Fun, local ways to stay active and in shape this semester

By Madeleine Jackman

The view of the Pioneer Valley from the top of Mt. Sugarloaf (Collegian file photo)
The view of the Pioneer Valley from the top of Mt. Sugarloaf (Collegian file photo)

Doing the same workout routine in the gym again and again can leave you feeling bored and in a rut. Take advantage of the beautiful spring weather to incorporate fun, outdoor activities into your exercise sessions that will keep you moving without even feeling like you’re really working out.

Hiking, of course, is the go-to outdoor workout activity. Right now is the best chance to take advantage of all of the hiking trails nearby. Enjoy breathtaking aerial views of the Pioneer Valley in bloom before the summer heat rolls in to take your breath away.

The University of Massachusetts Outing Club normally has a couple of organized hikes each week; their most recent trip was on Sunday to Rose Ledges. All they ask is that you bring appropriate attire, water and a few dollars for your driver. More information and links to sign-up can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

If you prefer to hike solo or with a few close friends, consider climbing up The Notch in Mount Holyoke, wandering the hiking trails around Quabbin Reservoir near Belchertown or venturing along parts of the Robert Frost trail, which begins in South Hadley and traverses Mount Toby.

For those who prefer wheels to walking, be sure to take advantage of the Bike Share Program on campus. Supported by the Student Government Association and Sustainable UMass, the Bike Share Program allows any student with a valid UCard to rent out a bike for free. The bikes are housed outside of the Student Union and can be checked out for 24 hours – along with locks and helmets – from room 420 in the Student Union. Encourage your friends to use this free bike rental program and enjoy a lovely spring ride through Amherst.

With Earth Day on Wednesday, there are a couple of on-campus outdoor activities available to keep you active. The first is the fourth annual Earth Day Yogathon, beginning at 8 a.m. on the Fine Arts Center terrace. The event is being hosted by Protect Our Breasts, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Isenberg School of Management. Protect Our Breasts is focused on raising awareness about the everyday factors that increase risk of breast cancer. In order to spread awareness for its cause, there will be yoga sessions throughout the day led by special guest instructors as well as free giveaways.

Also on Wednesday, the UMass Native American Student Association, in collaboration with the Kanonhsesne Native American DRC, will be planting donated flowering pear trees. These trees will grow to be about seven feet tall.

Gardening is a great way to soak up some sun, stay active and give back to the environment. The event will be from 4 to 5 p.m. and starts outside of Chadbourne Hall in Central Residential Area. The trees will likely be planted on the trail between Orchard Hill and Totman Gym.

Puffer’s Pond is another great place to visit with friends for a wonderful day outside. Open from dusk to dawn, enjoy a swim in the water when the weather gets a bit warmer and the rain clouds clear away. There is no lifeguard on duty, so go with friends and be safe whether taking a dip for fun or attempting a more strenuous swim for increased exercise.

For more water activities, head over to Smith College’s Paradise Pond Boathouse. Open seven days a week from 1 to 5 p.m., an ID is all that is needed to check out a canoe or kayak to paddle around the pond with a friend.

Whatever the activity, don’t forget the importance of sunshine and endorphins as the spring semester comes to a close and take full advantage of all the fun events the Pioneer Valley offers to stay in shape.

Madeleine Jackman can be reached at [email protected]