Indoor workouts have been limited this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin a fitness regimen or adapt your workouts to the trails and paths located throughout the forest preserves of Will County.
With health officials recommending people stick closer to home this year, it’s a good time to learn to use the great outdoors to get a great workout, said Ben Hecke, the Forest Preserve District’s community partnership and outreach coordinator.
The Forest Preserve District has partnered with Joe Regan, operator of Fitness Premier in Manhattan, to present several Zoom webinars this summer to give you all the tips you need to start getting fit and feeling better while surrounded by nature.
The first webinar on June 16 featured conditioning on the "Hills of Goodenow Grove." Here is the rest of the "Forest Fitness" lineup:
June 23: Outdoor Conditioning Along the Wauponsee Glacial Trail
July 7: Running the Trails at Whalon Lake
July 14: Kayaking
July 21: Understanding the Different Types of Trails
August 4: Hiking the Trails at Messenger Marsh
August 11: Biking the Trails at Hickory Creek Preserve – Hickory Creek Junction
August 18: Functional Fitness at Hammel Woods
Visit the Event Calendar for more information and to register for one or more of these Zoom programs, which are held at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays. All of the Zoom webinars are free and open to all ages.
"Forest Fitness" Zoom webinars will be recorded, but only those who sign up in advance for the webinars will be able to view them again later. The recordings also will be available on Fitness Premier's Facebook page.
Hecke said finding a trail near your home is probably the best way to get started on a forest fitness routine. And selecting a trail that is geared toward your new fitness routine will help guarantee you have a successful outing, he added.
“For instance, if someone has joint issues and wants to find a low-impact workout option, they should find a crushed limestone or natural surface trail to alleviate the amount of pressure on their joints while running or walking,” Hecke said.
The Forest Preserve’s interactive map is a good place to start for trail selection. The map shows mileage (just click on a trail section and the mileage will pop up) as well as surface material.
“If someone is looking to walk, run or bike longer distances, they should consider choosing one of the Forest Preserve’s regional trail systems so that they can extend their mileage more easily without the confines of a shorter trail,” Hecke explained. “Regional systems like Old Plank Road Trail, I&M Canal Trail and Wauponsee Glacial Trail offer opportunities to increase mileage on hikes, bikes and runs very easily.”
In addition, the sled hill at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve offers a unique challenge for those who want to ramp up their fitness to a new level, Hecke said. The hill was featured in the first webinar.
“Each of our trail systems and preserves offer different fitness opportunities for people of all abilities and ages,” he said.
Overall, Hecke said the Zoom webinar series will highlight the fact that the preserves are a great place for nature watching, but also for working out.
“The preserves offer a great opportunity to achieve fitness,” he said. “And you can vary your workouts by using different trails and preserve terrain. For example, you could go for a jog at Prairie Bluff Preserve and add wind resistance due to the open prairie landscape. You could sharpen your fitness focus while hiking in a forest at Hammel Woods. Or you could go countless miles on your bicycle down the Wauponsee Glacial Trail.
“The ability to work out in so many preserves and on a variety of trails enhances the quality of life for all Will County residents – especially those who want to begin or maintain a varied fitness routine year-round."
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