Getting Fit in the New Year

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is getting fit, losing weight, or just exercising more. Unfortunately, it’s a resolution that often falls by the wayside—but sometimes getting fit just means getting moving, and with the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been seeing in the Upstate, it’s a great time to get moving outside.

There’s nothing wrong with joining a gym, but being active doesn’t have to cost much if you know where to look. If you’re a novice hiker, a tentative cyclist, a beginning runner, or a casual walker, there are plenty of opportunities here in the Upstate for you to get out and move—and maybe get hooked on it!

Starting out the new year with a hike is a great way to kick start your year, and the South Carolina State Parks Department is offering First Day Hikes all over the state on January 1, with plenty of options here in the Upstate:

  • Caesars Head offers three different hikes on New Year’s Day of varying degrees of difficulty, from an easy mile on the Wildcat Wayside Trail to a moderate 5-mile hike on the Raven Cliff Falls Trail to a difficult (but well worth it) 4.5-mile hike to Rainbow Falls.

  • Croft State Park’s First Day offerings vary by activity, with mountain biking, trail running, horseback riding, and an easy hike in the mix.

  • Devils Fork will have an easy and a moderate hike and, for the very brave (or slightly loony), a “Loon Lunge” in Lake Jocassee.

  • Musgrove Mill State Historic Site offers an easy walk on the Battlefield Trail.

  • Oconee State Park’s easy 1-mile walk will have stops at various CCC buildings on the Old Waterwheel Trail, and there will be hot cocoa at the end.

  • At Paris Mountain, you can take the Polar Plunge if you’re feeling your inner polar bear, or opt for an easy, 1.5-mile walk on the Nature Trail.

  • Sadlers Creek offers an easy 1.5-mile walk on the Pine Grove Nature Trail.

  • At Table Rock State Park, you can choose an easy, 1.6-mile walk on the scenic Lake Pinnacle Trail or a challenging 7.2-mile hike on the Pinnacle Mountain Trail.

Once you’ve been bitten by the hiking bug, you may want to take the Pacolet Area Conservancy up on their hiking challenge. Dates and locations for the spring series will be announced in February, but past hikes have included Mountain Bridge Wilderness Trail, Oil Camp Creek Trail, Paris Mountain, and Ashmore Heritage Preserve, as well as locations in North Carolina. Mary Walter, executive director of PAC, says, “We are really fortunate to have so many beautiful trails in our area. It’s exciting to see so many families getting out, not only for the exercise but to learn about nature. It’s just really good for the soul.” Those who complete all of the hikes (usually 7 or 8) get a bumper sticker, but the real prize is the hikes themselves.

For family-friendly activity, the Rails-to-Trails paths are hard to beat. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is the area’s best-known trail: Starting in Travelers Rest and ending at Greenville Technical College, it’s nearly 20 miles of paved, flat trail that’s bicycle, pedestrian, (leashed) dog, wheelchair, and stroller friendly. Other Rail Trails include the moderately difficult, 2.5-mile Blue Ridge Railroad Historical Trail in Oconee County; the Doodle Rail Trail connecting Easley and Pickens; and several, including the Mary Black Rail Trail, in Spartanburg.

For around-town biking, bicycle rentals are available through the BCycle program in Spartanburg, from Reedy Rides in Greenville, and other locations throughout the state. For more serious road cycling, there are clubs in Spartanburg, Greenville, and Laurens. And if mountain biking is more your thing, there are great trails all over the Upstate—in Travelers Rest, Central, Clemson/Seneca, Marietta, Abbeville, Anderson, Greenwood, and more.

In Spartanburg, Partners for Active Living promotes a host of outdoor activities, and from March through October, they host Second Tuesday Trail Runs, led by executive director Ned Barrett, who says, “This is a really good way to get people to run on trails for the first time. The runs aren’t very long, people can’t get lost, and it’s for all experience levels.” The runs are free and introduce runners to a variety of trails that they may not have seen before.

Of course, simple walking is one of the best ways to get exercise, and most likely, it can be done right in your neighborhood. If you want company or shelter from the elements, though, check to see if your local shopping mall is open early for walkers. At the Haywood Mall in Greenville, for example, the doors open for mall walkers at 8:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday; one lap around the interior of both levels of the mall is roughly 1.5 miles. 

Photo credits: Banner, top right: Garroll Purvis; Center left: Pacolet Area Conservancy; Bottom right: Partners for Active Living

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina.