Fit and Free: 11 Ideas for Staying Active Outdoors

By: Mary Christine Kane

December 31, 2018

Category: Recreation

It’s the start of a new year – a great time for new beginnings and a great time to set new resolutions, including fitness goals. If you fell behind on your goals this year, it’s OK! Shake the dust off your hiking boots, dig your long underwear out from the back of your closet, and get set for a healthier year. Here are some tips to help you get outside and moving.

1. Start with why.

Take some time to think about why you want to make changes. Write down how you’d like to feel — such as fit, strong and energetic, or healthy and content. If you are feeling creative, you could even make a digital vision board on Pinterest or pull out some scissors and magazines to make one by hand. Add a bottle of wine and few friends and you’ve got yourself a collage party.

2. Define your goals.

Have you been meaning to take a skate-ski lesson, try skijoring or train for a 5K? Now is a great time to think about what you’d like to do for yourself this year and record it. For ideas, scan the Three Rivers programs and events calendar. Make sure to include in your goals the duration and frequency of your activities.

a large group of runners on a trail in the woods.

3. Get prepared.

Do you have the right clothing and equipment for the activities you are interested in? If not, you may need a shopping trip. If you’re on a budget, save money by visiting used gear swaps. Consignment stores are also a great place to purchase lightly worn clothing. Three Rivers rents equipment for many activities, including skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking and golfing.

4. Get practical.

What motivates everyone is different. Think about what has worked for you in the past or if you’ve had success building habits in a different area of your life. You may need a workout buddy for accountability. You may need to be more methodical by booking your activity at the start of the week, laying out your clothes the night before, and keeping your routine rigid from week to week.

Others need variety in their routine to stay interested or prefer to participate in game-oriented activities such as golf or geocaching. Find what works for you.

5. Make friends with winter.

Snowfall is possible for a good half of the year. Finding a way to stay active during Minnesota’s coldest months will help you keep up a healthy routine year-round. The key is dressing right by wearing layers and keeping your core warm. If you do, you may be surprised by how comfortable you can be — especially when you get moving. Once you have the right clothes, schedule some winter fun such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or biking.

two fat bikers on a snowy trail with an evergreen tree behind them.

6. Join GreenFit.

The Three Rivers GreenFit Club takes the decision-making out of your fitness plan. You show up twice a week and the Three Rivers staff has an activity prepared and ready for you. Once a week the activity is yoga, and the other evening is an outdoor activity like kick sledding, paddleboarding, kayaking, or another exercise that fits with the season.

Liz F. participated in GreenFit for several years and said it made a big difference in her overall fitness. “I loved the fellowship, getting out in the woods and watching myself get stronger.” Liz said, “Because it is organized for you, it made it really easy for me to show up and keep that routine every week.”

7. Plan for fun.

Fitness should be fun. What would make it more fun for you? Bringing music or a podcast? Inviting a friend? Doing something exciting like downhill skiing or mountain biking? Playing a game such as disc golf? Bringing your dog? Try boosting the fun factor to help boost your results.

a woman in a red kayak with her dog.

8. Get giving.

Three Rivers is always in need of volunteers to assist with their outdoor recreation activities, such as the kayak programs, skiing and more. Signing up to help is a great way to stay active, hone your skills and help connect others to the outdoors. Plus, by volunteering you can rack up points to use for entry to other activities.

Ruth T. has been a Three Rivers volunteer for many years and encourages others to try it. “I like that I can give back and be active at the same time. It’s also a lot of fun,” she said. “You don’t have to have a lot of skills to be helpful. The staff provides the training that’s needed.” 

9. Try a change of scenery.

Three Rivers Park District has over 27,000 acres of parks and trails. Create your own hiking club and map out new adventures.

sun shining through a snow-covered forest.

10. Check In with yourself.

Schedule days to check in on how you are doing with your goals. A good guideline is every three months. If you fall off track, it’s OK. Consider whether you need to adjust your plan and then get right back out there.

11. Call Yourself a Superstar!

Give yourself a big pat on the back for all the ways you are contributing to a healthier you.


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About the Author

a woman with shoulder length blonde hair wearing a plaid scarf and gray sweater

Mary is a volunteer blog contributor who has been participating in Three Rivers Park District activities for many years, as both a volunteer and participant. She enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, biking, kayaking and canoeing. Mary is also a poet; her chapbook, Between the stars where you are lost, is available from Finishing Line Press. You can find her online at


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