Getting Outdoors Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore!

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Did you know, nowadays, adults spend more time in their cars than outside? Between commutes to work, picking up and dropping off the kids, and driving to the grocery store, salon or doctor's office—it's not so hard to believe! When you have all these necessary trips to make, who really has time to go outside, just for the fun of it?

No matter what you like to do outside, getting there can seem like a chore at the bottom of a long to-do list. Yet as with any lifestyle change, it is possible to get out on the trail, under a tree with your favorite book or to the playground with your family.

Any exercise guide for beginners will tell you that forming the habit is the hardest, but the most important thing. That's because once you've fit something into your routine, it's hard to take it out. When you feel like your plate is already full, fitting on one more side dish—however good it might taste—might not be worth it.

Here's a solution: Instead of thinking of being outside like a spoonful of steamed broccoli, what if you thought of it as dessert?

Actor and Old Spice spokesperson Terry Crews once told Reddit users that, "If you want to go to the gym and stick with it, you have to treat your gym time like it's the spa." He urges people to start small, instead of hiring a personal trainer and being so sore the next day you never go back. "It doesn't matter what you do [at the gym]," Crews said during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). "You can have fun—but as long as you're having fun, you continue to do it."

Going outside doesn't mean you have to be exercising—but however you get your fresh air, it should feel good. If it doesn't feel good, you'll have a harder time forming a habit.

So, where do you start?

Zen Habits author Leo Babauta suggests to start by not starting—put it off, schedule your start date a week or two (or even a month) from now. This way, you anticipate making a positive change and get excited. By the time the big day comes, you'll be more than ready to get going.

And no matter what change you want to make in your life, experts will tell you to start small. Crews told his fans during his AMA to go the gym to read a magazine, and working up from there. Crews has built up to a two-hour workout every morning. Babauta suggests starting with two minutes, and writing down your goal somewhere you'll see it.

The good news: You don't even have to go to the gym to get active. There are myriad parks and trails in West Michigan, and chances are there is one close to you! Here are some easy-to-get-to suggested places.

Kent Trails

Kent Trails is a 15-mile, nonmotorized paved trail that travels through the cities of Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming and Byron Township. The trail follows abandoned railroad lines, surface streets and easements to provide a linear parkway stretching from John Ball Park and Millennium Park to Byron Center.

Lakeshore Trail

The Lakeshore Trail is Ottawa County's showpiece. The 20-mile paved bicycle path connects the communities of Grand Haven and Holland and allows you to travel from Grand Haven State Park to Holland State Park—two of Michigan's most popular beaches—on one continuous route.

Written by Kate Meyer and Emily Neier. Meyer is the Executive Director of the Kent County Parks Foundation, the nonprofit support organization that helps expand and enhance parks and trails in Kent County. She is a self-proclaimed "nature nerd" and loves inspiring people to get outdoors, regardless of their abilities or experience. Neier is a writer, geologist and nature blogger for the Kent County Parks Foundation.

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