In response, we've pulled together a few ideas offered by local resources to boost your health and encourage you to get some fresh air, all without having to step inside a gym.
Complete the #PixinParks or "Take a Hike" hiking challenges
To encourage folks to get outside, parks departments in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are offering free swag to people who participate in a series of hikes and collect photographic proof of their adventures.
Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department has launched its annual Pix in Parks challenge for 2021, which invites people to participate in seven different hikes throughout Santa Clara County before Dec. 15. Complete all seven hikes, and send or tag a photo from a specific destination point on each of those hikes, and the department will send you a free T-shirt or bandana.
The hikes this year are at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch (3.5 miles), Joseph D. Grant County Park (2.1 miles), Rancho San Antonio (3.4 miles), Mt. Madonna County Park (1.5 miles), Lexington Reservoir County Park (1.8 miles), Hellyer County Park (6 miles) and Calero County Park (3.2 miles). Most of the parks permit dogs, but people may substitute a visit to a dog park to complete the challenge as well. Alternative routes for those seeking ADA options are also available. Go to is.gd/pixinparks to learn more.
San Mateo County is also currently running its "Take a Hike" challenge, which includes seven hikes. The deadline to complete the challenge is March 31. Participants who complete four hikes receive a pair of sunglasses and camp mug, and those who complete all seven receive those items and a picnic blanket.
These routes include San Bruno Mountain (2.7 miles), Sawyer Camp Trail (5 miles), Edgewood Park (3.3 miles), Pillar Point Bluff (5 miles), Wunderlich Park (3.3 miles), Quarry Park (2 miles), and Junipero Serra Park (1.8 miles). Go to is.gd/takeahike to learn more.
Exercise for the environment
The Sierra Club is currently running a virtual "1.5 Challenge," calling on participants every day to exercise for 15 minutes or complete a 1.5 mile walk, jog, bike ride or other movement between Jan. 11 and Feb. 12. The challenge is focused around the "1.5" number because of the science indicating that the planet's temperature rise needs to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius — or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit — from preindustrial levels to prevent the worst predicted impacts of global warming. Registration is $35, but people may sign up to fundraise more. Go to is.gd/15challenge to learn more.
Explore a new trail and earn free postcards
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is offering free artistic postcards to people who take and share photos when they visit the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve in East Palo Alto, located at the bayside terminus of Bay Road. A 0.6-mile trail segment in the preserve was recently completed, linking 80 miles of the Bay Trail throughout the region. Go to is.gd/ravenswoodchallenge to learn more.
Bring the gym home
The city of Palo Alto is offering group exercise classes for adults via Zoom. The program, called Boost!, offers 10 class credits that those under 60 can purchase for $75 and older individuals can purchase for $65, to use any time over the course of a year. Classes include aerobics, pilates, yoga, total body conditioning, barre, Zumba and an outdoors in-person exercise class held at the Mitchell Park Community Center courtyard. Go to is.gd/parec1 to learn more.
Many other cities are also offering limited fitness classes, most of which are online. Check your local recreation department for more.
Start your year off with a 5K resolution run, walk or ride
The city of Mountain View is hosting a virtual resolution 5K with recommended routes, a photo scavenger hunt and finalist medal. Registration costs $25 and medals will be available for curbside pickup in February. Go to is.gd/mvrec1 to register.
Find a new favorite bike route
The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition has curated a collection of popular bike routes from Burlingame to Morgan Hill. Many routes are along the Bay and don't require much hill climbing. Go to is.gd/svbikerecs to learn more.
Become a neighborhood naturalist
This winter, the Santa Clara County parks department is offering a beginner's natural history class via Zoom, inviting speakers and scientists to teach participants about the geology, native plants and common wildlife of the region. The class is offered on three Wednesday evenings in late January and February. Participants are expected to complete homework assignments, including a four-hour service project. Registration is limited, but the program is offered throughout the year. Go to is.gd/sccparks3 to learn more.
There are also plenty of tools available to learn about your surroundings on your own. I've been having fun learning about the plants in my neighborhood through the "Seek by iNaturalist" app, which can identify plants and animals in many cases down to the species level.
Celebrate the seasons with a new hike each month
The Peninsula Open Space Trust recently released a curated calendar offering hiking suggestions tailored to each month. For instance, a waterfall hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains is set for February when the odds of rainfall are best, while the wildflower-rich meadows of Pearson-Arastradero Preserve are reserved for April.
Go to is.gd/hikescal to download the calendar. Be sure to check the website of your destination before you go, though. A number of area parks are shut down due to fire damage, while others have restrictions due to the pandemic.
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