to possibly speak to some workers about the project, but there wasn’t even anyone there.

Perhaps one day the mayor’s plan will allow runners and cyclists to go all the way around lower Manhattan along the east side without taking a detour around the construction. Until then, I’ll get my exercise doing scaffold pull-ups and running back and forth on the small section of Esplanade that ends just South of Delancey Street.

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

The Scaffolding Workout

111410_pullup (6)Colleen Leung The author during a workout.

The East Village is home to many expensive gyms, but some of the best places to work out are free – you just need to be creative! One of the few things I dislike about life in New York City is all the construction, but every cloud has a sliver lining. While it can be an eye sore, construction scaffolding is great for doing pull-ups.

Anyone who’s walked beneath scaffolding has no doubt been tempted to jump up, grab a bar and go for it. Those things are practically begging to be swung around on, hung from or climbed.

With that in mind, my brother Danny and I decided to get a scaffold workout in recently during the morning commute. While everyone around us scuttled off to school or the office, we did all kinds of pull-ups and other exercises without setting foot in a gym. In typical New York fashion, however, most people passing by didn’t even seem to notice. Watch the video below for more.

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

The East Village’s Best Running Trails

102410 Al RiverRun (2)Colleen Leung The author along the East River waterfront.

Community contributor Al Kavadlo, a personal fitness trainer, offers a regular perspective on staying fit in the East Village.

Running is one of my favorite ways to exercise. It doesn’t require a gym membership or any fancy equipment and it’s a great way to get some time alone with your thoughts. In spite of this, when I suggest that my clients try running, I hear all sorts of excuses.

Around the East Village, the most common gripe is that with so much traffic in the streets (foot, bike and automobile), it’s futile to even attempt to go for a jog. I don’t mind weaving around pedestrians and cars, but I’ll admit there are some spots that are more conducive to running for fitness than others.
Read more…

First Person: At Yoga to the People

_MG_9151Courtesy Al Kavadlo The author strikes the Warrior II pose.

Community contributor Al Kavadlo, a personal fitness trainer, offers his perspective on Yoga to the People.

I’ve done yoga on and off for nearly a decade and made my living as a
personal trainer in this neighborhood for almost as long. I’ve walked by
Yoga to the People countless times over the last several years, but never
attended a class until recently, when my curiosity, coupled with the
fact that I’d recently been neglecting my yoga practice, finally got me into the old pre-war walk-up to sweat it out.

The vibe inside was welcoming, and the instructor was friendly and
professional, yet there were some negative aspects to the experience. Most yoga studios that I’ve encountered in the city are typically crowded, but I’d never before seen this many people in one room.

Read more…