Your town may have some phenomenal fitness challenges. You may have even conquered all of them (you’re killing it!). But we’re sorry to tell you that you’re still a little fish swimming (or paddle boarding…or kayaking…) in a little pond.
You see, America the Beautiful is full of challenges that will humble you with their difficulty and wow you with their beauty. And all over the states, people are searching for more – not satisfied until they’ve completed the ultimate fitness adventures.
So go. See the world with your heart rate up. And don’t rest until you’ve completed the Great American Fitness Bucket List.
Let’s start with a classic. If you’re a nature lover, amateur explorer, or want to go all Jack Kerouac, hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, taking you from Georgia to Maine. And if you’re going to take on the whole shebang, you need to have, like, zero other responsibilities – the entire trek takes about five to seven months. Your reward? The beauty of the land and the fellow hikers you meet along the path will change your life.
You know what is a surf town, though? Huntington Beach. Yeah, yeah, we know – boo mainstream! But it’s got everything – the waves, the weather, the beaches, and even some pretty bomb fish tacos. It’s consistently rated one of the best surf towns in the US, and their waves cater to those who can ride a tight barrel, but also those who just can’t hang…ten. No worries! Surf City’s Banzai Surf School will get you upright.
Even after hiking the Appalachian Mountains, you’ll still need to tackle a fourteener. That means a mountain whose peak reaches 14,000ft into the sky. While 46 fourteeners dot the West Coast and Alaska, we recommend a hike in Colorado — land of 53(!) fourteeners. Our pick? Grays and Torreys, for sure. Just a short trip from Denver, you can start the four-mile, 3,000-foot elevation change up Grays, then follow the saddle over to Torreys. Once you summit the peak, you’ll definitely be out of breath (because the CO views took it away!).
You’ve probably never done a mindful triathlon. It’s basically a workout that builds you up instead of breaking you down. More your style? Then be on the lookout for when Wanderlust 108 rolls into town (they tour nationally). Let’s break down the day: You dance to warm-up for an untimed 5k. You’ve got healthy snacks shacks and a boochgarten (kombucha tea, FTW). You’ll flow through a 75-minute yoga session with all your friends. Then wrap it up with the third leg of the event: sitting. No really, it’s 30 minutes of guided meditation to get all that bad juju out.
You can’t really join the upper echelon of hikers without spending a few days in the backcountry. Backpacking, it’s called. Seek out the wild at Yosemite National Park in California. 95% of Yosemite is designated as wilderness. 100% of that wilderness is beautiful and untamed, with 800 miles of trails, waterfalls, gigantic sequoia trees, and the famed big rock, El Capitan (your new lock-screen photo). Backpacking and exploring here is a dream. But if you can’t hack it on nuts and berries…there’s a grocery store in Yosemite Valley.
If you love the trails but prefer more wind in your hair, make your way to Crested Butte, Colorado. Bring your mountain bike, too. Crested Butte is home to the oldest mountain biking festival in the world and it’s the perfect place for riding — the weather in June is clutch; local beers with endless taps; oh, and 700 miles of trails to explore. Fitt tip: Don’t miss the Chainless World Championships — costumed, daredevil-like downhill insanity where racers zip tie their bike chains and let gravity do the racing. Hold on tight!
New York City isn’t a surf town, they say. It’s true – you’re not going to ride epic waves on the Hudson. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little stand-up paddle boarding. Every year in August, SEA Paddle NYC sees hundreds of SUP enthusiasts cruise around the Hudson and East Rivers on a 26.5-mile race/sightseeing water tour of the Big Apple, finishing under the Brooklyn Bridge. The race itself is exhausting, but two things should raise your spirits: 1) It’s a charity paddle benefitting autism and environmental groups. 2) Yacht after-party.
Rock rodeo, huh? No, you’re not hog-tieing pebbles.The Hueco Rock Rodeo in Hueco Tanks State Park near El Paso, Texas is the ultimate proving ground for your bouldering skills. First off, Hueco Tanks may just be the best place to boulder in the world, with a warm climate, cracks and ledges over natural rock, and routes rated at V0 to problems that are nearly impossible (see Esperanza, a V14 route). At the annual challenge in February, you’ll have to scramble up six of them to be judged. You get the competition, the demos, the open air…and at the end of the day—once all the crash pads and chalk are put away—you party!
