Thinking outside (the box) for your workouts 

By John Horchner

I have requested and received a lot of workout advice over the years. Outside a gym in Pittsburgh, one person I knew told me the best workout just boils down to one that you like to do.

“Huh?” I looked at him, unsure whether he was joking.

“Just do that.”

I still wasn’t convinced.

A year ago, I listened to a podcast about working out in the natural environment and all the advantages that provides you for your blood pressure, stress levels and general health.

Sounds of birds chirping, brooks babbling and wind blowing through the evoked images of the woods. But what I liked most was the sound of happy voices and the idea that there would be a group, people to guide me through the woods. 

I looked up and found that, yes, there were groups that meet outdoors to exercise, but my experience was inconsistent. I was willing to pay for a workout with structure.

My Internet search turned up more results than I bargained for.

No Quit Fit is run by Chris Mielke and Sarah Phenow, military and law enforcement trainers, respectively, which I found intimidating at first. I quickly learned that the group’s work-at-your-own-pace philosophy is an easy fit for all levels of fitness, however.

My group meets at Central Park in Roseville every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 5:30 a.m. sharp. This is a perfect fit for an early-riser like me who enjoys morning company and conversation. 

When I lived in Burlington, Vt., I was often first in line for Starbucks on Church Street that opened at 5 a.m. The homeless shelter let out about that time, as well, and the line would grow. I befriended many of those standing in line with me. Some would get a free cup of joe, some paid. We came to know each other. When I was shopping with the family or just walking down Church Street, it was not uncommon to hear, “Hey, John! Over here. Hello!” It’s that kind of place, but then so is Minnesota.)

Anyway, as most of us who live here know the parks in Minnesota are often over-the-top, and Roseville’s Central Park meets my needs for No Quit Fit. It is filled with the usual tennis courts and swing sets. But it also has many trees, a small waterfall that leads into a lake and plenty of space to run free.

When I arrive at 5:30 a.m., the parking lot is generally full, regardless of the season. In fact, many of my No Quit Fit counterparts prefer winter workouts because the fields provide the right mix of terrain, the snow provides extra cushion and running up and down the hills keeps everybody warm.

Our trainers recently presented the morning workout, titled “Flip the Script,” on a whiteboard. No breaks. Continuous movement. A little running in the middle. Nearly 60 minutes in all.

I often tell my workout partner Jerry that No Quit Fit training is more of an aspiration than an actual workout for me as I still struggle with pushups and other parts of the drill. 

Jerry usually ignores my concerns. No one wants to be the one person who can’t. That’s another advantage of the community that comes with the workouts. The discipline is contagious. Most people are above my level, some way above it. Some come to the workouts carrying a GORUCK rucksack, which is essentially a backpack with a metal plate in it. Moving with weight on your back is one of the foundations of military training, but this has expanded to include hobbyist intent on maximizing their workout.

“You’ll get there,” Sarah told me when I first joined. 

“You’re doing a great job!” Chris often says.

I did not believe any of this in the beginning. But it wasn’t long before I found myself thinking that the workouts seemed to be getting easier. I had to smile.

Chris recently wore a shirt with a quote by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

This is true enough for me. I’ve been able to catch myself from falling down a flight of stairs and avoid other injuries because of my training. This idea seems to explain many things in my life, not just workouts.

John Horchner is a publishing professional who lives in St Anthony Park. A version of this article originally appeared on his blog,


No Quit Fit is billed as the only year-round outdoor fitness program in the Twin Cities. For more information, go to

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