You may not often hear it, but Jacksonville is actually a pretty good city to enjoy outdoors. We Jacksonvillian’s have access to 3 amazing waterways (river, intracoastal, ocean), an abundance of community parks with walking and biking trails, and loads of great weather all year round.
Whether you live at the beach or in town, access to great outdoor areas for exercise and recreation is not far, and when possible you should head outside to change up your daily exercise routine. Large gyms can get stale, where as outdoor exercise and recreation provides fresh air (which cleanses the lungs), sunshine (a great source of vitamin d), as well as helping to clear your mind of stress.
Below are my favorite outdoor activities, which also provide a good cardiovascular and/or resistance workout:
Biking has been growing in popularity across the US due to it’s health benefits and green living initiatives. Biking is a great workout for both your legs (peddling) and abs (stabilizing and balance), plus it offers great cardiovascular benefits (increasing blood circulation).
My favorite bike rides are cruising along the beach, cycling over the Wonderwood Expressway, down A1A or through the trails in Hannah Park.
Jacksonville offers a variety of great biking with each neighborhood community: The beaches, riverside/avondale, mandarin and downtown. So, don’t always settle for biking through your neighborhood…get out and explore!
Some of my favorite bike rides are:
- In the sand along the beach
- Going over the Wonderwood Expressway
- Along AIA down to Mickler’s Landing
- The mountain bike trails in Hanna Park
- Through the Baldwin Rails to Trails
Surfing is my favorite activity…period. And, I love surfing in Jacksonville. I know, it’s not Hawaii or Costa Rica…but, I’ve had some of the most fun surfing right here in Jacksonville. Waves are generally below 4ft., but hurricanes during late summer/early fall and low pressure systems moving off of the Eastern Seaboard during winter and spring can product some really, really fun surfing days.
Surfing is great exercise…offering both a cardiovascular and resistance workout.
Surfing is also a great way to explore the smaller parks and communities of North Florida.
Some of my favorite places to surf in North Florida:
- Hanna Park
- Little Talbot Island State Park
- Huguenot Park
…but, most of the time you can find me surfing around 7th Ave in Atlantic Beach.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Paddle boarding has been growing in popularity over the past 5 years…and, rightfully so, it’s not only an awesome workout, but it’s sooo much fun. No, you do not have to know how to surf…anyone can do it. The boards are super stable, which makes it very easy to learn and get started.
Paddle boarding is a great full body workout…and, will give you insane abs!! You’ll definitely feel your body working from your toes to your nose 🙂
Paddle boarding can be done on any body of water. Simple and easy to transport, paddle boarding can be enjoyed in Jacksonville’s intracoastal, creeks and the ocean.
My favorite paddle boarding spots are:
- the ocean (typically Atlantic Beach)
- the creeks of Talbot Island (launching from KayakAmelia)
- paddling through the intracoastl launching from either Castaway Preserver Park (off San Pablo) or Marker32 (the restaurant).
Click to watch this news story from Jacksonville.com about our growing Paddle Boarding community:
Tennis is a cardiovascular activity as it requires shorts bursts of energy…ie. sprinting to where ever your opponent hits the ball, as well as helping to improve hand eye coordination.
While I’m no tennis pro, I do enjoy the sport. It’s a lot of fun as well as a great social sport. While tennis comes with a “country club” stigma, in actuality there are many places in Jacksonville where you can play for free at public courts, such as:
- Jack Russell Park in Atlantic Beach
- Jarboe Park in Neptune Beach
- Sunshine Park in Jacksonville Beach
- UNF Boone Park in Avondale (small fee here)
Walking and Running Trails
Walking and running…sounds simple, right? Well, most people resort to either walking or running on a gym treadmill or doing the same boring loop within their neighborhood. This is a good start, but push yourself to explore new routes, distances and terrain. The subtle differences will help to keep you from staying in a “comfort zone”, as well as keep you interested, not getting bored of looking at the same old scenery.
Walking and running are both great cardiovascular workouts…however, their benefits are greatly enhanced when performed on variable terrains, such as: the beach, unpaved trails and small hills.
I know from my own personal experience, that my run is always a lot more challenging when done on the beach, than on the pavement, as it requires more muscles to move through than the uneven, soft sand. This not only increases my heart rate, but it also greatly strengthens my lower body muscles and of course, my core.
My favorite outdoor running and walking trails are:
- the beach
- UNF trails
- Hanna Park (walking, not the bike trails)
- Guana River Trails (on the west side of A1A)
North Florida is an awesome place for kayaking and/or canoeing! With 3 different waterways at our disposal, Jacksonville offers a wide variety of paddling options, both in terms of scenery and workout challenge.
Both kayaking and canoeing offer a great upper body workout…utilizing your arms, shoulders and back, as well as a lot of core to complete each stroke.
My absolute favorite kayaking/canoeing spot is at: Kayak Amelia on Big Talbot Island. They rent both kayaks/canoes and you can launch from their outpost and paddle through the still water of the creeks, which lead to Nassau Sound, where you can paddle to your own private sandbar for a rest, lunch and swim. In summer, it’s a lot of fun to do with your family or a group of friends.
For those looking for a bit more adventure, try kayak fishing in the intracoastal.
I must admit.. I love to blade!
Lord knows Jacksonville is a driving city. But, all this pavement connecting Jacksonville’s many neighborhoods makes for some interesting and diverse roller blading.
Rollerblading is great exercise…it really gets your heart rate going (awesome cardio) and is a great workout for sculpting the legs (both thighs and calves).
Blading can be fun anywhere…but, my favorite spots are typically newer roads with fresh pavement, as they do not have any holes or cracks and offers a much smoother ride. Identifying good spots can be a bit tricky, but as your drive around, just make a mental note when you’re on a fresh looking road. I’m usually rollerblading through: Selva Marina in Atlantic Beach or around Gate Parkway at 9A.