Women like us need to push well past our limits on a regular basis because that’s just who we are. The sweat equity we put in is directly proportional to the joy and satisfaction we feel at the end of the day. The moments of sheer exertion, when body syncs with mind, is when we find our flow. Now is the time to find that sweet spot outdoors. If summer travels take you to any of these great U.S. cities, we’ve got ample fitness feats to burn megacalories, so you can recharge your power source wherever the road leads you.
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1. Big Island & Maui, HI
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With its beaches consistently ranked among the world’s best, the Big Island and Maui are non-stop playgrounds that help you feel more energized than when you arrived. There are waterfalls to hike to (and rappel down!), sunsets to paddle toward, and serious waves to catch. Aloha.
Hiking and trail running
Get ready to go hiking, canyon rappelling, mountain tubing, and more. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (nps.gov/havo), on the Big Island, has more than 150 miles of hiking trails where you can witness erupting volcanoes up close, trek across craters, and be dwarfed by the surrounding jungle landscape. We love trail running because you’re forced to be alert to your form and your surroundings. The uneven surface also fires up underused stabilizing muscles, plus hills offer total-booty toning, because the mechanics of running up an elevated surface recruits your gluteal muscles even more than on flat surfaces.
SUPing, as it’s often referred to, offers a unique upper-body challenge for your arms, chest, back, and core. It’s trending because you can SUP on virtually any water surface—from rivers to lakes to coves and the ocean—and there is very little learning curve to contend with. Kona Boys (konaboys.com) on the Big Island offers surfing, SUPing, and kayaking (rentals/lessons).
You’re headed to the unofficial U.S. capital of waterfalls, so it’s almost obligatory that you try lowering yourself down the surface of one. Play Indiana Joanie and work those biceps with Rappel Maui (rappelmaui.com).
SwellWomen surf retreat (swellwomen.com) in Maui will get you from timid to takedown on the waves. The six-day retreat also includes yoga and nutrition consultations. Surfing works your triceps, chest, and back as you go from prone (flat) on the board; your core as your pop up; and your glutes, quads, and hamstrings as you ride waves. Plus, salty sea air, according to the Lung Institute, shows therapeutic effects, such as improved lung function and reduced sinus pressure. For a day’s lesson, head to The Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy (royalhawaiiansurfacademy.com), ranked No.1 on TripAdvisor for classes in Lahaina, Maui.
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2. Isle Royale National Park, MI
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In the far northern reaches of the U.S., past Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and only 15 miles from Canada, you’ll find Isle Royale, one of the least-visited national parks in America. Yet this undiscovered car-free gem, which is three hours by ferry from mainland Michigan, is on every Midwesterner’s bucket list because of its jaw-dropping coastline, Northern Lights and Milky Way views, safety from natural predators, wonderfully scenic trails, and all of Lake Superior to explore.
Bonus: If you don’t want to camp, there is the totally comfy rustic Rock Harbor Lodge (nps.gov) with fantastic lakeside rooms, duplexes, and cabins where a warm bed and delicious dinner and wine awaits.
This is as good as it gets. These shoreline waters are mostly calm and there are so many islands, ruins, and waterways to paddle around that you should bring a map, plenty of food, sunscreen, and water, and prepare to fall in love. While kayaking you may see moose taking a dip, schools of fish below, and bald eagles soaring overhead. You’ll challenge your body while burning more than 350 calories per hour and enhancing cardio conditioning—not to mention relieving all the stress of your everyday life. You’ll also heart your Instagram feed after a day kayaking around Isle Royale.
Due to its remoteness, Isle Royale is staffed with park rangers 24/7, which makes hiking and trail running here feel intensely safe, especially for us ladies. There are three longer trail destinations that you can set out on by foot from the main port of Rock Harbor: 4.2-mile loop to Scoville Point, 3.8-mile loop to Suzy’s Cave, and 10-miler (round-trip) to Mount Franklin. The boreal forest hike along rocky cliffsides won’t disappoint.
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3. Miami Beach, FL
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Sauntering on the South Beach strip is a must-do. But what about when it’s prime-time for exercise? With 800 parks in the Miami area alone, and the only U.S. city bordered by two national parks, plus the ocean to explore, Miami truly does have it all.
The Magic City sits above the third-largest barrier reef in the world and has more than 50 diveable wreck sites. Tarpoon Dive Center (tarpoondivecenter.com) is a hot spot to get certified and explore the warm waters. Diving is a serious workout: Muscles are pushed to their limits, working harder in the water than on dry land, and diving increases your stamina, thanks to the tremendous oceanic pressure your body is under. Plus ocean swimming itself works your body on all planes—your arms, back, chest, glutes, and legs—and can burn about 400 calories per hour.
