10 No-Excuse Reasons to Exercise in Michigan
Winter is a season, not a prison sentence. In Michigan, opportunities to get out and get fit exist in abundance all year long
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The dormant season in Michigan loves to loiter. Most of the time, it hangs around for at least five months. We’ll see sunshine in April — if we’re lucky. That’s a particularly long stretch for outdoor enthusiasts to hibernate, hole up in a basement, or establish residency at an indoor gym. So don’t. There’s no reason to squander that sweat equity you built up during the summer. Winter is a season, not a prison sentence. In Michigan, opportunities to get out and get fit exist in abundance all year long. You may have to drive to get to your workout destination, but it’s the result that counts.
1. See Detroit cityscapes:
Expose yourself to something new (or in some cases, something antique) as you walk or run in and around Detroit’s unique urban backdrops. If you’re up for rubbing elbows while you exercise, try zigzagging the Eastern Market, a 43-acre, year-round sidewalk sale. It’s especially vibrant on Saturdays, when an average of 45,000 customers converge to buy everything from fresh produce and exotic spices to prime cuts of beef. On off days, there’s plenty of parking, but stay clear of some eateries, including the calorie-heavy Roma Café. The market is located between Mack, Gratiot and I-75. For a more urban venue, take your Nikes on a date to Midtown and walk Cass Avenue or Woodward south from Wayne State University. The coffee shops and art galleries in this part of town are powerful temptations, especially in the cold, when the aroma of Arabica beans is irresistible.
Walk or run along the river from Cobo Hall to Lake St. Clair and take in the industrial majesty of the dueling Detroit-Windsor skylines. The pathway is a work in progress, and soon it will span the three- and-a-half mile Detroit River vista from Joe Louis Arena to the MacArthur Bridge leading to and from Belle Isle. For updates, visit detroitriverfront.org.
The spectacle of artist Lowell Boileau’s Fabulous Detroit Ruins is best saved for one of the hallmark gray days of Michigan’s winter. Bleak skies are the perfect backdrop for the drama of a do-it-yourself walking or running tour of the remains of the city’s once-thriving industrial giants. Not only will you get a cardio workout, you’ll appreciate the Motor City’s renaissance as never before. More info at detroityes.com.
2. Do Detroit’s historic districts and neighborhoods:
You could walk or run in a different neighborhood or historic district in Detroit for a month and still not see them all. The city is an architectural anthology of unique and noteworthy homes, most of which are clustered into enclaves that are easily walkable.
Palmer Woods, located directly west of Woodward and north of Palmer Park, is one such jewel. The celebrated residences in this district were built during the early 20th century by such distinguished architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, a pioneer of the Craftsman architectural style, and Minoru Yamasaki, designer of the modernistic but ill-fated World Trade Center. Other prominent promenades include the wealthy neighborhoods of Sherwood Forest and Green Acres and, on the east side, the inimitable Indian Village, which local luminaries such as Edsel Ford once called home.
By anyone’s count, there are more than 100 neighborhoods in the Motor City in which you can indulge your winter wanderlust. For a map, visit cityscapedetroit.org.
3. Visit the ’burbs:
So you feel swallowed by the big city but don’t want to spend your winter wandering the wilderness and woods? You need look no farther than the suburbs. All manner of downtown areas are flourishing, and their proprietors are particularly punctual about keeping the snow, sleet, and ice off their city sidewalks and streets. Spend the winter power-walking Plymouth, Milford, or Romeo. “Art-walk” Northville’s “First Fridays” street celebrations, or strut the streets of chic and sophisticated places like Birmingham. Have a hankering for someplace with an edge? Give pedestrian-friendly cities like Royal Oak or Ann Arbor a whirl. So many towns, so many personalities.
4. Metroparks and beyond:
Look to Michigan’s Metroparks to test your winter exercise acumen. For the price of a season pass ($20 per vehicle), you can continue your relationship with nature long after the leaves have fallen. The parks, resplendent in their summer greenery, are just as striking in the austere shimmer of winter, particularly from the perspective of a cross-country ski trail or a snowshoe trek. As family outings and exercise go, it doesn’t get much more economical than cross-country. Equipment rental is less than $10 a person (less than $5 for groups). Parks with trails include Hudson Mills, Huron Meadows, Indian Springs, Kensington, Lake Erie, Metro Beach, Stony Creek, and Willow. Hint: Call ahead for snow conditions.
Snowshoe enthusiasts should note that trails.com people have named Kensington Metropark the second-best venue for shoeing in the state (first place went to Giant Pines Loop in the U.P.). The sport, compared by some to “walking on feathers” is growing in popularity, in large part because of the development of lighter, more durable shoes. The modern versions, framed in aluminum or plastic, bear little resemblance to their clunky wooden ancestors (justifiably reassigned to wall-art duty). More info at metroparks.com.
Other walking and hiking places are located in the dozens of state parks dotting the metropolitan area, as well as on state trail systems, which are especially abundant in Oakland County. For links to the county’s trail locations and maps, visit, oakgov.com/parksrec.
5. ‘Zoo it’ in the winter:
Never seen a snow monkey in a hot tub? Now’s your chance. The Detroit Zoo is jumpin’ all year. Many of the animals are at their most entertaining in the winter, and you’ll get a workout, too. The main trail is easily divided into one- and two-mile routes. To tackle the longer distance, follow the path along the zoo’s periphery. Continue via the prairie dog exhibit and the Asian wild horses (particularly perky in the off-season) and on to the main entrance. To put in a mile, just stay to the zoo’s interior, and circle the Arctic Ring of Life. If this becomes your weekly walk, save money by becoming a Friend of the Zoo. More info at detroitzoo.org or 248-398-0900.
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