|Plyometrics in Malibu, Calif.|
Doing plyometrics on a soft surface like El Matador Beach in Malibu, California strengthens the body's tiny stabilizing muscles and improves their reaction time. This translates to huge gains when you run and jump on a firmer surface, whether it's a track or a basketball court.
"I've done drills in golf-course bunkers and long jump pits," says Bryan Clay, 29, the U.S. gold medalist in the 2008 Olympics Decathlon. "But I prefer the beach because I can recover afterward by treading water in the ocean."
Warm up by jogging for five minutes, and then do each of the following five exercises 10 times, resting for 60 seconds between them: Butt kicks, hexagon jumps, sand shuttles, djerbakis (yes, you read that correctly), and rocket jumps. (Click here for detailed exercise descriptions.) Rest for three minutes after you've completed all of the exercises, and then repeat the circuit.
Any area with sand or soft grass will do. Perform the drill barefoot to boost the benefits.
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|Cycling in Aspen, Colo.|
The theory goes that spinning your pedals quickly requires less muscle tension, so you fatigue less and recover faster.
"In general, you should be riding at a cadence of 80 to 110 revolutions per minute—whatever the gear or topography," says Chris Carmichael, 48, Armstrong's coach and the founder of Carmichael Training Systems.
A fast, efficient spin is especially important when pedaling uphill. Aspen's altitude (7,907 feet) and abundance of climbs make it the perfect training spot.
Do four intervals of five minutes each, with five minutes of recovery in between. When Armstrong does this workout, he pedals at about 130 rpm, but anything faster than 100 is good. Estimate your cadence by counting your pedal strokes on one side for 15 seconds and multiplying by four.
Rent bikes and pick up route info at Hub of Aspen (hubofaspen.com). Carmichael's other favorites include Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona (bike rentals at azcycling.com), and Mt. Figueroa in the Santa Barbara wine country near Buellton, California (rentals at winecountrycycling.com).
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|Swimming in Austin, Texas|
Six times longer than an Olympic-length pool, Barton Springs snakes its way through Zilker Park, in Austin, Texas. Untouched by chemicals, the clear water bubbles up through a natural spring, attracting all manner of swimmers.
"There's something mystical about swimming at Barton Springs," says Keith Bell, Ph. D., 60, president of the American Swimming Association. "And training there builds endurance—you swim against some waves, and since it's a long pool, there's no momentum from turns."
To develop a "longer" (read: faster) stroke, try this routine: Take two strokes with your right arm, one with your left, one with your right, and then two with your left. Then take one stroke with your right arm, one with your left, and two with your right. Got it? Continue this pattern for five minutes.
Other storied swimming spots include Maine's Pemaquid Beach, which is located in a cove with clear water and white sand, and Maui's Ka'anapali Beach, which hosts a prestigious annual swimming contest. Keep yourself motivated with these 20 Ways to Stick To Your Workout.
|Mountain Biking in Bend, Ore.|
"I have 100 miles of trails right out my back door," says Adam Craig, 28, a 13-time national mountain-bike champion who moved to Bend, Oregon, to train year-round. "Plus, Bend is at 3,625 feet, so you benefit from the altitude, but it doesn't take 10 days to adjust when you come from sea level."
"It's just as important to train your core as your legs," says Craig. "Your core is where you generate power." To engage your core while riding, Craig recommends an hour-long single-speed workout (in an intermediate gear) over rolling terrain.
If you want to kick your workout up a notch, include one-leg drills on a flat section midway through your ride. Pedal with only your left leg for one minute, then with both legs for one minute, and then with only your right leg for one minute. Repeat for 21 minutes.
For rental bikes and trail info, visit Hutch's Bicycles in Bend. Other top places to find your fat-tire groove include the slickrock of Moab, Utah, and the single track of Fruita, Colorado.
