By David L’Heureux

Tired of the treadmill? Bogged down with the Swiss ball? Weights have you wondering?

It’s easy to get stuck in a fitness rut when you’re doing the same gym workout or running the neighborhood loop you’ve been following for years.

“A lot of people spend all day plugged in to a computer or a phone or staring at a monitor, then they go to the gym and plug in to a treadmill for the same old workout,” says Lisa Isom, a veteran professional Xterra competitor based in Leadville, Colo. Xterra is an off-road duathlon that combines the disciplines of trail running and mountain biking.

“When you do that, you aren’t getting the benefits of an outside workout,” Isom says.

The simplest way to expand your exercise horizons and travel to fantastic destinations: Get out of the gym. Here are some ideas:

Rock climbing

If you are looking for an adrenaline-packed, full-body workout, rock climbing might just rope you in. “It’s like you are lifting weights while running,” says Sean McColl, a top Canadian climber. “You are constantly using every part of your body. Legs, arms, fingers and your head and mind.”

Necessities: Climbing shoes, chalk bag, ropes, harness and hardware-like carabineers and spikes.

Cost factor: $$$

Trail running

If you’re burnt on the usual asphalt loop around the block, find a wooded area or a park in your vicinity and head for the hills. Trail running is a great change of pace for a number of reasons. “Sure you get the cardio workout and fitness boost from running up a trail,” says Isom. “But you also have to be focused and really aware of your surroundings so it takes your mind off everything else in your day.”

Necessities: Trail running shoes

Cost factor: $

Mountain biking

You don’t have to be an extreme athlete to enjoy the benefits of rolling on knobby tires, and it beats spinning away at the gym by a mile, according to U.S. mountain bike Olympian and 10-time national champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski. “Mountain biking is an incredibly welcoming sport to newbies and beginners,” he says.

An increasingly competitive mountain bike market has made getting a quality new or used bike very affordable.

Necessities: Mountain bike, helmet

Cost factor: $$$


Kayaking offers participants a “liquid conveyer belt” through the great outdoors, says Eric Jackson, former freestyle kayak world champion. “You are always out in the open on the water in a boat, so you get the most amazing views.”

Paddling works your upper body and core, while your legs and hip flexors work to stabilize your body from inside the boat.

Necessities: Kayak, paddle, life jacket, spray skirt, helmet, roof rack, straps

Cost of entry: $$$$


Fishing? A workout? You’ll battle the current of the river and keep your upper body, arms and core fully engaged as you work the fly line. “People laugh when I say it’s work,” says Colorado fly-fishing competitor Joel B. Sharp. “But after two hours in the water, you’re cooked.”

Necessities: Fly rod, reel, line, dry and wet flies, vest, and waders

Cost factor: $$