How to Stay Active and Think Beyond the Gym

By Emily Clayton in Healthy Feeling

When it's time to exercise, your first thought may not be the local gym. Often you only have time to hit the asphalt and jog on down your street, but a run from your doorstep isn't always low-impact or the most interesting. Even though gyms pop up on every street corner, they aren't the only way to stay active outside of the home.

Most greater metro areas abound with hidden running spots and nature parks that offer healthier conditions and beautiful scenery to admire while you work out. These gorgeous settings are the first ones I turn to for fitness activities. They offer varying degrees of strenuousness, ranging from brisk jogs to slower pace strolls. If the thought of solo exercise in a tricky area gives you chills, stay safe and head out in pairs. Who knows how many positive sessions you may have?

Go Right after Work

Staying active is important. Whether it's in the morning, evening, or on the weekend, consistent exercise can routinely influence your mood as well as your health. And even if you have a sluggish morning, there is always hope for a brisk workout later on. My husband and I try to set aside time in the evenings for gentle exercise. It helps us unwind after work, enjoy the scenery, and keep our bodies moving. The weather doesn't always cooperate, but it's worth being able to come home without dwelling on the stresses from earlier that day. This ensures we're relaxed (and hungry) enough to finish dinner, along with the things that need buttoning up before bedtime. As you make your way into the "natural" gym, just remember to dress for the weather and stay hydrated.

Find Somewhere New

You're surrounded by homes, apartment buildings, or retail stores. Could there possibly be a nature spot hidden somewhere in between? Chances are, there is—and it has yet to become someone's discovery. Put on your trainers and start your search.

My area of Orange County is full of activity, and the streets bustle with cars and people. At first glance you may not be able to notice anything beyond the sea of housing, but things change when you get closer. I love how quiet pockets spring up on me when I least expect them. It's always a thrill when discovering a new spot beyond the same busy neighborhood, and it allows you to holster that location for a dog walk or kids outing later that weekend.

Plan It Online

One of the easiest ways to locate nearby nature areas is through your city or county website, which (should) list local and regional parks and their locations. Because all cities in Orange County are situated back to back, it's not a problem for me to check a neighboring city for parks. In my region, larger parks—such as Irvine Ranch Open Space, Peters Canyon, and Mile Square Regional Park—are often geared toward weekend adventures. Neighborhood parks like Centennial Park in Santa Ana, Peppertree Park in Tustin, and Acacia Park in Fullerton are located near residential areas for any type of spur-of-the-moment sport or activity.

Word on the Trail...

You can also ask around to see if people recommend a particular area. Frequent park visitors mean happy park visitors, and not everyone visits the same way. Consider finding a park through a little intuition: if you're commuting to/from work or picking up the kids, keep a lookout for patches of green or multiple cars parked on the shoulder. By turning down the road to find out what lies beyond it, you might be surprised to see a "backdoor" entrance to a trail that technically starts on the other side of town, and saves you a boat load of time getting to your favorite pocket of nature.

Traveling to Your Destination

Arriving at your spot of choice depends on your preferences as much as it does your options. If you have only a limited amount of time, a carpool or bus ride gives you more time to stay active. If you live near a park or have a free afternoon, why not think greener? Pull out your bike, and keep the ride honest and exhilarating. A family excursion is an excellent way to share in the reward.

How many parks are in your area? Tweet your favorite fitness activities @TomsofMaine.

Image source: Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom's of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom's of Maine

Why It’s Good

Staying active is important to your health and well-being. It not only keeps you healthy, but provides you with a chance to connect with your family and explore new spots in your area. You will gain a new appreciation for your community as you get in your daily exercise.