Oh, how much I love rollerblading in Central Park.
For me, rollerblading in Central Park is the perfect workout, with a good warmup, nice early effort, a steady middle, a tough finish, and a forced cooldown. (Consult the numbers on the map to the right to make sense of what I’m saying; the blue lines correspond to uphills, the red to downhills, and the yellow to relatively flat or mildly-sloped roadway.)
I start out at my apartment, and have a three-and-a-half block blade to the Park, which provides a nice warmup. I go across West 100th Street, which is much wider than most crosstown streets due to a police and fire station and then a complex of highrise condominiums; that means that there’s plenty of space to share the road with cars and bikers.
My entry to the park is near the bottom of a short hill (number 1 on the map), which my counterclockwise route takes me up. I’m then greeted with a short downhill into another, slightly steeper, uphill (number 2); then again, I get a quick downhill and even steeper uphill (number 3) until I reach West 85th Street and things level out a bit. It’s a great series of quick sprints and rests, and definitely gets things moving a bit.
From there through the bottom of the park and a bit back up the east side, the grade gently slopes and makes for a good, steady middle part of the workout. Additionally, it’s in this stretch that a lot of peoplewatching takes place, since the southern parts of Central Park are generally more populated than the northern parts, and also contain a lot of people walking home from work in the evenings.
Once I reach East 74th Street, one of the tougher hills in the park awaits (Andy’s Hill, number 4), if only because the past two miles have lulled me into complacency. Additionally, the hill is on a curve, making it harder to keep a steady pace on rollerblades. It’s a good wake-up call, and makes me remember that I’m actually getting some exercise in.
From there, it’s another relatively nice cruise around the east side of the Park — past Cleopatra’s Needle, the Met, and the Guggenheim, mixing with all the runners coming to and from the Reservoir running path. Again, there’s a good chance for peoplewatching, but there’s also a nice flat stretch from East 86th to East 90th where I can go into an all-out sprint to see how much stamina I have in reserve.
Once I see Mount Sinai hospital towering out of the foliage, I get to make a decision — do I choose to cut off the top of the park, taking the 102nd Street cutoff (number 5) and get home faster, or do I continue northward, to an awesome downhill (number 6) past the Lasker pool and skating rink that segues into the most brutal uphill series in the Park (Heartbreak Hill, number 7)? Either way, I end up back at the hill I started on, and repeat it, jetting out of the park just at its peak on West 96th Street. The eight-and-a-half block trip back to my apartment gives me a nice cooldown, and then it’s all over.
Total distance? About 5.5 miles if I cut off the top of the Park, and about 6.3 miles (and the glory of completing Heartbreak Hill) if I leave it in. It really is the perfect workout; I’ll miss it when I move to Boston.
Thanks to the Central Park Track Club for the map that I modified to draw the above route.