Perhaps you, like many, have set a New Year’s resolution. It more than likely involves fitness or weight loss and maintenance. Perhaps it also involves budgeting and saving money. But how can you do both? With gym memberships averaging $41 a month in 2014, it may seem like those goals are not compatible. But there are plenty of ways to get and stay fit in Thurston County without the expensive gym membership!
1. Ride a Bike
Thurston County is home to several superior bike paths. The 22-mile Chehalis-Western Trail runs from just outside of Rainier to the hiking trails of Woodard Bay. The Yelm-Tenino Trail runs 14.5 scenic miles from Yelm to Tenino. Both trails are well maintained, have many access points, and are great options for accomplishing your fitness goals. Of course you can skateboard, roller skate, walk, run, scoot, or partake in nearly any other non-motorized activity you can conceive of! Don’t have a bike? If you’re a student at The Evergreen State College you can borrow a bike for free from the bike share. Also on campus is The Evergreen Bike Shop, a volunteer run, free bicycle repair shop open to the campus community and the public. The City of Olympia offers free helmets to low income families. Inexpensive bicycles are also available at many area thrift shops, and of course on craigslist or other barter/swap websites. Thurston Regional Planning Council has an excellent set of maps detailing designated bike paths and suggested routes.
2. Take a Hike (or a Walk)
Wherever you live in Thurston County, chances are you’re minutes away from a great walking trail. Some of my favorites are Priest Point, Capitol Forest, and Tolmie State Park. You can download a free Capitol Forest map to your device. At Millersylvania State Park you can work on whole body fitness by hitting the fitness trail, which includes pull up bars of multiple heights. Balancing on logs, climbing on and over low trees, and hanging from branches are also fun, free ways to build and maintain muscle. For state lands, including all state parks and Capitol Forest, you do need a $35 Discover Pass. But for less than the price of one month at the gym, you gain access to a huge network of recreation opportunities. If it’s not in your budget, Washington State Parks offers a dozen of free days each year. If you prefer a more urban setting, the City of Olympia walking maps are a great resource for planning your walking route. Check back for the excellent new walking maps set to be released soon. Thurston County has so many amazing walking and hiking options, there’s no reason not to hit the trail today.
3. Go For a Run
Thurston County has great running opportunities, from the bicycle paths to the forests. If you’re having trouble getting motivated or don’t want to go it alone, consider joining a running group. There are a lot great running groups to choose from. Some clubs have membership dues, but most host free runs or events, and some have no cost.
4. Make It a Habit
Maybe you feel you are too busy to work physical activity into your days. But you will be amazed at how quickly small efforts add up. All of the classic advice applies to getting fit on the cheap: walk to run errands, bike or walk to work, park in the farthest spot, and take the stairs. You’re putting money in your pocket every time you make small lifestyle changes and learn to stay fit without having to bust your bottom or your budget at the gym!
5. Set a Goal
Last year it was my goal to walk all the way across Capitol Forest in a day. After many months of shorter hikes, my friend and I spent a whole day walking 23 miles, from sun-up to sun-down, across our “backyard” forest. It was a fun and interesting goal and motivated me to stay in shape. Setting a goal, like biking the entire Chehalis-Western Trail, hiking all of the trails in Capitol Forest, or walking every street in your neighborhood are fun ways to get and stay in shape.
See you out on the trails.