Outdoor fitness inspiration.
Reinvigorate your get-fit routine by making Mother Nature your personal trainer. Studies have shown you’ll exercise longer and more often, and be happier to boot. So challenge muscles in new ways, burn more calories, and have fun getting in shape. C’mon, what are you waiting for?
Put a lid on the spin instructor’s shouting at you to crank up the resistance over blaring dance music. Instead, take your two-wheeler outdoors, where the only sound you’ll hear is the whizzing of your tires. By Kristen Haney
Sip and Spin
First person—I had seen spandex-clad bikers struggling over hills in Livermore Valley’s sweltering heat before, and it did not look like my idea of fun. So I was relieved to hear that Livermore Valley Wine and Cycle Tours not only reschedules its bicycle tasting tours if temperatures top 92 degrees, but the company also sends out an accompanying van to scoop up pooped riders, even when temperatures are more than agreeable. I can tap out if I get tired? Sounds like my kind of exercise. But over the course of our visit to three wineries, instead of plotting my escape to the van, I found myself relishing the leisurely six- to 10-mile bike ride among the vines. Then again, that may have been the vino talking. From the ample gourmet lunch at the beginning of the tour to sipping wine at Thomas Coyne, Fenestra, and Tenuta, my experience started to feel a lot less like exercise, and a lot more like fun. I even left inspired to use my bike more often: I’ll just have to make sure there’s a glass of wine or two waiting when I’m done. livermorewineandcycletours.com.
— Calories burned in an hour: 280–385
Trek and Train
Make a day of the Iron Horse Trail by biking the 19 miles between BART stations in Dublin and Walnut Creek. Rest your burning calves by grabbing a train (albeit indirect) back. Check out these stops along the way.
· Just off the trail in San Ramon’s Marketplace, Vitality Bowls blends açaí berries into customizable bowls and smoothies. Fixings such as flax seeds, bee pollen, and fresh fruit will fill you up without slowing you down. vitalitybowls.com.
· On Saturdays, you’ll find plenty of bikers taking a break at the Danville farmers market, where you can pick
up gourmet granola or mini doughnuts. You’re working off those calories, remember? For a quick tire patch or bike parking, swing by Pegasus Bicycle Works, only a block from the trail. pcfma.com, pegasusbicycleworks.blogspot.com.
· Decorated in farmhouse chic and off the city’s main drag, Alamo’s Cherubini Coffee House is an ideal stop for an energizing cup of joe or baked-in-house pastry. Grab a seat on the wisteria-shaded patio for a quick respite before getting back in the saddle. cherubinicoffeehouse.com.
— Calories burned in an hour: 355–595
Beat the Devil
Patrick Ruggles of Walnut Creek’s Devil Mountain Cyclery has topped Mount Diablo more times than he can count. Here’s his advice: Do arrive early. Gates officially open at 8 a.m., but you can sometimes slip in earlier. Don’t overdress. You’ll get bogged down as sweat gets absorbed into clothes. Do pick a side. You can climb the mountain from the north or south side, but the north is significantly harder. Don’t skip stops. Replenishing on the hill, even drinking water, is difficult, so it’s OK to stop at the Junction ranger station to prepare for the rest of the climb. Do have a mantra. Usually, it’s just you and yourself climbing the mountain, so you better be a good companion. You have to focus on the positive. www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517.
— Calories burned in an hour: 530–720
How To: Avoid Flat Tires
Stay on paved trails
· The Iron Horse Trail’s goat head weed burrs, which flourish in spring and fall, are difficult to spot off the main path. They can destroy tires.
Try a tire liner
· Get a bike shop to install a heavy-duty, puncture-resistant strip, which protects the inner tube from items that may pierce the outer tire.
· Inject the popular electric green sealant into the tube, and it will fill puncture holes before they can do damage.
Best Gear: Classic Bike
If you’re looking for a cruising bike for easy riding, think classic. Pegasus Bicycle Works’ Chris Rodriguez says people flock to the store for the vintage-inspired Linus Bikes ($450–$800) from Venice, California. linusbike.com.
All illustrations by Chi Birmingham
Yoga calms the senses and fuels the mind, body, and soul. It’s even better when you swap the stale studio air for fresh and the taped sound track for birdsong, and get your om on in the great outdoors. By Miranda Adler
Flow freely among the flora at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, and experience gentle yoga led by instructor and docent Jan Enderle. Breathe deeply: In the garden, there are no mirrors or judging looks, just nature. Classes run Thursday evenings, August 1–29, $15 (half the proceeds benefit the garden), ruthbancroftgarden.org.
