Sand skating

"Speed skating" drills without sand pails (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Gym memberships are something of a luxury these days. But without the usual suspects -- treadmills, elliptical trainers, cable machines and free weights -- is it easy to get a decent workout?

Absolutely. Just take your workout to the streets -- or the beach or the hiking trail.

Hiking trails with their hills and uneven terrain, are perfect places to practice interval training and improve cardiovascular endurance, as well as strengthen core and leg muscles.

Miles of beach, are a fitness boon. Muscles must work harder when feet dig into sand, ramping up the difficulty of even the easiest workouts.

And the concrete and steel structures all over cities provide the perfect way to challenge all major muscle groups while partaking of parkour, a relatively new discipline in which people use only the body to navigate the environment by scaling walls, vaulting ledges and jumping up stairs.

Even for those who haven't abandoned the gym, training outside presents a break from the monotony of machines and can improve performance in sports such as basketball, soccer, skiing and cycling.

Curious about the possibilities, we polled three fitness experts for L.A.-area workouts that provide great views and don't cost a thing. Sure, some exercises may seem familiar -- but doing them on an incline or an uneven or shifting surface adds an exhilarating element.

In some cases, we offer sets and repetitions for each exercise -- but they're only suggestions. Too easy? Increase the intensity of the exercise and add a few more reps. Too challenging? Knock down the energy and do a few less. Always work at a comfortable pace.

Workout 1: The beach full-body workout

Most people associate the beach with swimming or surfing, but the water isn't the only exercise-friendly element. Many developed beach areas, also feature bars, rings, swings and balance beams -- free equipment that can make a workout engaging and fun. Plus, the sand offers a shifting surface that forces the stabilizing muscles of the core to fire. Feet sink in, making muscles work harder and creating a bigger calorie burn.

Jennifer Cohen ( www.jennifercohen.com), fitness trainer and author of "No Gym Required," showed a number of strength and aerobic training exercises that can be done on a warm day or even a brisk winter one. Beach pails act as weights when filled with wet or dry sand, adding an extra challenge. These exercises are also easily done at a park or a playground with similar equipment.

Ab crunches and pelvic tilt on a swing

Lie on the sand on your back with your feet in a swing seat, legs extended and hands behind your head. Contract the abdominal muscles, bringing the knees and the shoulders together without straining the neck. Release and repeat. This targets core muscles. For the pelvic tilt, place back and head on the sand, and feet on the swing seat with knees straight. Push the pelvis up and release, squeezing the glutes.

How many: Repeat both exercises about 15 times.

Decline push-ups on a balance beam

Push-ups on a decline (where hands are lower than feet) have an added degree of difficulty, since the body is working harder against gravity. Place hands in the sand and toes on top of a low balance beam (or, to make it a little easier, place them against the side of the beam) and, with hands shoulder-width apart, lower the chest to the ground as far as possible while keeping the body straight. This works the entire upper body and engages the core, which has to work even harder to stay stable since hands are on an uneven surface and digging into the sand.

To add even more difficulty, bring one knee toward the chest during the push-up, alternating legs. You can also switch between bent-leg and straight-leg push-ups. Not that much upper body strength? Switch things around and do an incline push-up, with hands on the beam, toes in the sand.

How many: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Triceps dip on a balance beam