When was the last time you did a sun salutation to the sun? The Standard Spa (standardhotels.com) hosts daily yoga classes to help you unwind, re-center your senses, and feel more whole.
We know you’re tough. So why not spend a few memorable hours on the waves learning to windsurf next time you’re in Miami? Warning: It’s as full-on as it looks, demanding your cardiovascular fitness be ready for everything. Plus, since you’re in a half-squat position the whole time while subtly manipulating the sail, you better get ready to thank all those cycling sessions, Smith machine rows, and other push-pull exercises you’ve been doing lately.
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4. Fort Lauderdale, FL
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This area north of Miami is sometimes referred to as “Fit” Lauderdale. The beaches are beautiful and the living is easy.
Bike Broward (dpanther2.ad.fiu.edu/mpobike) is an easy-to-use route-planning site that will get you from A to Z easily, and layers can be added to show you bicycle facilities and transit stops. The local bike share program, B-cycle (broward.bcycle.com), has 18 stations in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Pompano Beach for 23 miles of easy riding along beach paths.
This trendy form of flow is a fantastic activity to do with your besties that you’ve brought on vacation. Fort Lauderdale Stand-Up Paddle (fortlauderdalesup.com) and Sunrise Paddleboards (sunrisepaddleboards.com) both offer classes that will have you downward dogging in the most beautiful setting.
Beach hamlet Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is the only place in the continental U.S. where you can snorkel and dive on a living coral reef straight off the beach, an easy five-minute swim (100 yards) away. More than 100 artificial reefs; 100-plus dive sites; and an underwater park (Shipwreck Park at Pompano Beach, shipwreckparkpompano.org), with its 324-foot tanker vessel and other wrecks dating back to the early 1900s, are yours to explore.
Voted one of the top 10 places to skate by Rollerblade itself, the 1.5-mile stretch along Fort Lauderdale Beach is a great place to burn major calories.
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5. Chicago, IL
With Lake Michigan to the east and Chicago’s iconic skyline to the west, you’ll have plenty of views and activities to take in while traveling to the Windy City. Chicago has more than 26 miles of lakefronts, 18 miles of bike paths, and a shoreline perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. —Kristin Mahoney
Paddling your way around Lake Michigan makes sightseeing second to none, and kayaking is ideal for those who are looking for a refreshing, low-impact activity. A 130-lb woman will burn 295 calories in one hour of this sport. Paddling targets key upper-body muscles including the back, arms, chest, and shoulders, while your torso and core get a workout with the rotational movement.
Paddleboarding tests your balance and endurance, all while giving you a cardiovascular workout that activates muscles in your body from head to toe. Your arms, back, shoulders, legs, and abdominal muscles will be targeted and engaged allowing them to become more toned, you’ll burn around 354 calories an hour. Beeline to Chicago SUP (chicagosup.com) for gear rentals and lessons.
Skate up and down the city’s numerous biking paths or along the Chicago River that runs right through the heart of the city. It’s a calorie killer, allowing you to burn 443 calories an hour, and will work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings to propel yourself forward and control your speed. Plus, your core stabilizes you throughout your ride as you cruise full-speed past city sights.
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6. Austin, TX
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Austin might be known for its BBQ and music scene, but it also offers countless outdoor activities. Lady Bird Lake is in the heart of the city and is an ideal place for a bike ride, long walk, or an outdoor workout session. Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt, at just over 12 miles long, offers a great escape from the city hustle and bustle where you can bike, hike, and swim the days away. —KM
Rated as one of the top bicycling cities in America by Forbes Traveler—with its rolling hills, serene bike paths, and tough open-road courses—Austin roads will challenge your legs in a serious way. Join a group ride with Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop (austin.mellowjohnnys.com/rides-events). If you want a bigger challenge to prep for, Austin is also home to nationally recognized endurance events such as the annual Ironman 70.3 Austin and the Austin Triathlon.
DIY outdoor boot camp
It’s never a bad idea to switch up your exercise routine and work out outdoors. Running and cycling outside allow new elements to be incorporated into your fitness that you can’t experience in the gym: Slight shifts in the incline of the pavement or the drag of the wind when you’re pedaling on your bike result in an increased calorie burn because your body is working harder and in a different way than it’s accustomed to. Exercising outdoors has also been shown to improve your mental health. A recent study has shown that, compared with working out indoors, exercising in nature was associated with increased energy and greater feelings of revitalization and positivity. It also showed decreases in tension, anger, and depression.
