Make like a kid, flip yourself upside down and enjoy the backyard while you're at it . . .
In the first of our 'get outside' series, we meet athlete and personal trainer Marcos Albornoz who knows that Auckland is a powerhouse when it comes to epic outdoor workout spaces. Although new to Auckland, having moved from Christchurch following the earthquakes, Marcos says he never feels lost in the big city.
'I like to feel I belong here and have favourite spots around the city: a bit of grass in Cornwall Park, a bench up on Mount Hobson . . . I love weekend runs around St Heliers, too, but I also like to find new places I've never been to before. I'm an explorer!'
After introducing daily training into his life — and by extension redefining his comfort zone — Marcos soon wanted something more challenging than reps and sets in a gym.
'I think if you just go through the motions you get bored very quickly and probably stop exercising,' he says. 'Handstands are fun for me. I try different surfaces, I try one hand, walking on my hands, up the stairs, down the stairs, outdoors! Besides being fun and challenging, handstands are great for shoulder health and I've found an increase in my pressing strength, too, since adding them to my training.'
Marcos handstands every day and not only loves sharing the experience but also likes to think it might inspire others to try something new and embrace the outdoors as a space to enjoy rather than simply journey through every day.
Handstands bring out the child in all of us and there are a heap of other good things, besides, that happen when you invert yourself. Practised for centuries in yoga and known as adho mukha vrikshasana, the power, balance, sense of wellbeing and sheer relief that comes from reversing all of the compound effects of gravity (not to mention our daily lives) is head and shoulders out there in a space of its own. Combine that with choosing to tap into a positive mindset, which Marcos extolls on Instagram, and the upside, for sure, is beyond measure.
Throw in fresh air, sunshine, legendary views and all the cool things that come from exploring the spaces and places around us that are off the beaten, functional pathways to and from work and you've got a pretty harmonious mix — a playground even — right at your fingertips. Quite literally . . .
Auckland is jam-packed with places where you can get outside and do what you love, whether it's getting out on some roller blades, hula hooping in the park ( why not?), blissing out on some tai chi or handstanding the city all the way from from east to west . . .
The beach here is endless so it goes without saying that Piha is the perfect place to run all year round. The black sand can get pretty hot in summer so if you do need to cool down afterwards, the Blue Pool is the perfect spot to safely chug around in while you clock the wild west waves surging through The Gap. There are plenty of hills to climb and trails to discover here, too, and if you fancy barreling right out of your comfort zone, there's always the surf school if you're new to riding waves.
'Accomplishment drives ambition. The dream is your destination but little triumphs along the way will get you there.' MA
2. Mount Eden Maungawhau
At 186m Mount Eden Maungawhau is the highest of all of Auckland's volcanoes, so this is the one you want if you're after a bit of a two-wheeled or two-legged challenge. You can ramp it up a notch by running up and down the stairs that fall on the east side of the mount.
'Big goals are important. Develop a clear vision of where you would ultimately like to be and make sure you set smaller goals you can nail along the way.' MA
3. Mount Victoria Takarunga
It's well known among locals that this is the perfect place to power up on the inclines, whether you're stretching your legs on the way up the first time or trail running the steep slopes at the top. Look out for the mushroom field, too, which is perfect for step ups or jump overs. If lactic acid isn't for you, a gentle stroll from Mount Vic to North Head is the perfect way to really enjoy the big blue all around you. Then there's always Torpedo Bay for swimming or the thrill of wharf jumping (especially in winter) . . .
'You're making a difference whether you know it or not: you did it yesterday and you'll do it again today.' MA
4. JF Kennedy Memorial Park
It goes without saying that if you find yourself on the east coast at JF Kennedy Memorial Park and you love a workout, you'll be wanting to say kia ora, bro to the 'stairs of doom'. All 150 of them. The steps were recently damaged in a fine old Auckland storm, but they'll surely be fixed up and ready to go soon, given they're so popular. The Blues train on these babies and when you see them you'll understand why . . . If you're serious about raising the ticker, maybe throw in a few burpees at the bottom, while you're down there, before heading back up.
'I know that to help others, I must first improve myself.' MA
One Tree Hill Maungakiekie
Another favourite of The Blues and falling a whisker short of Mount Eden, this is epic, heart-raising running right to the summit. You can also enjoy 220ha of open, green space at its feet thanks to One Tree Hill Domain and Cornwall Park. You can join a boot camp based here if you prefer to sweat in company.
'You can achieve whatever you believe you can.' MA
Wairangi Wharf Reserve, Herne Bay
Lunge your way along the wharf here, throw in in some squats or a handstand if the urge takes you then walk, walk, walk . . . Herne Bay hosts the prettiest hub of beach reserves known to man.
'Hold yourself accountable because in the end we only regret the chances we didn't take and the things we didn't do.' MA
Do your own thing and revel in this cool urban space steeped in art and history before hitting Western Park where you can limber up on the flying fox, show off your skills on the fitness trail or throw down some bliss-inducing yogic goodness.
'You choose your own path every day, at every moment.' MA
Probably one of the prettiest parks slap bang in the heart of any city, should you ever want to get your hula hoop out and give it a blast.
'Act differently, challenge yourself, test your beliefs.' MA
New York has Central Park. London has Hyde Park. Aucklanders have the Domain. If there's one space where people congregate to exercise, this is it . . . There are heaps of navigable loops for walking, running, skipping, handstanding. You name it . . .
'Tough times don't last, tough people do.' MA
The perfect place to strap on blades and go for it along the waterfront, take part in a power hour on the water atop a SUP or kayak your heart out all the way to Rangitoto.
'I've learned that the simplest of times bring the grandest of pleasures and the hardest goodbyes often lead to the best hellos. I've also learned that crazy chances guide us towards unexpected discoveries.' MA
The 3.2-km Fairy Falls Track from Scenic Drive is a beautiful, bush-clad and gloriously steep hey-there-glutes walk, where you're rewarded with the prettiest waterfalls for all those gains.
'Everyone has to start somewhere.' MA
Te Ara I Whiti, the lightpath
The pink path, as it's better known, has swiftly and firmly lodged itself in the hearts of all Aucklanders. Embellished with 300 LED light poles that respond to the intensity of how you move, this is a living and breathing light sculpture and accountability trigger that lets you know just how fast you're really going . . .
'Stop doubting yourself. Stop comparing yourself. Change your mindset by thinking and living like you've already achieved your dreams.' MA
Epic climbing frame for adults . . . stairs galore . . . This is one of the city's coolest urban spaces, where you can drink in summer or winter vibes, enjoy the waterfront and catch everything from world-class theatre to a free dance class or a quick game of basketball.
'Live and love a life you are proud of.' MA
Newmarket's backyard is the Domain: you can go from city street to greenscape in the flash of an eye. Mix it up between the two and, by golly, you've got the best of both worlds on tap.
'Get up and remind yourself each day why you're chasing the goals you're chasing.' MA
A waterfront haven if ever there was one, this is a space where you can exercise on land or water to the max. Whether you dragonboat, SUP or hit the Westhaven Promenade, a boardwalk connecting the Harbour Bridge in the west with the city and St Heliers in the east, you're beyond spoiled for choice.
We fall, rise, make mistakes . . . We all live and learn. You are human, not perfect. Breathe, think, enjoy and chase the things you love.' MA
Do what you love, love what you do . . .
And remember, the fails are all part of the process . . .