Getting active doesn’t have to be a hassle. This summer, I have made it my goal to find affordable ways to get fit without going to the gym. So far, I have found that the best alternative is the great outdoors. You heard it right! There are so many ways to get active outdoors, and it’s free!  Summers can pass quickly in the mitten, as many of you probably know, therefore you don’t want to miss any opportunity to make the most of the sunshine. Here are some of my favorite outdoor workout spots and how I utilize the space around me:

The Stairs on Division and Belknap Park

There is a flight of stairs near my house that I like to utilize for some High-Intensity Training. I tend to do about 10-15 sprints bottom to top. This workout always makes me super sweaty, but it’s really beneficial. If you engage your muscles correctly, it will work your entire body; your core should be firm and your arms and legs should be pumping. If you do not have access to stairs, you can always substitute with hills or bleachers. They will still engage the same muscles and give the same results! You can find stairs or hills in almost any neighborhood. Utilize the bleachers at your local high school or find a sledding spot. A few popular destinations that you should definitely check out:

  • Stairs on Division located downtown.  After a few sets, this incredibly steep set will leave you a sweaty, breathless mess. 
  • Belknap Park has 2 awesome hill slopes behind the baseball field. These are also great for lunges and intense hill training.

The Stairs on Division

Stair Workout

Downtown & the Grand River

I enjoy taking a run around my local neighborhood, but one of my favorite places to run is right through downtown Grand Rapids. You can run past the infamous Blue Bridge, stop to stretch in Rosa Parks Circle and maybe even stop for a crafted beverage or coffee after your run. There are many different routes you can take so it never gets boring or repetitive—plus you get to see the beauty of downtown.

Rosy Mound Nature Trail & Millennium Park

One of my favorite hiking spots is Rosy Mound Nature Trail, which is near the lakeshore. I enjoy hiking this trail because I am able to hike to a gorgeous view while still getting a solid workout in. The trail has a challenging terrain, from stairs to inclined paths, and I am able to engage multiple muscle groups. If this is too far, no worries!  Millennium Park, closer to downtown, has more scenic paths to run or jog. It’s a quiet park that cuts through the woods and near a few lakes, making it a great place to clear your head and get active.

Millennium Park

Riverside Park

A local park can be as functional as a gym. Parks have a lot of green space for you to do some stretching, yoga, and circuit training. Personally, I love using my own body to work out, which can be referred to as Calisthenics. I am able to do these workouts virtually anywhere, like a park or my backyard. The playground set can also work as a CrossFit-style gym. For example, you can use monkey bars to do pull-ups or hanging ab crunches, or you can use the park bench to do some tricep push-ups. The park has a lot of potential, if you’re creative!

On top of all these wonderful outdoor fitness destinations, Grand Rapids also provides many free outdoor fitness classes throughout the summer. Funky Buddha yoga studio even holds free yoga classes in select parks, which is awesome.

Exercise can be simple! You don’t need expensive memberships or fancy yoga clothes. Embrace what the universe has given us and get active outdoors. These are my personal and favorite places to get active outdoors, what are yours?

Meet local blogger, Alyssa Waid, the creator & owner of Pretty, Young, & Motivated.  Alyssa’s goal is to reach young women who struggle with self-confidence and finding comfort in being who they are. A senior at GVSU, she loves exploring what the world has to offer, traveling, and meeting new people. Her blog offers health, fitness, & lifestyle advice while encouraging women to be confident in their own skin. Stay tuned for more from Alyssa, who will be regularly contributing to GR Healthy Living. Also, you can find her on IG: blogger_alyssa.

GR Healthy Living - Grand Rapids Healthy Living Spot

The other day, I went out for a run with one my favorite fitness muses. Our plan was open–we just wanted to get a few miles in before a busy social weekend. Luckily, serendipity intervened, letting me be stroller-free, so we opted to run the trails surrounding my home instead of the roads and neighborhood streets. Suddenly, I found myself in the mentor position after years of being the learner. Which, in turn, allowed me to be present and enjoy the experience even more! Trail-running is absolutely my most favorite form of exercise. Road-running is second, with hot yoga taking a close third. They all have their purposes: trail-running fills my runner-soul; road-running gets the job done when I need a quick pick-me-up; hot yoga is a special “treat-yo’self” session I fit in when I can. Once you run the trails a few times, you’ll know what I mean. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over my many years of loving the trails:

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#1: Start Slow: As with any new skill you’re learning, it’s best to start slow. Trail-running is no joke. Especially when you’re new, you need to pay attention to the trail’s curves, roots, uphills, and downhills. Not only that, but you’re also just going to be way slower than out on the road, so put away your speed-demon expectations and let yourself enjoy the ride!

#2: Expect to be in Oxygen-Debt: Speaking of a “ride,” like a roller-coaster, trails usually have a lot more hills at a steeper grade than you might be used to if you spend a lot of time on the road. Even when you reduce your speed, you’re going to be engaging muscles you don’t normally use, making your body work harder at a slower pace. When you work harder, your breathing will become more labored, a sure sign of the oxygen-debt that happens in an anaerobic workout. Basically, you’ll be able to get more fit in less time.

#3: Reduce Your Distance: You don’t need to run as far or as long to get the same fitness perks with trail-running. Even when I’m training for a road-race, I like to get in a solid trail-run at least once a week to keep my muscles interested and on-point.

#4: Your Running Gait Will Change: What I mean by this is that the terrain is so different, that you will be running differently to keep up. This is a good thing, even if it’s hard at first. You’ll find yourself more on your toes; running more in a line (if the trail is narrow); conversely, running more back-and-forth (when you’re avoiding roots, rocks, and holes); using your arms for balance when running downhill (chicken-elbows, anyone?); picking  up your knees (more root-avoidance); and engaging your glutes a ton more to power up hills. It’s totally invigorating–after a while.

Image result for trail running

#5: Enjoy it! This should really be the firsttip. If there was one thing I could choose about hitting the trails that I love the best, it’s the sense of peace and calm that comes over me when I’m out there. There’s always a moment where I feel like I can finally lift my head up, look around (for a second or two anyway..always be on the watch for roots and rocks!), and take a real deep breath of thankfulness and peace.  It is truly manna for the soul.

#6: Don’t Worry About What You Wear: Trail runners are notorious for their grungy running gear. Old, torn-up tees; 10-year-old puffy shorts; sweat-stained hats (to keep off the biting flies and bugs in the summer); and black socks (with or without holes) are the name of the game. There ain’t no shame in well-loved running gear that just feels good! No one’s going to see you anyway, right? If you feel like wearing your nice stuff, that’s okay too. Trail runners are a welcoming bunch; they know that once the bug hits you, you’ll convert eventually.

About the Author: Janelle is an avid runner of all terrains, educator of all learners (specifically English to 16-year-olds), and lover of all things books, woods, and music. Five years ago, she became a BAMR (bad-ass mother runner), and the world hasn’t been the same since. Exploring ways to find peace and joy in her life, all the while laughing at her mistakes with humility and grace is her mission. In Janelle’s free time, you’ll see her playing with her toddlers, laughing at her husband’s jokes, reading a myriad of novels and nonfiction, and hitting up Twitter for great ideas in the classroom, in running, and in leading a peaceful life. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter: @janellemiles