At 5:45 on a brisk morning, before even the first streaks of light hit San Francisco Bay, Teresa Marchese leads a group of eight women in a series of heart-pounding sprints down a waterfront trail at Crissy Field. “Come on, come on -- I know you can do it!” she tells a panting newbie who falls short of her drill-sergeant pace, somehow managing to be cheerful and motivating but not the least bit obnoxious.
Outdoor boot camps are the current fitness craze in San Francisco -- no surprise in a city known for its beauty and athleticism. Marchese, who founded her Rock Solid Fitness program during law school, leads one of the best. Her female-only groups meet five mornings a week at the Marina District’s Crissy Field (when they’re not running Rocky-style drills up and down Pacific Heights’ steep Lyon Street stairs). “Sometimes we’ll spot sea lions as we’re lifting weights,” she says. For her one-on-one clients, she might bring gloves and shields for kickboxing under the cypress trees at Sutro Heights Park, or put them through a hard run in the sand at Ocean Beach -- “but they don’t like me too much after that.”
Marchese seeks out the city’s most scenic trails and incorporates them into her routines. On a hike with her husband, she stumbled across the labyrinth at Lands End -- a surprise even to longtime S.F. residents. The natural drama of her surroundings is a motivator. “You can work out on a cliff or run at the ocean’s edge,” Marchese says. “Even in the middle of this cosmopolitan city, you still find these places to be completely alone.”
Info: Rock Solid Fitness ($55 per week; 415/759-1605)
Teresa Marchese’s picks
Bay to Breakers. A beloved annual tradition that melds athleticism with S.F. kookiness. The 12-kilometer footrace (held on the third Sunday in May) begins at the Embarcadero and ends at the Great Highway; serious runners take their marks along with costumed revelers pushing themed floats and illegal kegs. Marchese runs it every year with her group. May 21; $38 entry fee. http://www.baytobreakers.com/ or 415/359-2800.
Crissy Field. Fringing the Marina District’s waterfront, the 100-acre former military airfield is one of the city’s premier fitness playgrounds. Marchese begins most of her early-morning boot camps here. The park is home to Sports Basement (610 Mason St.; 415/437-0100), a giant warehouse that’s a good source for discounted outdoor gear and apparel. Entrance on Marina Blvd. west of Baker St.
Feel Real Organic Cafe. Good vibes resonate at this colorful vegan corner joint near Ocean Beach in the Outer Sunset. Reggae on vinyl, seashell mobiles, and leafy plants lend a lazy Caribbean air. After a workout, Marchese makes a beeline for the giant heart-shaped oatmeal cookie made with organic raisins, coconut, and sunflower seeds — a full brunch in itself. $$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tue–Sun. 4001 Judah St.; 415/504-7325.
Labyrinth at Lands End. A secret to most locals, this meditative rock formation was built by artist Eduardo Aguilera on a bluff overlooking Mile Rock Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge. Visitors are apt to leave flowers or small mementos; any loose stones are thoughtfully rearranged. It’s a peaceful walk to the labyrinth along the Coastal Trail from the Lands End parking lot. Above Mile Rock Beach; access via Coastal Trail, beginning near Point Lobos Ave. and 48th Ave.
Lyon Street stairs. A popular Pacific Heights meeting spot and outdoor recreation area. “The view is gorgeous first thing in the morning,” Marchese says. She puts her clients through a grueling series of runs and squats up the 288 steps, alternating with reps of weights. Lyon St. between Broadway and Green St.
Palace of Fine Arts. The Roman rotunda dazzled at its 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition debut. It’s a common spot for picnicking families and group wedding photos; before the masses descend, Marchese warms up with early-morning stretches under the ornate dome. 3301 Lyon St.
Sutro Heights Park. Windswept cypress trees give way to views all the way down Ocean Beach at this former site of millionaire Adolph Sutro’s 1880s mansion. There’s a track-size trail and a rock staircase leading to an elevated plateau where Marchese likes to practice martial arts. Nearby, the Sutro Bath ruins are all that remain of Sutro’s extravagant public bathhouse, which featured seven swimming pools, water slides, trapeze rings, and an amphitheater; tours are led by the National Park Service (415/561-4323). Geary Blvd. at 48th Ave.