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Beyond the Desk: Ways to Get Fit in the City

File Photo
Fitness expert Richard Simmons leads a crowd on the terrace of the Cannon House Office Building in 2008 as he conducts a rally aimed at promoting physical education in schools. For Capitol Hill staffers and others, the fitness opportunities stretch across the city.

Attention, new Capitol Hill staffers: Get ready for tediously long business hours and 24/7 work e-mails. The extensive to-do list for Hill e.ormployees never ends.

In this bustling city, it’s crucial to have a stress reliever, and since booze can be pricey and cigarettes are bad for your health, why not turn to that vow you made last year to get in shape?

Exercise is arguably the best way to get anyone’s head out of the policy books and give the brain a rest. Capitol Hill and downtown D.C. have numerous gyms, yoga and pilates studios, and sports leagues that give staffers a chance to work up a sweat.

Dumbbells and Treadmills

It’s easy to find a gym in this city. And it’s even easier on Capitol Hill: Staffers can simply walk to the Rayburn House or Dirksen Senate office buildings before, during or after work for 30 minutes of cardio.

The 1,500-square-foot House Staff Fitness Center offers more than 25 ellipticals, treadmills, exercise bikes and steppers, as well as weight-lifting machines and free weights. It schedules about 25 fitness classes a week — including yoga, pilates and weight training — and all are included in the yearly $200 membership fee.

The Senate Staff Health and Fitness Facility has fewer workout machine options, is smaller in size and doesn’t offer fitness classes.

Staffers looking for more exercise and equipment options can consider joining a local gym. The 20,000-square-foot Gold’s Gym (409 Third St. SW) on Capitol Hill opens its doors at 5 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. on weekdays. Memberships are $50 a month but include access to a sauna and steam room as well as more than 50 fitness classes, such as group cycling or Zumba.

In Chinatown’s Verizon Center, VIDA Fitness (601 F St. NW) has three floors of workout equipment, fitness studios and even two swimmer treadmills. The gym administers more than 75 types of fitness classes, including kickboxing, step aerobics, abdominal strengthening and two that use balance beams and trampolines. The center includes a spa that boasts massages, aromatherapy and facials.

Staffers looking for a nonconventional workout should check out Belin Sport and Fitness. The new company of fitness trainers gives outdoor group workouts throughout the city that send participants jogging around Dupont Circle and doing pushups in front of the White House. The four-week program, the Belin Challenge Fitness Camp, includes daily workouts before or after work and nutrition counseling. Participants are expected to lose
3 percent to 5 percent of their body fat by the program’s end, and if they aren’t satisfied with the results, they receive a full refund. Camp specials begin at $299.

Serenity With Strength

If iron-pumping isn’t your thing or you prefer a more tranquil atmosphere to de-stress, yoga or pilates may be a better fit.

Just a 10-minute walk from the Congressional office buildings, Capitol Hill Yoga (641 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) sits a block from the Capitol Lounge and Hawk ’n’ Dove bars, adjacent to Eastern Market. For $18, staffers can take hourlong Anusara yoga classes and stretch the stress away while balancing on their heads or in deep lunges in the underground studio.

A block from the Metro Center and McPherson Square Metro stops, Dahn Yoga (700 14th St. NW) offers classes for $20 or six-month packages of unlimited classes for $790.

Those who prefer the hot room of a Bikram yoga class can practice for $18 at Bikram Yoga Capitol Hill (410 H St. NE).

In a townhouse near Union Station, Red Bow Studio (308 Massachusetts Ave. NE) offers barre workouts with a “fuse” of pilates and ballet. The class targets the abdominals, arms, legs and gluteus, and no prior dance experience is necessary. November’s special includes five classes in five days for $75, and walk-ins start at $18.

Getting Competitive

Competitive types or sports junkies should check out D.C.’s adult leagues. It may not be the most strenuous exercise, but participants may increase their heart rates by running bases or chasing soccer balls in one of several softball, kickball or soccer leagues.

Friends and co-workers can register their teams in the House Softball League, the Congressional Softball League or the Senate Softball League.

They can also join DCKickball and enjoy post-game happy hour specials weekly. Most of these games are played in late spring, summer and fall in the shadow of the Capitol and Washington Monument on the National Mall.

Congressional staffers can also join the exclusive Capitol Hill Tennis Club starting at $70 a year. The club offers memberships to those who work on the Hill or for legislative agencies. The club meets every Saturday from May to September. Membership includes free lessons and optional tournaments at the Fort Myers Officers’ Club tennis courts.

The Great Outdoors

Hundreds of miles of D.C. trails provide long-distance runners, bikers and rollerbladers a chance to stretch their legs. The Metropolitan Branch Trail sweeps eight miles along the Metro’s red line from Silver Spring, Md., to Union Station, and the Capital Crescent Trail follows an old rail bed over four bridges and under two tunnels from Georgetown to Bethesda, Md.

The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail takes cyclists on a scenic route along the Potomac River’s Virginia shoreline from Rosslyn to President George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. It passes over the brick sidewalks of Old Town Alexandria and by the sea of tombs near Arlington National Cemetery.

Long-distance bikers looking for a day- or weekend-long biking extravaganza should check out the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, which runs 180 miles from Washington to Cumberland, Md. The path escapes the city, passes mostly through forests and runs along the old canal’s towpath. The terrain is unpaved so beginning cyclists should beware. For an extensive list of trails, visit bikewashington.org.

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