There are more ways to get your body in great physical condition than by going for a walk around the block or signing up for a gym membership. Expand your exercise horizons by exploring your own community. Not only are many of the available fitness options inexpensive, but getting involved in these local activities will connect you with community members who have the same interests (and in most instances, skill level) that you do.
Explore the great outdoors. Get information on trails, recreation programs and outdoor fitness classes on your county’s Department of Parks and Recreation website, suggests Jessica Matthews, exercise psychologist at the American Council of Exercise. Or search for parks and trails by zip code at the National Wildlife Federation. If you’re looking for a specific outdoor activity, including hiking, water sports, biking, fishing and camping, plug your zip code into Discover the Forest for local options.
Go back to school. Call your school district to learn the schools’ policy on using outdoor tracks and courts outside school hours, says Neil Pire, fitness expert at the American College of Sports Medicine. Want more structure? Many school districts offer 8-week programs for adults — from water aerobics to softball leagues — for a nominal fee, Pire says. Local colleges and universities allow community members to enroll in not-for-credit fitness classes and instruction, including yoga, weight lifting, and tennis — without the hefty college price tag.
Get a trainer — without a gym membership. Reap the benefits of a personal trainer (extra motivation, accountability, and one-on-one instruction!) outside gym walls: Go to acefitness.org to find a certified fitness trainer in your area who will get you in shape at a local park, recreation center or even in your own home!
Use exercise to connect. Log on to meetup.com and type in your zip code and interest, whether walking, swing dancing, sailing — anything! — to pull up a list of groups near you who meet to have fun and get fit.
Network with locals. Fellow fitness enthusiasts are some of the best resources for local clubs, groups and area events, says Pamela Peeke, M.D. author of Body for Life for Women. Chat up the employees at your local sporting goods store to find out their favorite hiking trails, skating spots or biking routes. Sport stores are also a great place to rent equipment, including bikes, tennis racquets and skis.
Check your inbox. Subscribe to active.com and pick your sport of choice. They’ll shoot you weekly updates for events happening in your area — including 5ks, tough mudder races, and sports leagues. Seeking thrills? Subscribe to rei.com/learn, and they’ll email you updates on classes, workshops and events geared toward to the adventurer, such as kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking and backpacking.
Act like a tourist. Stop by your town’s Visitor’s Information Office and talk to hotel concierges about little-known fitness spots; these people are paid to know your town’s secrets.
Search the web. No matter what your sport of choice, there’s likely a group that meets in your area.
- Hikers can check out sierraclub.org for group outings and maps.
- Tennis players can find a court and a partner at usta.com and search Flex Leagues.
- Mountain bikers and backpackers can get routes and read reviews from other explores attrails.com.
- Yogis can find local classes at yogafinder.com.
- Kayak and canoe-lovers can join groups near them at paddling.net.
- Runners can search for running clubs by state at rrca.org and get info on the safest places to run as well as the most scenic trails.
Pick up the phone. Download the Map My Run app (free) for iPhone and Android to map out running, walking, biking and skating routes in your area created by locals in your town. Backpacker’s GPS app (free) lets you record and share your route, as well as follow thousands of GPS-enabled hikes in national parks and major cities.