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|Playboating in Charlotte, N.C.|
"A river shouldn't flow in circles, but the Catawba does," says Brad Ludden, 28, a professional freestyle kayaker, referring to the section of the river that swirls through the U. S. National Whitewater Center, in Charlotte, North Carolina. "It's the ultimate whitewater park—an escalator even delivers you and your boat back upriver after you've tested out the rapids."
Many maneuvers you do on the river—Eskimo rolls, pulling cartwheels, surfing eddies—require upper-body strength, or what paddlers refer to as "weight overhead." Build it with the medicine-ball slam, says Ludden. Lift a bouncy 20-pound ball above your head, squat down, and slam it against the ground. When it bounces up three inches, catch it (still in a squat), stand, and bring it back above your head. Do this 25 times.
Contact the U. S. National Whitewater Center for lessons. Two other top parks are the Vail Whitewater Park on Gore Creek, in Colorado (for info on lessons, go to alpinequestsports.com), and Brennan's Wave on the Clark Fork River, in Missoula, Montana.
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|Cross Training in Gainesville, Fla.|
"Running steps improves muscular endurance, which boosts performance in any sport," says Tim Tebow, 22, quarterback for the defending national champion Gators of the University of Florida, in Gainesville. Tebow routinely runs some 1,500 steps at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium—a killer loop up and down every aisle—to build endurance.
Warm up by walking up and down 90 steps twice. Then perform walking lunges up 90 steps. If your legs tire, rest for 60 seconds. Then, to build stamina, make an entire loop through the stadium, running at a pace you can maintain. This should take 15 to 25 minutes. Rest for three minutes, and finish off with some speed work: Sprint up 30 steps, walk back down, and repeat for a total of five sets.
You can bring Tebow's workout home by running intervals at your local bleachers (make sure they have at least 20 steps) or on a stair climber at your gym.
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|Intervals in Manhattan Beach, Calif.|
Topping out at 100 feet, and with inclines as steep as 50 degrees, the sand dune at Manhattan Beach, California, attracts A-list athletes, including Kobe Bryant, Reggie Bush, and Tony Gonzalez. The reason: Running on sand is low-impact, so it's easier on your joints, but it increases the work on your legs and core by adding instability, says Tom Vachet, a certified trainer and the president of Elite Performance Management.
Warm up by jogging to the top twice. Then start at the bottom and complete six 40-yard sprints up the embankment, walking down after each one, and resting one minute. Now run as fast as you can to the top, walk down, and rest for two minutes. Then complete another six 40-yard sprints, with one-minute rest in between.
The Manhattan Beach dune is at 33rd Street and Bell Avenue. No dunes where you live? Do the drills on any 100-foot, 50-degree slope.
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|Basketball in Memphis, Tenn.|
There's always action on the courts at Halle Park in Memphis, Tennessee, which are open 24 hours a day, and stay lit at night.
"On the playgrounds, there's more one-on-one," says Ben Gordon, 25, a Chicago Bulls shooting guard. "Your best chance of winning is to keep your defender off balance."
Gordon practices his offensive creativity by starting at the top of the key and dribbling to a location on the court. He hesitates, and then explodes as fast as possible to another area and takes a jump shot.
"Hesitations keep your defender guessing," says Gordon, "and once that happens, you can create an open shot."
Gordon performs this drill for 15 minutes, practicing short-, mid-, and long-range shots.
If you can't make it to Memphis, test your skills at Sunset Park, in Las Vegas, NV, where the best high-stake games are from 6 p. m. to 11 p. m., or Venice Beach, in Venice, CA, home to four courts made famous by White Men Can't Jump.
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|Tennis in Newport, R.I.|
You don't have to travel to Wimbledon to play tennis on grass. The International Tennis Hall of Fame, in Newport, Rhode Island, has 13 grass courts that are open to the public.
"Bring your A-game," says Jim Courier, 39, a former world champion. "Grass is the fastest surface, so players who attack are rewarded."