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7. Los Angeles, CA
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In case you haven’t noticed, the City of Angels is also a city of fit people. But exactly how do they get that way? There are too many top-ranked gyms, yoga studios, and boot camps to count, but locals also make good use of the fabulous weather and natural landscape surrounding the city.
For a booty-blasting exercise, hit the stairs. Head to the famous Entrada Stairs (aka Santa Monica Stairs), or go to the Saroyan Stairs or Broadview Terrace Stairs in Hollywood;
the Prospect Stairs in Los Feliz; or the Micheltorena and Mattachine Stairs in Silver Lake (discoverlosangeles.com).
Strap your inline skates on and head to Venice Beach, along “The Strand,” which goes up and down LA’s beautiful beaches—from Redondo Beach (and Muscle Beach near Gold’s Gym!) in the south up to areas near Santa Monica.
The nature of this fast-moving sport and the dynamic postural instability and loading it causes means you’re challenging yourself harder over the same distance as when road running. Parks where locals love to break a sweat include Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon, and the Santa Monica Mountains, but there are 30 hikes that are within city limits or just a short drive away. Intermediates head to Bee Rock, a four-mile loop near Griffith Park; or to Zuma Ocean View Trail, a 3.1-mile loop.
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8. San Diego, CA
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Surfing & kayaking
First, we surf. Waking early to catch great wave breaks is standard issue in San Diego. Or go to La Jolla Cove to try your hand at kayaking. Being in protected waters helps reduce the wave wake so you can feel more confident.
There are 25 million boulders in the area, so get ready to work your fingers, forearms, lats, abs, and lower body to the max. (Read: Count on shaky arms and quads by day’s end.) Head to Mission Gorge Mountain and Santee Boulders and Front Range Climbing (frontrangeclimbing.com) leads beginner-friendly guided trips.
Cycling is head-clearing, and a 140-lb woman cycling at 12 to 14 mph for an hour can burn 500-plus calories. Regular cyclists should tick riding the Pacific Coast Highway off their bucket list. Leisure riders: Go to Mission Bay for 27 miles of winding pathways, or to Bayshore Bikeway (starting at the Embarcadero).
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9. Jackson Hole, WY
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Take your exercise to higher altitudes and you’ll reap performance benefits that could last several weeks, including elevated levels of a hormone that boosts red blood cell production, making room for more oxygen transport. Plus, you’ll join the ranks of athletes who have called this Western- meets-modern town in Wyoming home. Since snow is a distant memory, you’ll be among tourists going gaga to experience Grand Teton National Park up close in near-perfect weather.
You have to try mountain biking. It challenges the legs, core, triceps, and chest. And it’s great for women because “you’re in the fresh air, taking on challenges and getting healthier. You also get to look some societal norms in the face and decide that sometimes you’re better off getting dirty, taking a wider stance, approaching obstacles with flexibility and aggressiveness, and deciding you’re going to succeed,” says Trek Dirt Series founder and director Candace Shadley (who hosts women’s/co-ed MTB camps in U.S. and Canada, dirtseries.com).
There’s world-class rock climbing in the area, too, and it comes as a highly recommended group activity for views you won’t believe. Take a climbing class with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides ($185 for a full day, jhmg.com), where you’ll learn climbing techniques, safety, rope skills, and how to love flying high in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
There is so much to do in the Jackson area, including day hiking and rock climbing, but #legsday lovers should take a turn at the jaw-dropping cycling. Wide, separated bike lanes that follow the roads running in front of Grand Teton National Park make for the most beautiful cycling route you’ll ever witness. It’s easy to rent a sweet ride from Hoback Sports (hobacksports.com); check out their Ride Guide to local trails and roads nearby at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort; and hit the pavement, passing the National Elk Refuge as you speed through the mountains.
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10. Acadia National Park, ME
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Acadia National Park has more than 20 different hiking trails, ranging in distance and difficulty level. Located in the far northern reaches of the continental United States, this is an excellent place to hike to your heart’s content. —KM
The moderate trails in the area range from one to three miles and offer you views of the bay, ponds, and cliffs. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, strenuous trails (like Acadia Mountain and Beehive Trail, nps.gov/acad) range from about two to five miles and feature steep grades and varied terrain.
Hiking is an effective cardiovascular workout that helps strengthen your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, all while taking in that crisp Maine air. The popular local pastime can also improve your overall health: Research shows it can lower the risk of heart disease and improve blood sugar and blood pressure.
Cool down and spend your day rafting between both the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers. You can paddle everything from mild to extreme routes. Northeast Whitewater (northeastwhitewater.com) is a go-to guide for thrill seekers of all skills.
Pick from almost 150 trails to find your postcard-perfect trail run. The park is made up of forests and rocky terrain with breathtaking views of the ocean.