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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

4 Ways to Exercise that Feel Like Vacation

The Mendocino Coast offers beautiful exercise opportunities. I enjoy walking, hiking and being outside, but I have a busy life and don’t always have time to exercise. I keep my shoes, hat and water in the car so I can hike at any location that looks inviting. I look for a beautiful area with hills that will increase my heart rate in a short amount of time. Running hills or stairs outside in nature gives you an interval training workout along with a meditative breath of fresh air.

Big River beach stairs offers a quick cardio workout in just 15 minutes. Park behind the gas station in Mendocino and walk down to the steps, gently stretching as you walk. Sprint up and down the steps a few times then gently walk back to the car, stretching out the muscles as you walk, to cool down. Yesterday I was lucky enough to add a beach walk and hang out with 3 river otters at Big River beach.

Portugese Beach is at the far end of main street in Mendocino and also has steep stairs leading to it. This beach is right across from my office so I can slip on tennis shoes at work and sprint the stairs then walk the short beach, stretching my legs out before returning to work. The stairs are narrow and can get too crowded for a good workout, but part of the trail washed out last winter which makes for a shorter run with some mountain climbing and less people.

Elk Beach starts downhill so you know you’re going to get a workout on the way back up. Overall it’s less of a workout because the beach is so beautiful you will be drawn out to the waves instead of focusing on the hill intervals. Whenever I head south along the coast I arrange time for a hike on Elk beach. This beach has decent restrooms down near the bottom so skip the restrooms at the parking lot to Elk Beach.

The very best interval training in nature is offered at Jughandle state park between Mendocino and Fort Bragg. At Jughandle’s ecological staircase trail you can see the way the land has shifted up about every hundred thousand years. From the beach to the prairie to the redwoods to the pygmy forest – each step up is a workout and each level allows you to stroll and enjoy nature. I actually was in great shape when I was working in Fort Bragg because I had to drive by this beautiful trail every day.

Do you have a hill by your house? Is there a way you can get outside and rest your brain at the same time you are exercising? Interval training consists of short bursts of intense exercise that raise the heart rate for less than 3 minutes combined with 3-5 minutes of gentle exercise to bring the heart rate down. This type of exercise for just 15 minutes a day actually raises the metabolism more than running for a full hour. If you don’t have time to exercise or the gym sounds boring just look outside for a trail with a hill. Be ready at all times with tennis shoes a hat and water and let the world be your gym.

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