— Calories burned in an hour: 200–300
Looking to strike a pose beneath a mighty redwood? For an asana-kicking workout, try a yoga hike. While you salute the sun, others will go about their business. The distractions force you to focus on being present.
· From March through November, Yoga Nature Adventures offers beginner and intermediate hikes through Black Diamond Mines, Briones, and Las Trampas.On the menu are hearty discussions about wildlife and landscape history, with a side of yoga and meditation. $15, yoga-adventures.info.
Join the commune
· East Bay Hiking and Yoga Club, a Berkeley-based group, welcomes mingling during its pulse-pumping hikes and yoga sessions, which unfold in places like Tilden Park and the Berkeley Rose Garden. Asking questions and making new friends are encouraged. Free, meetup.com/east-bay-hiking-and-yoga-club.
For a cardio blast
· Hills and stairs and steps, om my! Hiking Yoga raises heart rates with rigorous Saturday morning hikes around Berkeley. Wind, traffic, and even a pirate-themed children’s birthday party blend into the background. $20, hikingyoga.com.
— Calories burned in an hour: 270–600
First person—Carefully balanced on a paddleboard in Shadow Cliffs Lake, I am keenly aware that if I let my surroundings—including a splashing swimmer and a bobbing fishing lure—distract me, I will face plant into the chilly water. On an early Sunday morning, I’ve joined SupAsana East Bay’s stand-up paddleboard yoga class, which requires a short paddle out and warm-up before launching into bends, twists, and the occasional headstand. Aside from balance, the setting offers its own challenges. A breeze blows me off course, and I need extra paddling to avoid the marsh. But as the lesson progresses, my mantra quickly changes from “don’t fall in, don’t fall in” to gratitude, as I lie on my back, toes midair in shoulder stand, watching the birds circling above. Book in advance; these classes fill up as quickly as they’re added. $35, plus $6 to park, bookwhen.com/supasanaeastbay.
— Calories burned in an hour: 500–750
How To: Practice Yoga Outside
Scout a location
· Find a flat, clean, dry spot to roll out your yoga mat.
Establish a rhythm
· Find your breath; let its rhythm guide the movements in your practice.
· Observe and stay connected to your center.
Best Gear: Cropped Pants
Malia Hill of SupAsana East Bay recommends the Wunder Under cropped pants from Lululemon Athletica ($72). The fabric dries quickly and is easy to layer. lululemon.com.
Whether you’re after an invigorating group stroll or a hamstring-hammering climb, taking in amazing views on nature’s Stairmaster beats covering the treadmill clock with a towel. By Miranda Adler
First person—On a Saturday excursion with Oakland Urban Paths, I walked like a local: through tunnels, across bridges, up wooden stairways, down mud paths, and through a redwood trail. The two and a half hour trek revealed Oakland’s softer side—expansive landscapes, historic sites, and community projects. It also nailed a mix of cardio and culture. I broke a sweat hiking up a steep residential hill in the Oakmore area, where we admired the skyline view and discussed the dates stamped into the sidewalk, some from the 1930s. Who knew a workout could feature a history lesson? Our 70-person group included locals looking to learn about their own backyard, plus out of towners, Berkeley hipsters, outdoor enthusiasts, and a handful of friendly dogs. One of our guides even toted a tot on his back for the entire five miles. I left with tan lines, sore muscles, and an appreciation for Oakland’s urban beauty. Walks are held once a month on Saturdays, free but donations encouraged, oaklandurbanpaths.org.
— Calories burned in an hour: 220–400
A babbling brook and boulder views make Little Yosemite in the Sunol Regional Wilderness a stand-out trail. Trek the three-mile loop up Canyon View Trail for stunning snapshots of Alameda Creek Valley and Mission Peak Regional Preserve to the mostly flat Camp Ohlone Road. The trails intersect near Little Yosemite, where you can get physical exploring and climbing through the rocks. Cooling down with a splash from the stream will feel like a gift from Mother Nature. $5 parking, ebparks.org/parks/sunol.
— Calories burned in an hour: 350
The East Bay is home to trails that will take your breath away—with their beauty and tough terrain. Head uphill for a ridge trail workout.
For the dogs
· Grab the pup (who is allowed off leash if under voice command), and head to the 4.5–mile Rocky Ridge Trail in San Ramon’s Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. The steep trail offers impressive views of the city skyline and rolling Tri-Valley hills. Free to park, ebparks.org/parks/las_trampas.
