Devil’s Millhopper

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DEVIL’S MILLHOPPER: A NATURAL SETTING FOR SOME SWEATING

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Stadiums: the workout locals love to hate.

The blazing summer sun beats down on you and the hard metal bleachers can pound on your joints. But the unique opportunity to experience a high-intensity, outdoor cardio workout may be just what your body needs to build strength and endurance.

Fortunately, just off of Millhopper Road in northwest Gainesville lies a bowl-shaped, 120-foot deep limestone sinkhole surrounded by lush vegetation, shaded sandy trails and a spiraling, wooden staircase. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is a National Natural Landmark, and this rainforest-like environment is the perfect place to mix up your workouts with bursts of cardio stair climbs combined with effective conditioning exercises. The park is shady and encircled by rich vegetation—so as you’re sucking wind between sets, you can stop and enjoy the beauty of nature’s own stadium.

Warm-Up

Slowly jog down the steps to the bottom of the sinkhole.

5 rounds of Stair Climbs

Round one

Sprint up the stairs as fast you can. Take note of your time. At the top, come into a flat back chair: hold on to the railing with arms fully extended, keep your back flat, your shoulders over your hips, your hips in-line with your knees and your knees over your ankles (advanced option – lift your heels high). Hold for 1 minute. Jog down.

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Round two

Step up every two stairs. Complete single leg lifts after every step. Keep you core tight, your hips square and your tail tucked under as you lift your leg and squeeze your glutes. On each straight away, lunge to the next set of stairs. Jog down.

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Round three

Complete a calf raise after every step (advanced option – bring one hand overhead). Perform high knee run on the platforms. Keep your abs tight and try to drive your knees into your chest. At the top, hold a low squat for 1 minute (advanced option – come onto your toes). Jog down.

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Round four

Side squat up the stairs. After each step, lift the opposite leg high to the side then alternate between crossing it behind and in front of your support leg. Complete 20 jumping jacks at the top. Jog down.

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Round five

Sprint! Even though you’re tired, dig deep and try to beat your time from round one. Walk down.

Bonus round

Upper Body Work

After your final round, add in 20 chest pushups (hands under elbows with core tight and chest directly over the railing). Followed by 20 tricep pushups (hands under shoulders, elbows hugged tight to your torso). Step further out from the railing to make the move more advanced.

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Stretch

It’s important to cool down and stretch. Bring one leg on top of the railing, square your hips off, and fold forward over your leg for a deep hamstring stretch. Next, try bending at the knee, coming onto the side of your foot to open into a standing pigeon stretch for your hips.

Tip: As you get tired, it is easy to lose track of which round you are on. Break a fallen branch into five short markers and move a stick into your finished pile after each round.

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The park is open from 9am to 5pm Wed.-Sun. Parking is $4/vehicle, so bring a few friends to join in on the fun. Or, better yet, run or bike to the park for just $2.