Where Can You Do Run, Bike, and Swim Training in Manila?

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Being based out of Metro Manila has its perks. My work is here at the various gyms I teach classes at, all the good sports stores are within reach, and it’s where plenty of runs are held almost every weekend.

Unfortunately, training in the city is another matter entirely. Metro Manila the mega-city was cobbled together from different cities and municipalities that spread out and merged into each other, so there wasn’t any city planning to give us proper sidewalks, bike paths, parks, and sports complexes. It is also a highly-congested city with more than its fair share of vehicular traffic and pollution. These are not the ideal training grounds at all.

I sometimes find myself envying my buddy Joel who relocated to Cagayan de Oro City some years ago; he tells me he can ride from his doorstep out onto long stretches of road where he can train undisturbed for hours. He’s got access to a track and a pool as well, and I think he’s made the biggest leaps in his athletic fitness since he moved there. (The fresh air also has something to do with it, I think…)

But we’ve got to do the best with what we’ve got, and this blog post is an attempt at identifying the places in this city that most athletes I know train at.

Xpert.PH shoot
Where can you train in Metro Manila?

Running

You can run anywhere in Metro Manila — if you have the courage for it. My uncle runs 10 kilometers every day along Roxas Boulevard, which has wide sidewalks and clear pedestrian crossings. But the area around Roxas Boulevard is full of narrow streets and if you don’t know your way around them, it could be quite… interesting.

Most runners will head to the tree-lined avenues of the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City, or the trendy streets of Bonifacio Global City (which has far too many stoplights now). Some with the right connections — or right face value? — may be able to get into the exclusive subdivisions of Forbes and Dasmarinas with its quiet roads and a choice between flat and rolling sections.

Ortigas is home to the twin hilly roads of St. Paul and St. Martin, which border the PhilSports Arena/ULTRA. When the track oval reopens hopefully by the end of the year, runners can once again do their sessions in style instead of dodging cars at the nearby Capitol Commons. There is also a nice small loop at Pearl Drive around the University of Asia & the Pacific.

The Mall of Asia complex has plenty of runners, but with the lack of tree cover, running after 8am in the summer becomes a huge challenge. Pack your sunscreen.

Cycling

The Quezon City Memorial Circle hosts cyclists every Sunday on its innermost lane. The bakal boys keep a pretty fast pace and are able to shepherd mountain bikers out of the way safely, so if you can hang onto their wheels it’s a great workout.

On Saturday mornings, cyclists conduct criteriums on the roads of C5, Julia Vargas, Lanuza, and Ortigas. I have a teammate who did a bulk of his training for the Challenge Philippines bike course this way; he would also do hill repeats on St. Paul and St. Martin (mentioned above in the section on running).

During the week, Mall of Asia is a popular training ground, but beware novices in the pelotons and vehicles suddenly swerving into your path. When I train at MOA I usually just do individual time trialling and avoid the big groups. On Sundays the nearby Macapagal Boulevard and some roads around the Aseana complex are used for bike races and bente-bente criteriums (with casual betting on the side).

Down in Alabang, cyclists train on the long stretches of Daang Hari and Daang Reyna, and if they are residents or know someone who lives there, they can train inside Ayala Alabang Village, which used to be a popular place to hold sprint triathlons. Another alternative in the area is Filinvest; on weekends they close off the roads to encourage runners and cyclists to train there.

It’s tough to put together a solid long ride within the city only, which is why most cyclists head eastward to the nearby province of Rizal, or south to Cavite and Laguna for rides. But those are outside Metro Manila ;)

Swimming

This is actually Betsy the Swimjunkie‘s realm of expertise as she keeps abreast of most of the swim venues open to public use. She recently lamented the loss of the San Beda pool, which has now restricted use to students only. Most pools down south are now members-only: Alabang Country Club, The Village Sports Club, and Palms Country Club. Olivarez College Indoor Pool in Sucat is still open for public use though.

In Ortigas, ULTRA/PhilSports Arena’s 50-meter pool is good and cheap (at P60/head). It has lane lines, a shower room, and more-or-less good water quality. Unfortunately it’s only open to the public from 8-11:30am and 1-4:30pm. So if you have an 8-to-6 office job, it’s really out of the question.