· Shh! Briones’ unofficially named Russell Peak Loop, behind Happy Valley Elementary, is one of Lafayette’s better-kept secrets. The rugged 3.4–mile hike starts with a steep climb up Panorama Drive, and then winds through the Mariposa and Russell Peak trails. $3 parking, ebparks.org/parks/briones.
Tree hugger haven
· Cool down in shady Redwood Regional Park. Starting from the Pinehurst Staging Area, which can be accessed from Moraga, the 5.7–mile Redwood Park Loop includes a descent into a grove of redwoods alongside a creek, and a short, steep climb. Free to park, ebparks.org/parks/redwood.
— Calories burned in an hour: 280–500
How To: Avoid Poison Oak
· Poison oak changes color with the seasons but keeps the same shape. Look for leaves clustered in a set of three that resembles a triangle.
· Wear lightweight pants to lower risk of contact.
· It’s best not to touch any suspicious shrubbery. If you aren’t sure, don’t touch.
Best Gear: Trail Map
The first new map of Mount Diablo in three years, the water-resistant Trail Map of Mt. Diablo State Park ($6) features an easy-to-read index and updated trails. mdia.org.
Swimming improves muscle tone without stressing joints, but can get a little repetitive when you’re doing lap after lap in the pool. Shake up your routine by testing out the open waters. By Peter Crooks and Kristen Haney
Without walls to rest on, you’ll need extra stamina and mental focus to adapt to currents and chilly temperatures. Here are three spots to try an open-water swim.
Tackle unpredictable waters
· Known as the “Coney Island of the West” from the 1880s until World War II, Alameda’s Crown Memorial State Beach offers shallow and warmer waters for breaking into ocean swims. $5 parking when kiosk attended, ebparks.org/parks/crown_beach.
Mingle with like-minded athletes
· Avoid families splashing around, and head to Fremont’s Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area for early morning fitness swim hours. $5 parking, ebparks.org/parks/quarry_lakes.
Test your endurance
· In Livermore, Del Valle Regional Park’s lake, with its 16 miles of shoreline, offers plenty of room for uninterrupted strokes. The east and west beaches open in early June with lifeguards, but unmonitored swimming is allowed year-round north of the boat ramp. $6 parking, ebparks.org/parks/del_valle.
— Calories burned in an hour: 400–515
Skip the rowing machine at your gym in favor of the real thing. Lake Merritt Rowing Club offers a three-day course in sculling, a single-person form of crew. By the end of the lessons, you will master proper stroke technique, rhythm, balance, and more—and be ready to take a boat onto Lake Merritt on your own. The city is restoring the lake and reconnecting it with the Oakland Estuary, so there’s never been a better time to get your sea legs. $120 (includes one month of membership to the club), lakemerrittrowingclub.org.
— Calories burned in an hour: 300–550
First person—Despite going over the basics at the beginning of Cal Sailing’s introductory windsurfing lesson, I still overestimated the amount of effort needed to haul the sail out of the water and toppled backwards. Then, I forgot everything my instructor said about getting into a deep “sumo wrestler” stance to counterbalance a strong gust of wind, so I was clinging frantically to my sail as it pulled me forward—and back into the water. I know he said beginners get wet, but I felt pretty undignified after repeated dunks. It wasn’t until the very end of my three-hour lesson at the Berkeley Marina that I felt the glory of the sport: I was finally able to harness the wind in my sail, feel my board respond to my subtle movements, and even stay dry for a few minutes as I sailed out onto the Bay. And if my still-burning biceps are any indicator, I’ll have ripped arms to show for all my hard work. Maybe all that falling was worth it. Saturdays and Sundays, as weather permits, $99 for three-month membership, cal-sailing.org.
— Calories burned in an hour: 200–1,000
How To: Maximize Your Swims
Get in the zone
“One of the practices of yoga is being present in the moment, and that idea can be applied to swimming. Just be in the moment, feel the water, and feel your body moving in it.” —Natalie Coughlin, 12-time Olympic medalist
· Have a swim expert watch you swim and give feedback, or watch videos of expert swimmers, have a friend videotape you, and compare.
· Swim slowly for five minutes, then do a sprint, then slow it down, and repeat.
Best Gear: Wet Suit
You’ll want a wet suit for exercising in colder water. Test a few options at Sports Basement. Rent a BlueSeventy or 2XU suit from the Walnut Creek store for a week or month, and you can apply up to $150 of the fees to a wet suit of your own, within 90 days of your first rental. sportsbasement.com.