Get Fit and Get Connected

Bored by a steady diet of TV at night? Looking for others who share your passion for belly dancing, kiteboarding or power walking? Wish you could find a fun way to get fit instead of slogging off to the gym every day?

Whether you live in a big city or the boonies, finding favorite activities and connecting with people who share your zest requires just a few taps on a computer keyboard. That’s right— you can mine the Internet to reap life’s true treasures: healthy, enjoyable activities and new friendships.

Consider this sampling of Web sites geared toward getting you off the couch.

Active.com—An online community for people interested in running races, team sports and recreational activities. Race schedules are posted by city. Interact with others who share your interests, start online training programs, and access nutrition, fitness and training tips.

YouGoDo.com—Make the world your playground by entering your choice of activity or location to find endless excursions. If you’re a true adventurer, enter “learn something new” and leave the location blank. Results will include learning vacations all over the world, such as a motocross adventure in Spain and elephant handling in Thailand. U.S. options include horseback riding and zero-gravity flights.

MapMyFitness.com—If you run, hike, bike, walk or participate in triathlons, here’s a social networking site just for you. Track your fitness progress, exchange routes or workouts, and map a route to determine its distance.

Trails.com—Your guide to the outdoors with 40,000 routes and printable maps throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, including hiking, canoeing, bird-watching, rail trails and more.

MeetUp.com—This site’s motto says it all: “Use the Internet to get off the Internet!” A recent visit to the site revealed an Afro- Caribbean drumming group in Clearwater, Fla.; a tennis group in Raleigh, N.C.; and a motorcycle enthusiasts group in Austin, Texas. Search by ZIP code, and get an exhaustive list of groups meeting in your area. Or narrow your search by activity to fi nd just the right group to suit your interests.

ZooToo.com—With 90 million cats and 74 million dogs in American homes, pets keep us moving. This Web site unleashes oodles of ways to connect with pet lovers in your community and globally. Check out events like Yappy Hour in Mandeville, La., or Puppy Playtime in Randolph, N.J.

i-Neighbors.org—Provide your ZIP code, and this site offers instant info about your community. Receive e-mail about neighborhood events like fun runs, or get one started yourself.

ReserveAmerica.com—Search for a place to camp based on your preference of tent, cabin or RV. Select your exact location by narrowing down what you really want.

If you already know what type of activity would get your blood pumping, use the Web to find local classes or purchase new gear to get you started. “It’s easy to stay home and watch TV, but I believe that each day we must do something for our mind, body and soul,” says Jill Richardson, a veterinarian in Secaucus, N.J. Richardson went online to discover a belly-dancing class just five miles from her house and then made the leap to a ballet class for adults. For each, she searched the Web site DiscountDance.com for bargain-priced accessories.

“When co-workers ask, ‘What did you do last night?’ some say they watched Dancing with the Stars on TV, but I say I put on a tutu with a bunch of strangers at a ballet school in New Jersey,” Richardson says. “Now, that’s a bold move, and it makes you and your life far more interesting.”

Receive e-mail about neighborhood events like fun runs, or get one started yourself.

Vicki Lynn, a computer programmer from Portland, Ore., is equally determined to never let ho-hum seep into her soul. Her home near Portland accommodates her lifelong love of water sports during the summer months but becomes too chilly come September. Her job allows her to pick up her virtual office and work anywhere, so Lynn follows the warm wind to keep up with her fun fitness routine.

“I’m a water bug,” Lynn says. “I grew up near the Gulf of Mexico, and I was always scuba diving, sailing or riding in a boat. I love windsurfing, but the type of windsurfing I like requires high winds.” She got into kiteboarding to take advantage of lighter winds. “Kiting releases dopamine and endorphins and creates a feeling of peacefulness and well-being inside me that I just don’t get from anything else.”

Another kiter shared the Web site IKiteSurf.com with Lynn. “This site provides forecasting of wind conditions for every single kite surf spot on the planet, and the same people who run this Web site also run IWindSurf.com,” she says. “This site provides everything you need to know, including local kite shops, people forums—everything.”

Lynn spent several weeks recently in South Padre Island near Corpus Christi, Texas. There, she ran into five people she kites with from Oregon. “We didn’t know we would be there, but kiting is a small community,” she says. “You end up going to the same places and running into the same people all over North America.”

Kim Thornton, a writer from Lake Forest, Calif., used the Internet to connect with a variety of passions, as well as people who enjoy them. When her husband, Jerry, needed to spend almost six weeks in Seattle for computer consulting work, the California couple packed their three Cavalier King Charles dogs in their car and made the trip. The packed vehicle lacked room for bikes, but Thornton found resources online.

“I love to bike, and before we made the trip, I Googled bike rentals in Seattle and discovered the Burke-Gilman Trail,” she says. “This is a 27-mile paved bike trail. I also found several bike rental places and found the least expensive one that turned out to be closest to where we were staying.”

Back home in Orange County, Thornton takes her dogs, Bella, Twyla and Harper, to monthly gatherings of Cavalier King Charles owners and dogs at a local park. A friend of hers organized the events after informally collecting e-mail addresses of other owners whenever she ran into them in parks or on walks. She built a database of the breed owners she met and used that to send invitations. “It’s a great opportunity for our dogs to socialize,” Thornton says. “Since they are the same breed and same size, they generally all get along. It’s nice for us as owners because we can exchange experiences and advice about our dogs.”

So whether you take your pets or your pals, get out of the house and start spending some time with people who share your passions. You’ll have fun, get fit and meet some interesting people. Omage courtesy of Barry Stein – BarryCeative.com

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