Now you might be thinking, "James, these trips look awesome and I really want to experience exercising in the outdoors, but I don't have the time or money to travel to these far away places." Well don't you worry young Padawan, I got you covered. Just a mere three-hour drive from Indianapolis, perfect for a day or weekend trip, are the sand dunes of Michigan.
One-hour trekking in Warren Dunes State Park and you'll be thinking you've teleported to the Sahara. Forested dirt trails give way to gigantic sand dunes that will have you on your hands and knees bear crawling to make it to the top (and you thought I only cared about Leg Day). Sand resistance is a great way to train cardio as it gets the heart rate up in a hurry, and is easier on your joints and muscles than pounding the pavement. Remember that donut you used to put on the bat as you practiced your swings in the on-deck circle? Multiply that by 34 and that's what it feels like to run/walk in these sand dunes.
Sitting on 1,952 acres of land, Warren Dunes has a lot to explore with 6 miles of trails. But look no further than right next to the parking lot for the biggest challenge. Tower Hill, 270 feet high of sandy pleasure and pain, is any outdoorsman's dream. One of those hills that make you rethink how in shape you are. Start off trying to run up it and 30 seconds later you've slowed to just thinking about not falling flat on your face. But once you've reached the top and turned around that vast blue cold body of water is calling your name. Slide, roll, walk, tumble, or even sandboard (if you have the guts and equipment) down and just kept going until you are enjoying a refreshing, recovery ice bath in Lake Michigan. And while you're in the water enjoy a nice little cool down swim to get that upper body workout (there's a reason swimmers can eat all that unlimited pasta you wish you could and still have chiseled bodies).
There's nothing like working up a sweat and then jumping in cold water, a nice jolt to the body. Bring your own or rent a paddle board or kayak and take advantage of the calm lake. One time up Tower Hill (or more if you want a challenge) and 20-30 minutes on the lake paddling and you got yourself a full body workout. And speaking of challenges, a one-hour drive to the north of Warren Dunes in Saugatuck is the infamous staircase to heaven (or hell if you're not a fan of the StairMaster). You won't be laughing at Mount Baldhead's funny name after the first minute of climbing.
Like my favorite celebrity chef Emeril used to say "BAM!", we are taking everyone's favorite cardio machine the StairMaster and kicking it up a notch. Adding a little spice to your cardio with the reward of a beautiful Lake Michigan view from a hilltop instead of staring at two shirtless bros trying to hit that 200 lb Lat Pulldown at LA Fitness. Halfway up the 302 stairs of Mount Baldhead and you'll be sweating more than if you were in the kitchen cooking creole cuisine with Emeril. Take pride in making it to the top (they sell t-shirts across the street to commemorate the honor like all the obstacle races do) and stroll on down the hill to Oval Beach to relax and recover.
Michigan's lake shoreline has plenty to offer and is only a short drive from Indy. Consider this as a possible summer weekend getaway. Camping is common in the state parks. Entrance fees for non- residents are $9 for a day pass or $32 for an annual pass to over 100 different Michigan state parks. If you're interested in active travel, be sure to keep up with my articles as I take you around the world and share my active travel lifestyle. To check out my other adventures, visit my profile below.