A morning run is said to lower blood pressure and relieve stress as well as give runners a needed boost to tackle the day ahead. While Beijing’s tricky weather may pose concerns for outdoor activities, during the cooler weather, the morning may be the best time for a run — and to see the Chinese city as it’s waking up.
With more than 20 million residents, the Beijing cityscape is wide and diverse, making it a playground for both beginning and avid runners. The following running destinations open as early as 6 a.m. and offer both city and nature backdrops, with easy access via transportation.
The Weekend Run: Olympic Forest Park
Located north of the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium that housed the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, the Olympic Forest Park is Beijing’s biggest park and Asia’s largest urban green landscape.
Upon entering, visitors may feel like they’ve been transported into a different world, as the massive 1,680-acre green space is filled with hills, lakes and modern art sculptures.
The park is divided into two parts. The south side may appeal to tourists as it features the main Olympic sites and a large lake called Wa Biancun. Advanced runners should consider venturing through the north side, which is more forested and has a wider variety of trails. Concrete trails are clearly marked as 3 kilometers (1.8 miles), 5 kilometers (3 miles) or 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long.
Early bird runners can enjoy the sanctuary by running past wide flower fields of sunflowers, marigolds and maidenhairs. It is also known that a gaggle of geese can be seen walking along or swimming alongside the koi near the lake bank.
The Historic Run: Purple Bamboo Park
As one of the seven largest parks in Beijing, Purple Bamboo Park is a step back in time to the 13th-century Ming dynasty, when the three lakes leading into the Summer Palace served as reservoirs for the city’s water supply.
Covering 35 acres in the city’s northwestern Haidian District, the bamboo gardens were renovated and reopened in 1949 after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
Along the garden paths, groups of elderly residents play cards or mahjong. During the morning, however, runners will pass large groups of locals practicing the ancient art of tai chi. The Zen atmosphere of the park stretches to the corner of the lakeside, where people fish or relax on benches or blankets.
For those with a little extra time on their hands post run, the park is also within walking distance of the Beijing Zoo and National Library.
The Buddy Run: The Westin Beijing Chaoyang
For travelers looking for convenience, The Westin Beijing Chaoyang is the perfect fit for running enthusiasts. The hotel has a unique Running Concierge program, part of Westin’s global RUNWESTIN initiative, where an in-house fitness trainer can accompany guests on a 1.8- or 3-mile route that begins and ends at the hotel.
Running routes are designed for convenience while showcasing the best of Beijing. Terry Li, WestinWORKOUT Manager of The Westin Beijing Chaoyang, notes that, “Each outing is tailored to the pace and preferences of participating guests,” with part of the route connecting to the riverside for a quick escape from the bustling city.
To prepare for morning exercise, Terry suggests that a good night’s sleep, stretching and having a healthy amount of carbohydrates at least 30 minutes before running will help runners with their performance and keep their energy levels high.
After the run guests can enjoy a well-balanced breakfast at the hotel’s Seasonal Tastes restaurant. There, a SuperFoodsRx menu is carefully curated by doctors and nutritionists to offer wellness-enhancing foods that are rich in beneficial nutrients and antioxidants while naturally low in calories.
Guided runs are available year-round on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:30 a.m. Hotel guests also have the option to pick up a running map and experience the route on their own.
When air quality exceeds safety levels for outdoor exercise, Terry recommends guests visit the hotel’s 24-hour WestinWORKOUT Fitness Studio, equipped with eight treadmills and an indoor swimming pool, open from 6 a.m. for guests. For a more private workout, The Westin Beijing Chaoyang also has a handful of guest rooms equipped with either a treadmill or a stationary bike.