I realize it’s odd for a personal trainer to suggest you look beyond the gym for fitness. It clearly suggests I don’t have a business coach at the moment, as they would probably encourage me to recommend people come and spend more time in the gym – ideally paying me to help them with their fitness goals.

Don’t get me wrong – I do think everyone should allocate part of their fitness time to the gym, even those who are very active with sports or in their work. Especially those who are very active with sports or in their work, as they expect a lot from their body, and need the gym workouts to make sure the body is up to the challenge. Those of you who are new to fitness can also find tremendous benefit from some professional guidance to make sure you move toward your fitness goals safely and effectively. The regular gym-goer already knows the benefits.

Yup, the gym is great. For many of us, it feels incredible, and we love it; but it’s work. And we know there is more to life than work.

We also need play. There is something magical about play. It is an incredible mechanism for both learning, and socializing. Oh, and it can be a fantastic work out. Kids do it every day, but when was the last time you played?

And then there’s spending time in nature. They don’t call it the great outdoors for nothing. There is something magical about exercising outside, especially if you are blessed with a beautiful environment. I have yet to visit a city that does not have at least one incredible park. Exercising in these spaces amplifies that beauty somehow. Walk, run, bike, hike, skate, sled, ski, snowboard, swim, paddle, skip, or climb: it doesn’t matter how you move outside, as long as you do move outside.

Why am I so adamant that people exercise outside and engage in physical play? Because of the feeling you get. There’s a bliss that comes with exercising outside; with using your body for what it was intended; with expressing yourself physically; and with team bonding. Beyond that, I believe you will have more success in sticking to your workouts if you have a goal. You might say that you go to the gym to meet your fitness and weight loss goals, which is great. But I actually believe that you need more to be able to stick with it for the long term. I wrote about the need for meaningful fitness goals in a previous blog article. I still believe that to be, and I think participation in sport is an excellent way to create a meaningful goal for yourself. It might be hiking up a mountain, running a marathon, skiing bumps, keeping up with the 25 year olds in ultimate, or climbing the squash ladder. Do yourself a favour and re-introduce yourself to physical pursuits outside the gym.

Hopefully you’re convinced now, but how do you go about it? Well, if you live in the Ottawa area, you’re in luck as I’m about to give you a host of options. If you’re not in the Ottawa area, then google can probably help. Most cities have clubs for virtually everything. Contact one and see if they will welcome a newcomer. Or ask at the local sporting store if they can suggest something. Or take a look at the sport options for Ottawa below and take some ideas for looking in your own area.

Sports and outdoor activities in Ottawa:
Since it’s the end of December, you’ll probably notice a distinct winter theme to this list:

The Grand Winter Mix: Ripple Adventure provides a “winter sampler” if you will, with this 9 week program that allows you to go snowshoeing, skiing or snowboarding, cross-country skiing and skating on the canal (with an option to try speed skates). It is open to all levels, and they also take a novel approach in that they are open to all, but specifically welcome those who haven’t managed to convince your friends or family to take part.

Cross-country skiing lessons at Mooney’s Bay: Easy to access, and open to all, the City of Ottawa Cross-Country Ski Centre at Mooney’s Bay offers both classic and skate ski lessons. Check out the brochure here.

200km of Cross-country ski trails in Gatineau Park. The title says it all: 200km of trails! Because this great trail system is maintained, with groomed trails for classic and skate skiing, there is a fee to skate in the park, but at $14 per adult, it’s well worth it. Especially if you ski in to one of the cabins. Seriously – how great is that? You ski a bit, go enjoy a snack by the fire in a cabin and then ski a bit more. We are so lucky to have this gem in our backyard! Check out the links on the Gatineau cross-country ski page for maps, daily ski conditions, and wax recommendations.

Weekly Ski lessons: I can’t say enough about how great these programs are. I have taken them at Camp Fortune and at Mont Cascades, and have also taught them at Fortune, but I imagine the ones at Vorlage, Edelweiss, Pakenham, and Mte Ste Marie are equally great. They tend to be an incredible value, but the beauty is that it gets you out to the ski hill at least once each week, and you get to meet you people while you are at it. And of course, you get to ski or snowboard. You can learn about each program from the ski hill sites I just mentioned, or you can check out the Ski Extreme club site. The Ski Extreme club tends to have better prices than going to the hills directly, and membership in the club is only $15 for adults ($5 for kids).

For those of you with families, take note: skiing may be the best family activity you will ever find. Head up to the hill with the kids, and put the kids in their lessons and then go take your own. Then ski together in the afternoon. Awesome! And if you ski or snowboard, your kids may still be okay with hanging out with you once they are teenagers. Imagine.

Ottawa Sport & Social Club: The OSSC has a lot of activities for you this winter, with options to join as a team or as individuals. Among the many indoor sports, they also have curling! Not sure what you’d like to do? Or what would be the right sport for you? Check out the winter offerings that the OSSC has – it’s an impressive list!

Recreational Hockey: It turns out there are people in Ottawa who like to play hockey. Who knew? If you have been thinking you need another hockey option in your life, or maybe you want to dust off the old skates, then consider pick up hockey. Ottawa Rec Hockey provides pickup games at all times, all over the city. Women are welcome too!

Skating on the canal: Tourists all know how impressive our little skating rink is, but somehow many of us don’t take advantage. For those of you that stopped years ago because you didn’t like fighting the crevasses, rest assured that the quality of the ice has improved dramatically since they got the “zamboni”. In fact each time I’ve been recently I’ve marveled at how great the ice is. And how cool is this:

So grab your skates and take a 15km tour through the heart of the city.

Tobogganing!: So much fun, and also an incredible workout. You get your exhilaration on the way down, and then you get a great glute and hamstring workout on the way up. It’s fun to do with friends and family, and even dogs love it. What more could you want? Not sure where to go? I tend toward the Arboretum for convenience, and Green’s Creek for awesomeness. This Toboggan Guide provides an incredible map of toboggan hills in the Ottawa area. I had no idea there were so many!

Don’t forget that many of these activities start up the first two weeks in January, so don’t delay!

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