We’ll just come out and say it: Kayak Lake Powell. It’s not your traditional, round, see-the-other-side fishin’ hole. This man-made reservoir in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hugs the border between Arizona and Utah. Put your kayak in and wind through the geological wonder of desert sandstone canyon (plus, some top-notch sandy beaches). The best part? You don’t need to be a kayaking ace to paddle — it’s basically a lazy river of epic proportions.
Ocean swimming is no joke. It’s nothing like that lap pool you practiced in. And you can bet the La Jolla Rough Water Swim is no water aerobics. If you’re ready to give the open water a whirl, freestyle the one-mile triangular course in the warm San Diego waters. If you’re part dolphin (you know, or gator), enlist a paddle board spotter and tackle the three-mile Gatorman (also open to Gatorwomen). Unfortunately, 2016’s race was canceled for poor water quality. Bummer. But we have a feeling 2017’s will be back with a vengeance.
If you’re more of a raft floater than a rough water swimmer, this one’s for you. Put on your water wings, climb into a giant swan inflatable, and crack a cold one. It’s The Big Float on Portland’s Willamette River. You and 2,500 of your new friends will put rafts, inner tubes, kayaks–whatever floats–in at Poet’s Beach. From there, kick up your heels and ride the current. Or…paddle hard if you’re eager for the massive beach party at the finish, complete with slip ’n’ slides, music barge, food trucks, and a beer/wine garden.
The Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a sight to behold. It’s an epic concert venue. And if you swap the musical performance for a chorus of Oms, you’ll have Yoga on the Rocks. Each summer, Denver studios CorePower Yoga and The River lead over 2,000 yogis through a vigorous flow on the amphitheater’s steps. It’s stadium-style yoga! But honestly, the greatest experience for us is the silence. Holding a calming mountain pose surrounded by a backdrop of mountain peaks and blue sky gives us all the feels.
Waking can be a real struggle. That’s why Daybreaker starts their day with mindfulness, adrenaline, and even a bit of mischief. And this yoga/dance party mashup is what we all need in our lives. It’s basically a pre-work rave without all the Molly. At 6am (yup, usually before the sun rises), you’ll start an hour of awakening yoga. From there, the whole place TURNS UP for a high-energy dance party with DJs spinning hot beats, tons of neon, and sometimes confetti (ALL the flame emojis). But we know what you’re thinking: Yes. They have coffee and snacks too.
Yes, we’re really telling you to take a class at SoulCycle. Don’t roll your eyes at us; it couldn’t have become such an obsession without being an unbelievable workout. And now it’s more than just a hip NYC workout. SoulCycle and their 45-minute butt-whoopin’ are coming for you, now turning up the heat in Philly, DC, Chicago, and more. This full-body workout with hand weights, hill climbs, and endless tap backs will leave a pool of sweat under your bike. But don’t be self-conscious — everyone else has one too.
Yelling “parkour!” when you hop over the beer keg is funny, but it shows you’re an amateur (and likely a few beers deep). If you want to freerun with style, grace, and strength, head to the Brooklyn Zoo in New York. Their 10,000 sq. ft. facility looks like a scene out of American Ninja Warrior. The vibe here is all movement and fitness, awesome cultures and freak athletes. Take a break from the warped wall to watch an acrobat on the aerial silks or count out that dude’s muscle-ups. Oh, and try to contain your excitement whenever someone starts breakdancing.
Boston in November can be wicked cold. That means running is usually shelved indefinitely. Unless, of course, there’s some friendly peer-pressure. That’s the premise behind the November Project, started in Boston, but now in over 30 cities. They say “Just Show Up.” And that’s really the hardest part anyway, right? Well, that depends on how many burpees and how far you may run during the day’s workout… Anywho, the Boston group meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday year-round at 630am. Expect a ton of high-fives when you show up; expect some Facebook harassing when you don’t.
If you live for CrossFit, the next best thing to competing at The Games (good luck with that), is crushing a Noon WOD at Reebok CrossFit One in Canton, Massachusetts. Normally reserved for Reebok HQs employees, they offer a guest tour of the facilities and workout at the flagship of the CrossFit universe. You’ll experience top-notch coaching, an insane and equipped facility, and even get the chance to bounce ideas off of sweaty Reebok employees for their next CrossFit shoe.
Mr. Schwarzenegger is a bit past his Mr. Olympia prime, but he’s created quite the annual tradition. The Arnold Sports Festival, known as the Arnold Classic (or just The Arnold), is a weekend-long event in Columbus, Ohio that celebrates all things fitness. Headlined by the famous bodybuilding competition, you also get powerlifting, strongman, jump rope, yoga, arm wrestling, and so much more. It’s like a fitness zoo – there’s plenty to gawk at. Best of all, the free swag. Be sure to grab all the free samples your arms can hold!