Follow your serve to the net, and "chip and charge." That means hitting your groundstrokes earlier (which helps neutralize uneven bounces) and using more slice (which makes the ball skid).
To warm up for any activity that involves bending your knees—and to prepare yourself to scoop up volleys—do drop lunges, says Kevin Elsey, a performance specialist with Athlete's Performance in Phoenix, AZ. From a standing position, reach your left foot two feet behind your right foot and squat down while keeping your hips square and chest erect. Then, stand up and step laterally with your right foot. Repeat the sequence three to five times on each side.
To reserve a court, visit tennisfame.com.
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|Dragon Boating in Oklahoma City, Okla.|
As a drummer pounds the rhythm, 20 paddlers stab their blades into the water and thrust their canoe forward. Dragon boating, which dates back 2,000 years to China, is fast, fun, and intense.
Paddling works a range of upper-body muscles as well as the core and legs, explains Shaun Caven, 42, head coach at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Boathouse. The boathouse is located on a 328-foot-wide, 6,560- foot-long stretch of the Oklahoma River with a hydraulic dam to control flow.
"It's the perfect drag strip for racing," he says.
To build total-body strength and explosive arm power, do two sets of 10 plyometric pushups. Start in a standard pushup position, lower your body, and then quickly push up with enough force that your hands come off the floor. Make sure your elbows stay bent when you come down. Rest 60 seconds after the set and repeat.
Sign up at chesapeakeboathouse.org. Tampa Bay, Florida, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, also have raucous dragon boat scenes with frequent races.
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|Rowing in Princeton, N.J.|
Power and endurance: Few sports develop both, and that's the beauty—and the burden—of rowing, says Steven Coppola, 25, an Olympic rower. His training involves blasting up and down Carnegie Lake, near Princeton, New Jersey, to sharpen speed.
"The lake is three and a half miles long and protected from the wind, so it's almost always rowable," says Coppola.
Simulate rowing and build total-body strength with the high pull. Hold a barbell just below your knees with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Keeping your back flat and arms straight, pull the bar up as fast as you can by thrusting your hips forward and explosively standing up. As the bar passes your thighs, continue moving upward onto your toes, and pull the bar high on your chest by bending your elbows and raising your upper arms. Return to the starting position. Do three sets of five reps.
Carnegie Lake is open to the public. The country's other top rowing centers include Boston's Charles River, and Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.
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|Soccer in Washington, D.C.|
It may seem like there's no scoring in soccer, but it's not for lack of effort.
"I run anywhere from eight to 15 miles in a game," says Frankie Hejduk, 35, six-time MLS All-Star and captain of the Columbus Crew. "It's a mix of constant jogging spiked with 50 yard sprints and quick bursts. If you're not fit, you can't compete."
To boost speed and stamina, Hejduk does shuttle intervals wearing an old backpack loaded with 20 pounds of sand. Set cones up at five, 10, and 15 yards. Sprint to the first cone, touch it, and jog back; sprint to the second cone, touch it, and jog back; and then sprint to the third cone, touch it, and jog back. Rest for 35 seconds and repeat five times.
Pickup games are a good way to sharpen your skills. Visit socster.com or infinitesoccer.com to find one near you. Top spots include the Polo Grounds near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., Iverson Park, in Atlanta, GA, and Dorothea Dix Soccer Park, in Raleigh, NC.
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|Running in Zion National Park, Utah|
Weave among Douglas firs, between walls of sandstone, and along 21 switchbacks as you ascend 1,500 vertical feet from the trailhead to the summit of Angels Landing.
"I've run all over America—and the world—but nothing beats Zion National Park," says Ed Eyestone, 48, a two-time Olympian.
It's not for the fainthearted: The last half mile of the five mile run follows a ridgeline with a drop-offs of nearly 1,000 feet on each side.
Run the switchbacks, called Walter's Wiggles, like stadium stairs. "Run six hard, jog one, and repeat," says Eyestone. "It will work your anaerobic threshold and make your gait more efficient."
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