fitness wellness

How I Make the Outdoors My Gym

I love a good spin class, but nothing beats exercising in the open air. Outdoor workouts always seem to go by faster and something about being in nature just soothes my soul and helps me get my head right. As a mom, I also find that if I make the outdoors my gym, it’s easier to squeeze in a workout because I can incorporate it into play with my kids. 

Of course, in the peak heat of summer, I always try to plan my workouts in the mornings or evenings when it’s somewhat cooler. And I’m always careful to slather on sunscreen and take plenty of water breaks. 

Here are my four favorite ways to break a sweat in the great outdoors. What about you? I’d love to hear your go-to outdoor workouts.

Head for the Summit

There’s a lot of stuff I want—and need!—to do every day, so sometimes I have to do two things at once to get it all done. Now that the boys are getting older, hiking has become one of our go-to activities together. (Odette acts as my weights by tagging along in a carrier or a hiking backpack—extra toning for the win!) When we were recently in Sun Valley, we went on several great hikes. We explored new trails and some old favorites. No matter where we went, we all got a good sweat in, and the kids learned how good it feels to make it to the top. (Though that doesn’t mean they were immune from complaining…they were not.) While I definitely pushed them, I also made sure to pick a trail that wasn’t too steep, give them lots of breaks, and pack plenty of snacks and water. Not sure where to start? Alltrails is an awesome resource that allows you to search for trails locally and filter by distance, difficulty, dog-and kid-friendliness and more.

Pound the Pavement

I grew up running, and it’s still the most convenient way for me to get in a workout. Running is also my favorite way to clear my head, and the best way to sightsee while on vacation. Jared and I use to have run dates while we were dating. We ran all over Europe when he was attending Supernatural conventions, and it was such a highlight of those years for us. Sight-seeing via running is something I still do these days. When I was recently in New York City for 48 hours, I headed to Brooklyn for a gorgeous run in Dumbo. It was so fun, and I love finding new restaurants and stores to go back to later in the day when I’m not sweaty. 

Pedal On

We are big fans of family bike rides. One of our favorite places to bike together is Sun Valley, which has hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails and more than 30 miles of paved bike paths. We just hop on our bikes (or, in Odette’s case, hop in the trailer I pull), and pedal to lunch or to run errands, or ride to the park. It makes fitting in a workout effortless, because it just becomes part of your day. I love that.  

Just Play 

As someone who grew up playing competitive soccer—forward or midfield, thank you very much—I love everything about the sport. And since I’ve got three very active kids who I’m constantly trying to wear out, playing a pickup game in the backyard is a regular occurrence. (We’ve even been known to park the cars outside and play soccer in the garage on bad weather days.) Since I need to be efficient with my time, I love that I can torch some calories and spend time with the kids—while they burn off some of their limitless energy. Plus, we all get to enjoy time outside. It’s a win-win-win.

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  • Jam

    Great post, Gen! I love a good running and I’m also a fan of soccer.

  • Hannah

    Really liked your post! Born and raised in Montana so hiking has become essential in my life. Recently this past spring and throughout this summer I got into trail running and am totally hooked. It’s always a killer workout with the hills and uneven terrain but it makes for an absolutely amazing run.

  • Barb

    Gen, you and this blog have been such an inspiration to me. I’m down 52 lbs, running 4-6 miles 3-4 times per week and finding myself feeling so healthy and strong !! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  • Tora

    Great article per usual, Gen! But Run Dates…really? You guys are the only two people I know who genuinely enjoy run dates 😂 You’re such an inspiration and I’d really love to be as active and energetic as you. Maybe later, my current work out is binge watching netflix but I’ll get to that, I promise. I always admire active people. Love you, Gen!

  • Liana

    Love this!!! I love bicycling

  • Delaney

    This is the first post I’ve read of yours, and it couldn’t be more insightful. I’ve started my workout journey not too long ago, and I’ve found the outdoors something extremely lacking within my regime. This post makes me want to broaden my horizons, and as you said, use the outdoors as my gym! Fresh air can clear the cloudiest mind. I’m glad I stumbled across this post!


    Great post! For me personally I love jogging and bicycling.

    • Karen Avgerakis

      Love to go biking. Thank-you for all of your tips.

  • Hannah

    Loved your post! I’m born and raised in Montana and hiking has become an essential part of my life! I love it! Recently this past spring and summer I started trail running and got totally hooked. The uneven terrain and hills make for a killer workout but it’s absolutely amazing running in the mountains and backcountry!

  • Christine

    I go to the gym, love to walk and I’ve started building a running mileage base to prepare for my first marathon. I’m curious if you might consider sharing some specifics of your training plan for your first marathon? Clearly, you are younger and faster than I but I’d love to see what plan you followed to manage such an incredible time on your first marathon.

  • Terezie

    Hello. Great post, I grew up in a village and I still live there with horses and we were running, playing ball games. I like hiking, roller skating, jogging, I’m starting running again and I’m doing body weight training and street workout ☺️ and I love go for a walk to the forest with my dog.

  • Diana vinson

    I enjoy walking around the many acres of rice fields around
    Our property. Lots of nature. Dif animals. Once , while on an evening walk, I didn’t have my glasses on. Up ahead of me I saw what looked like a black train going across my trail. MY cousin started screaming and running back. I yelled what’s wrong?! Well my “train” was a family of skunks. A mama and 3 babies, tail to tail. …… I ran

  • Ratih

    Wow run dates. You and Jared are really active and inspiring! Thank you for the great article!

  • Zeinab

    Graet post and i must tell you that you inspired me to have my exercises in nature! And put my health in first place
    thank you Gen – your fan from Egypt

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