Redefining Fitness Through Time Outdoors

Getting regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall health. Studies show that it improves mood, increases longevity and helps prevent the onset of many chronic diseases, including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and various cancers. It is also an important and often overlooked intervention in improving mental health.

But contrary to the messages we receive from the health and fitness industry, exercise isn’t just about punishing yourself into losing pounds or boasting a six-pack.

It’s about defining your own version of a rich and meaningful life and becoming healthy and strong enough to live it.

In New Hampshire, we’re fortunate to have so many remarkable outdoor spaces to help us get active, reduce stress, connect with others, and savor outstanding views.

From the grandeur of the White Mountains to the serene waters of the Lakes Region to the fabulous hikes in the Monadnock Region, the Granite State offers something for every body and ability to enjoy.

If you’re just getting started – or looking to get back into hiking shape – it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to tackle too much too soon.

But unlike treadmills, you can’t hop off the trails if they become too much to handle! So be sure to follow a few simple tips as you get into the swing of things.

Start simple

Our local rail trails are an excellent way to build confidence and to test your skills. Given their history, they tend to be flat, easily accessible, and can be found in nearly every area of the state.

Give yourself time

Once you’re comfortable on flat terrain, you can add difficulty to your hikes by varying both the length and elevation gain of the trails you choose. Doing so slowly will not only build your endurance, but also the skillset you need to take on more challenging hikes. If you aren’t familiar with your local trails, check out TrailFinder, AllTrails, or Hiking in the Monadnock Region to find new places to explore.

Bring a friend

Though solo hikes are a great way to unwind, consider teaming up with a friend or family members to keep you motivated, accountable, and safe.

Be respectful

When exploring our state’s great conservation lands, always be respectful of the land and its other users. Obey all signage (it’s there for a reason!), follow proper trail etiquette, and familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles to help maintain the ecological integrity of the areas you explore.

If you’re still struggling with how to get started and think you’d benefit from additional support, you can read more about my one-of-a-kind training program, Zero to Monadnock!

Modeled after the popular Couch to 5K running program, this 8-week fitness program provides beginner hikers and those looking to get back into hiking shape with the confidence and endurance they’ll need to hike southwestern New Hampshire’s most cherished mountain – Mount Monadnock.

As part of this program, participants receive an 8-week training calendar that outlines what to do each day, a list of local trails they can take each week to help them build their stamina, ongoing community support, exclusive access to live training events, and more.

If you’re ready to get more active, head out on our state’s hundreds of miles of trails or join me in becoming fit and strong enough to climb Monadnock!

Sonya LeClair is an ecologist, writer, and certified health coach with a focus on using time outdoors as a springboard to improve our physical and mental health. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology, an M.S. in Biology, and over 20 years of experience in ecology, conservation, and engaging people with the outdoors. She resides in the Monadnock Region, and spends her time writing, exploring the outdoors, and focuses her coaching on helping others become healthy and fit enough to live their own versions of a rich and meaningful life. You can learn more about her work at

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.