Here’s the thing — I don’t do gyms. In fact, I’m not big on strenuous activity in general, but as a beer-loving, 30-something with an interest in being naked around the opposite sex, I recognize the necessity of maintaining, at the very least, a passable dad-bod.

My inherent laziness aside, I don’t have a lot of free time and what little I do, I’m not exactly trying to spend feeling inferior to people in way better shape than myself. But thankfully, I live in the Sunshine State, where doing things outside is a year-round possibility and for a major city, we live in close proximity to some pretty magnificent scenery worth exploring.

So if you’re like me and prefer doing fitness things that don’t make you want to snuff it, dig on this list of “adventurey” activities that are way more exciting than blasting your pecs in the gym.

One alternative method of fitness is rock climbing, and while Florida probably isn’t the ideal locale for this type of exercise, there are still ways you can try it out.


“With rock climbing, there’s a clear goal, and the only thing between you and it is pure strength and will.”

Not only is rock climbing an intense, full-body workout, it also engages the mind. “When climbing, there is a necessary need for active problem solving,” explained Erik Boetker of The Edge Rock Gym.

On a treadmill, it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing much of anything beyond burning calories, but with rock climbing, there’s a clear goal, and the only thing between you and it is pure strength and will.

“Rock climbing gives the climber a sense of accomplishment when completing a climb, which is known to help boost self-confidence,” Erik noted. Unfortunately, the nearest decent climbs are six to seven hours away, but Jacksonville is lucky to have the only premium indoor rock gym within at least 100 miles, so you can at least get in shape before you try and tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro.

If a precarious activity like rock climbing isn’t for you, maybe you’ve noticed they just built a new YMCA in Riverside with what seems like a spectacular view of the river — which is rad, but wouldn’t you rather be paddling down the river in a kayak? I sure would, but even if you find the St. Johns a little sketchy, Northeast Florida is home to some downright gorgeous marshes, streams and estuaries that practically beg to be explored.

Kayaking may provide an exclusively upper-body workout, but it’s also scalable to your skill level. It can be as leisurely or intense an experience as you want it to be. Look, not everybody gets to enjoy such access to so much natural beauty, so to not take advantage is practically a crime.


“What’s great about SUP is that you don’t even need a Subaru Outback or a fancy car rack to partake.”

Another form of outdoor fitness is stand-up paddleboarding. While I cannot personally vouch for the virtues of this activity, its converts are known to shout its praises far and wide, so there must be something to it.

Like kayaking, it can be relaxing and meditative if you want it to be, or you can take it to the EXTREME with the PHIT (Paddleboard High Intensity Training) program through Kayak Amelia. Here cardio, core and strength training meet paddleboarding in an insane fusion of both aquatic and terrestrial fitness. What’s great about SUP is that you don’t even need a Subaru Outback or a fancy car rack to partake. iRocker makes an inflatable version that folds up into a backpack for maximum mobility.

If you’re trying to get active on a budget or your desire for impact is as low as mine, you can always just go for a walk. North Florida is home to a surprising number of nature trails that range from quick scenic hikes to epic treks. You can spend an afternoon exploring the breathtaking GTM Reserve in Ponte Vedra or hoof it all the way to Gulf of Mexico from Palatka via the Cross Florida Greenway. Hiking isn’t just good for the body, it’s good for the mind. A bartender who works long, late hours, Jacqueline Bruening, spends as much off time as possible hiking her favorite trails for exercise. The solitude it provides is a bonus.

“The gym and the bar aren’t that different when you think about it, so I find myself craving the simplicity and peacefulness of being outside and alone,” she said.


“This list of “adventurey” activities are way more exciting than blasting your pecs in the gym.”

Outdoor Fitness Breakdown:


  • Calories/hour: 350-500
  • Cost: $50-$150 for a decent pair of shoes, $2-$5 park fees where applicable

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

  • Calories/hour: 300-450
  • Cost: $499-$579 for an inflatable SUP package via iRocker or $49 per day rental at Kayak Amelia


  • Calories/hour: 280-450
  • Cost: $400-$600 for a used kayak or $49/day rental through Kayak Amelia

Rock Climbing

  • Calories/hour: 650-1000
  • Cost: $27/day pass + gear at The Edge Rock Gym

By Jack Twachtman | Staff Writer