If you consider yourself a gym rat, a workout at Muscle Beach Gym should be a lifelong aspiration. Muscle Beach Gym is famous – the Venice Beach open-air weight room is featured in pretty much every montage of California. Fitness buffs, show-off-y athletes, and tourists convene on this piece of history for exercise and entertainment. Heads up: When you get a guest pass (which is pretty easy), just know what to expect. You’re probably going to see a bodybuilder in a Speedo. People will be taking pictures. And there will be flexing.
Bay to Breakers is the oldest consecutively run footrace in the world, that started in San Francisco in 1912. When that turned into an all-out, no rules (**a few rules**), absolutely bonkers costumed tromp, we’re not quite sure. Yes, you will still have serious runners toeing the line of this 12k. But this community event celebrates a true reflection of life between the Bay (SF proper) and Breakers (Pacific Coast’s Ocean Beach). So you’re also going to have Count Chocula, some unicorns, Quailman, and some all-out nudity. Our favorite is the group of salmon who ran the course backward (upstream) then flopped on the street.
The Bolder Boulder is a wild card. And one heck of a Memorial Day celebration. The city of Boulder, Colorado shuts down for this 10k race, but no one leaves town. With over 50,000 runners (started in waves) and another 70,000 spectators, there are people everywhere. As you wind through town, the streets will be lined with cheering crowds and live bands. It’s mayhem! People even set up slip ’n’ slides, beer stations, and costume parties along the course. No matter how you run, finish the day saluting our veterans at Folsom Field (complete with jet flyover).
It’s The Boston. You have to! It seems like every major marathon around the country bills itself as “a Boston-qualifier.” That’s because the Boston Marathon is a BIG deal. Each year in April, this iconic 26-mile (plus 385 yards) road race kicks off in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. From there, you break for the Harbor, traveling through small towns and past historic spots until you reach the finish line near John Hancock Tower in Copley Square. You’ll finish strong too. The roar of the crowd coming down Boylston Street sounds like a damn jet engine.
You can’t go wrong with a run through Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California. It’s just pure magic. And you certainly have your pick of races to choose from, too. You’ve got the classic – the Mickey Mouse of marathons – Walt Disney World Marathon in January. But you’ve also got the fairytale-like Tinker Bell Half, or the chance to roll through the course like BB-8 at the new Star Wars Half Marathon. And if you think you look good in a tiara, bring the whole family down for the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
Signing up for the Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire isn’t insane. After all, it only has one big hill. But if you read the fine print, you’ll know this little hill is the biggest challenge. It’s a 7.6-mile, all-uphill climb to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast. Being real for a second – it sucks. You need to be part mountain goat or have Sherpa blood or something to even crack 1:05:00. But the feeling of victory in defeating Mount Washington? That’s something else entirely. Enjoy your well-deserved feast and view from the clouds.
The annual Escape from Alcatraz is a date every serious triathlete circles on their calendar. That’s because, all-in, this San Francisco triathlon is just really awesome. You’ll be ferried out to Alcatraz Island, home of the famous penitentiary and site of the legendary escape. From there, they kick you and your wetsuit off the boat to start your journey. You’ll swim 1.5-miles to the Bay, bike 18 miles (often uphill), and run eight miles with Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Only then can you say you’ve officially escaped.
If you thought trail running was fun, try adding some competitive drinking. Burning Can’s The Beer Relay will have you running trails in Austin, Lyons (north of Boulder), and Brevard, NC –the three brewery locations of Oskar Blues, maker of magical craft brews. Run a five-kilometer lap around the trail, then chug a beer. Down them all and deduct two minutes from your (or your team’s) time. Each course is beautiful, and the beer goes down so smooth. The catch? After each lap and beer slam, you’ll run through a “sobriety test”, obstacles that can really trip you up after a few Dale’s Pale Ales.
Just like Pittsburgh’s big on its bridges and Primanti sandwiches, they’re also pretty big on hills. And yes, pretty big is a massive understatement. The best way to see what we mean? Sign up for the Dirty Dozen. Every year, this group ride tests cyclists in the most Pittsburgh way possible – you bike the city’s 13 steepest hills (including Canton Avenue in Beechview, the US’s steepest street). Buckle that chin strap tight for a 50-mile ride around the city (with a few breaks and refreshments along the way).
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