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Julian Michaud / Staff Illustrator

Columbia University students exercising in Central Park.

Just 11 days after ushering in the new year, Columbia students have returned to campus for the spring semester. Whether you don’t want to give up on your hastily-scribbled New Year’s resolutions or you’re an athlete twiddling your thumbs as you anticipate your return to the field, there are many reasons you may want to start working out now.

Those returning to campus will experience a largely-subdued Morningside Heights, with far fewer workout options than in pre-pandemic times. Dodge Fitness Center has been shut down, leaving students without the well-used facilities to which they are accustomed. Even with the start of vaccine distributions, it’s going to take some time for Lions to return to mass indoor workout spaces.

There are still ways to safely exercise near campus while abiding by pandemic restrictions and the necessary lifestyle changes that come with them. Here is a list of the best workout spots in the Morningside Heights area. From affordable mainstays to versatile parks to higher-end training, you’ll find your perfect pandemic workout.


Some of the best spots for physical activity near Morningside Heights are the neighborhood parks. They have lots of space, fresh air, and, best of all, they’re free! Make sure to check them out as the weather gets warmer in the spring.

Julian Michaud
Columbia University students exercising in Central Park.

Riverside Park

With basketball courts, soccer fields, miles of running room, and even a skate park, Riverside Park at 108th Street is the place to be outdoors. Runs from the Upper West Side to the George Washington Bridge are perfect for enjoying a view of the Hudson River, which stretches north and south for miles.

Julian Michaud

Central Park

Just outside of Morningside Heights, Central Park is a huge expanse of green in the middle of the city. It’s great for all things moving: running, cycling, and even field sports. There’s a small track right inside the 103rd Street entrance for focused sprints, along with a 6.1-mile long loop around the entire park. For a more relaxed workout, bring a Frisbee or football to the many fields scattered around the park!


If you’re looking for gyms, there are several affordable options within five blocks of campus. With reasonable monthly rates, COVID-19-conscious policies, and lots of space, they’re great gyms to get your daily reps in.

Julian Michaud

Blink Fitness: 301 West 125th Street

Starting at $15 a month, Blink Fitness is located five blocks north of campus and has amenities for all fitness levels. With its $23 per month plan, you’ll have access to over 500 on-demand classes and personalized content, as well as the opportunity to bring a friend for free. There is also in-person and virtual training available at a higher rate of $27 per month.

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Planet Fitness: 208 West 125th Street

At just $10 a month, Planet Fitness is one of the most accessible gyms in the entire city. It brings its spacious “Judgement Free Zone” to West Harlem, across the street from Blink Fitness. The base plan is low stakes, but at the higher level of $23 per month, you’ll gain access to all locations, discounts on certain products, and other benefits.s

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New York Sports Clubs: 300 West 125th Street

New York Sports Clubs is more expensive than Blink and Planet Fitness at $40 a month, but it offers amenities and classes around the city including yoga, cycling, Zumba, and more. Since many classes have unfortunately been cut due to COVID-19, you’d be paying more for NYSC’s spacious facilities and perks that Blink and Planet Fitness don’t provide, like its signature functional training zones.

Those who are really committed to the gym grind do have higher-end places to choose from.

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BeFitNYC: 2726 Broadway, 2nd floor

A boutique gym between 104th and 105th streets, BeFitNYC offers both on-site and virtual training. By nature of its size, the gym offers more personalized training, including a variety of small group classes—from yoga to pilates to Zumba. A package of 10 online classes costs $120 dollars, and a monthly membership at the gym is $95 a month for students.

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Crunch Fitness: 162 West 83rd Street

Starting at $94 a month, Crunch Fitness offers standard amenities and group fitness classes, along with reservations for live online workout classes. If you’re looking for an extremely clean and well-maintained gym, Crunch is one of the best options in the Upper West Side.

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Equinox West: 2465 Broadway

If you already knew about the Equinox chain, you likely wouldn’t be reading this article, but here it is anyway. Equinox West is a luxury gym that is by far the most expensive option listed here. You’ll have access to top tier classes, personal training, cleanliness, and customer service. Unless your pockets are deep, it’s probably not worth it when considering the cheaper alternatives.

So if you’re back in Morningside Heights and looking to work out, be sure to keep the neighborhood’s options in mind. Whether it’s via a game of pickup at the Riverside Park basketball courts, the weight rooms on 125th Street, or a Zumba class a few blocks south, there are many safe ways to stay fit—there’s no need to wait for Dodge to re-open to do so.

Staff writer Bernard Wang can be contacted at bernard.wang@columbiaspectator.com. Follow him on Twitter @bernardw1011.

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