By Molly Donovan
Students at the University of Florida have access to two state-of-the-art gym facilities on campus. There’s workout classes, like kickboxing and Zumba. Fancy machines wait for people to tread on them, and shiny weights gleam, just waiting for frat guys to pick them up and put them down.
I don’t use any of it.
Ever since my dad made me go for runs with him in middle school, running has been my favorite way to exercise, hands down. I’m currently in the process of training for my first half-marathon, which is a huge deal for me. This summer, I ran all over Central Park. Back home in Panama City Beach, my dad and I run all over town and across the bright, white sand. But Gainesville actually has some incredible places and routes to run, whether you’re training for a race or just need to get away from the chemical smell of Southwest Rec for a while.
1.) Hawthorne Trail
You can’t really say you’ve lived in Gainesville unless you have visited Payne’s Prairie. Some people are outdoorsy and extremely passionate about hiking through it, but I am not one of those people. However, Hawthorne Trail passes right through Payne’s, so people like me who hate being in nature can enjoy it! The trail is 16 miles long, so this is a run you have to map out beforehand, lest you want to get lost and eaten by an alligator. But there’s parking, and lots to see, which always makes for a better run.
2.) Eighth Avenue
Eighth Avenue is close to my house, which is why I like it, but it also has streetlamps along most of the stretch and sidewalks, most of which are wide and shaded. The portion that runs parallel to University Avenue has scaled statues that represent all the planets at distances proportional to their actual distance apart in outer space. Neat!
3.) Loblolly Trail
Loblolly is your average nature trail. Lots of trees and greenery! It connects Eighth Avenue with 16th Avenue. It has plenty of shade, so if the only time you can run is in the heat of the afternoon, this is a great option.
4.) On Campus
While the campus gyms may not be my favorite place, don’t underestimate the novelty in running through the sidewalks of UF. Museum Road, for instance, stretches from 13th Street to Lake Alice, which is essentially the entire length of campus. You can see the Reitz Student Union, the bat houses, the frat houses and more! And there’s easy access to most classrooms; so if you need to stop in for office hours mid-run, that is definitely a possibility.
5.) Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Stadium workouts are killer — but oh-so good for you. However, I like to incorporate them into a run instead of driving to the Swamp just to zig-zag up and down the stairs. If you live a mile or two away in any direction from the stadium, which is open to the public during daylight hours most days, run to the stadium, run around the stadium (including up and down the stairs, that’s the point), and then run on home. Your legs will FEEL IT.
Those five are my favorite places to jog when I’m feeling the need to get moving. I’m feeling that need a lot these days, because I’m training for a half, so I also wanted to share the weekly training regime that I’ve been following to stay in shape. It could easily be altered to fit your own workout goals/needs, so have at it!
Monday: I have class and work all day, so this is usually an off day.
Tuesday: 4-mile evening run at marathon pace (10 min/mile). I usually run 8th Avenue on Tuesdays!
Wednesday: Early-morning circuit workout. I usually get up around 7:30 a.m. and do a series of squats, burpees, and abs in between running days.
Thursday: 4-mile evening interval run. I sprint first minute of the first mile, the minutes one and two of the second mile, and so on. Then the rest of the mile is a chill, light jog!
Friday: Off day
Saturday: Off day (It’s the freakin’ weekend, ok?)
Sunday: Long run. Usually try to go 6-8 miles, but will up that as I get closer to my race.
Running is good for the soul and way more fun than lifting weights. As the weather gets cooler, the time to start exploring the awesome trails and sidewalks of Gainesville is now!