The Makati Aquatic Sports Arena (MASA) is another good swim venue frequented by my teammates. If you’re a Makati resident you get a significant discount on the entrance fee. It can get quite crowded, but if you ask nicely you can get to share a lane (and win friends?).

The Army pool at Fort Bonifacio used to be my team’s regular swim training grounds. Some underwater hockey is played there on certain nights, which means that after 8pm instead of swimming 50 meters lengthwise you may be asked to swim the crosswise 20 meters. There are also no lane lines so you might end up knocking your head against someone swimming from the other end of the pool.

The indoor pools found at Ace Water Spa branches are great; they are clean, temperature-controlled. Did I mention clean? The price may be prohibitive though, at P550 a pop.

Most triathlon swim coaches teach at set venues; for example, my coach Nonoy Basa (a co-founder of Streamline Sports Instruction) runs classes from his Valle Verde 1 condo pool on Mondays and Wednesdays. They may also have arrangements with fitness clubs and other members-only venues, so it’s best to ask a prospective coach where you’ll be swimming. Frequently training under a coach’s expert eye results in faster improvements as they can catch errors, correct your form, and give you a program to follow and adjust it on the fly as they see you swim.

These training venues are all just off the top of my head; I’m sure there are many others, hidden gems, that athletes in Metro Manila frequent. Do you have other training venues to add or suggest? Please share and comment below!

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19 comments on “Where Can You Do Run, Bike, and Swim Training in Manila?

  1. You can add Camp Aguinaldo for run and bike training. They have nice roads and lots of people training on weekends.

  2. Nice list. I don’t have problems looking for a place to run. The swim can be easy except when its training season for triathletes. But I still dont like the idea of biking in Manila.

  3. Heya Noelle, gotta ask. Besides exclusive subdivisions, where else is it possible to swim before 6AM? I got an 8-5 which makes it impossible to swim to most public / private pools. I want to run / swim around 4AM to beat the crowd / traffic in most places.

    Is this possible?

  4. Hi! Good Afternoon. I’m enjoying my morning swims at MASA and the place is quite okay but because of your article above I’m now interested with ULTRA because it is way cheaper than MASA (150Php VS 60Php). Is it crowded during weekdays (I normally swim from 9-11 am)? because I am really considering it as an alternative.
    Thanks in advance

  5. Hi miss noelle,nice topic here,btw im candz,hmmm newbie in multisports,done my 1st tri last 2014 pa at extri raw,im weak kasi sa swimπŸ˜” And langoy langoy lang alam ko,i trained on my on,cant afford to hire swim coaches e,any suggestions san mura mag swim lesson? Ung affordable sana,para sa mga gustong matuto tlaga but really cant afford expensive swim coach….thank soooo much miss idol noelle,your blog is really helpful to us..keep on blogging and god bless you

  6. I am only putting this info here for future reference as I see this was posted in 2014..

    I will try and give a honest perspective of what training is like in the Philippines.

    My background is a Expat from the UK that is currently in the Philippines for 6 months on a career break with my wife is who is based in the UK but of Filipino heritage.

    I am a cyclist first and foremost and I will normally ride 5-6 times each week for a total of about 170-210 miles or around 12000Klm a year, the location I am staying in is Aklan which I was thinking was going to be really good for riding since the Island has many mountains and is known as a tourist location due to Boracay.

    Sadly I have been here 4 months now and my training has gone to crap, I actually live on what is one of the best roads on the Island (as I have found out) which leads from Kalibo to Caticlan but that is about the only positive I can actually say about my cycling experience in the Philippines..

    Every other road I have found has been that terrible concrete slab arrangement that gives the feeling of hitting a brick every 3 meters due to poor alignment, quite why they do not do road build with Tarmac I will never know. It has to be far cheaper and easier to repair??. The Kalibo to Caticlan route for the most is Tarmac but that is the only route..

    Pollution even for this small corner of the country is very bad and I quickly found out if I am not out the door at by 5:30am everyday then my ride will be filled with diesel showers from lorries and coaches passing within inches of me. I have lost count the amount of times I have used my turbo trainer since I have been (very rare for me).

    Food here is also a real issue if you are a endurance athlete, it is just so hard to get anything of real quality, I am a Vegetarian first and foremost and tend to go Vegan for weeks at a time but here the food offering are either Pork with dry rice, dry rice with Pork, “meat” and dry rice… The fruit and veg is really poor quality, even trying to make smoothies with orange juice and good mango’s is a issue. I have totally stopped trying to explain why I do not eat meat as the explanation even when explained in Tagalog has people looking at me like the village idiot.

    Sadly I was hoping for a similar experience to what I had when I was in Thailand training before we came here, good roads, very good food and overall a healthier experience. The reality is that the Philippines is not geared towards any endurance type training such as cycling as the road network is way to under developed, it is not in the culture to be a sportsman or athlete and hence you will most likely be very alienated if you are looking for training groups or partners.

    The food was a terrible let down and I am actually very easy to please I just expect quality fresh food even if that means paying a little more but sadly it is not even offered.

    I have had two serious bouts of either stomach flu or Dysentry that was picked up in restaurants locally (not street food!) and to add to that I have also had a chest infection.

    I have lost approx 1500 miles worth of training due to having to recover from all this, so for anyone that is thinking that the Philippines or at least Aklan will be good for a bit of serious training I would say do not bother..

    Head to Chiang Mai in Thailand for a location that ticks all the boxes and what I would class has a FAR more positive experience.

    The Philippines as a Tourist can be a blast, the people are friendly and it still has a edge to it but for the modern athlete that is looking for a travel destination, nope sorry it does not cut it….

    That is before I even get started on Manila!!!!…….

    Regards

    1. I am sorry you had this experience, but this is hardly the space to go on a rant and not even leave your name. This blog post was meant to show the challenges of training for triathlon in Manila, and how we overcome these challenges because we love the sport.

      The Philippines is not an endurance training destination; we have quite a few things on our development plate to finish off before we can even think of marketing ourselves as such. Our local endurance community knows this; we’re still a hardscrabble lot who make do and hope that in time our little island nation can catch up to the demands of our sport.

      Regarding your comparison of the Philippines to Thailand especially our road networks… Keep in mind the Philippines is approximately 20 years behind its contemporaries in Southeast Asia. This is due to a disproportionate part of our national budget going to servicing bad debt the Marcos years left us, plus the culture of corruption that steals half of every peso spent.

      That being said, the training in areas such as Cagayan de Oro, Laguna, or Tarlac is much better with plenty of free roads for road bike riding. These also have sports facilities such as a decent lap pool and track.

      With regard to your food issues, I’m not sure how you came to expect you could eat vegetarian in a non-vegetarian country in the rural countryside where people must eat what is available. Despite being a tropical country, most fruit and vegetables are grown in limited areas, and Aklan is not known for its agriculture.

      Laguna and Tarlac, more urban areas, are much better for vegetarian fare because they grow plenty of produce and people are more educated about vegetarianism.

      Maybe if you had done a little more research among the endurance community based here, you would have foreseen these problems you ran into.

  7. Suggestion for urban swimmers on budget, add to your options the Amoranto Swimming Pool.. My niece says its decent, clean enough and competition grade..

  8. @ Alvin Guevara (re query on where to run and swim – mornings or evenings)
    Try running at Camp Aguinaldo (for free) and then swim (for a fee) in any of the three pools there. You can either do this in the morning (before work) or in the afternoon/evening (after work). You can bike there too actually (free, if on the roads, but for a fee at their bike trail, which is more for mountain bikers). The earliest I know that one of the pools there opens is at 6 am (sometimes you can even swim earlier if the caretakers/attendants know or are familiar with you already) and that it closes at 9 pm (though sometimes they allow swimmers an extra 15- or 30-minutes, especially those taking up lessons or are finishing up their drills.

    1. Hello Halter, when was the last time you ran at Camp Aguinaldo? Based on regulations released last year, athletes need to present some kind of proof that they are military in order for them to be allowed to use the roads to run and bike on.

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