The North Bay is nearly peerless when it comes to the pursuit of personal fitness. In fact, it’s hard to think of a location better suited to encompass every individual’s preferences for physical activity. From high-up mountains to the coast and bay and from outdoor adventures to an eclectic selection of indoor activities, classes and more—there’s something for everyone in the North Bay.
And there’s no better time than the present to set out and explore all these fitness fads in and along the central California coast. With the New Year barely passed and the will to follow through on 2023 resolutions still fresh, now is the perfect time to sample the North Bay’s awesome activities, to keep moving and keep those fitness resolutions.
Bicycling is a fantastic way to not only work out one’s body, but also to cut one’s carbon footprint and save money on gas and car maintenance in the meantime. And, in the North Bay, there are a wide variety of options when it comes to intensity and scenery. On one hand, there are clearly marked bicycling lanes in and around Marin, Napa and Sonoma, which make sharing the street with cars that much easier and safer. These are great for short commutes, grocery runs or simply working out on a largely flat and well-paved expanse of street.
Alternatively, the North Bay is absolutely packed with well-maintained bicycling paths that wind through, up and around the wildly wondrous wilderness of the central California coastline. There are also plenty of Bay Area bicycle nonprofits, including the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and North Bay BMX, as well as specialized bicycling parks and trails and, for those interested, stationary bicycling fitness classes too.
Classes and Fitness Courses
The North Bay is wonderfully diverse and offers an eclectic selection of fitness classes so varied, there’s bound to be something for everyone. Want to learn self-defense? The hardest part is choosing between krav maga, karate, MMA or jiu jitsu (to name only a few).
Those interested in learning to dance can pick between classic classes such as ballroom, salsa, tango, ballet, pointe, tap and jazz—or, for more unconventional dance classes, the North Bay also offers studios that teach aerial dancing, pole dancing, belly dancing and more. Yoga and pilates classes are commonplace in most cities across the central California coastline as well. In short, there is no shortage of interesting fitness classes in Marin, Napa and Sonoma.
Hiking and Backpacking
The Bay Area boasts all sorts of hiking trails, and those of all ages and fitness levels can easily find a path that suits their individual needs and desires. From the Point Reyes National Seashore and up the coast to Bodega Bay, nature enthusiasts have no problem finding new and exciting trails to explore along the central California coastline. The same can be said further inland, with well-maintained nature preserves and trails winding in and around the North Bay cities.
This close integration between the Bay’s infrastructure and nature is one of its most appealing features, allowing for quick hikes during a lunch break as much as days-long backpacking trips. One must be sure to respect the effort that has been put into maintaining the natural beauty of the North Bay by not littering and by obeying fire/camping ordinances. Poison oak soap may also be a wise investment.
Part of what makes the North Bay unique is the sheer number of horseback riding trails, lessons and opportunities available across all of its counties. And, as far as fitness goes, horseback riding is not only a workout, but can be fun as well.
In Marin, Five Brooks Ranch, Point Reyes Arabian Adventures, Morning Star Farm and the Marshall Hall Riding Academy offer a wide variety of horseback experiences. In Sonoma, options include (but are not limited to) Sonoma Valley Trail Rides, The Ranch at Lake Sonoma and Horse N Around Trail Rides. And, last but not least, Napa plays host to Valley Brook Equestrian Center and Napa Valley Trail Rides.
Kayaking, Swimming and Surfing
One of the most notable geographic aspects of the North Bay is the sheer amount of access to expansive bodies of water. Whether along the rugged California coastline, from the southern tip of Sausalito overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge to Pebble Beach at the northernmost reaches of Sonoma County, or in and around the bay itself—there are endless opportunities to get in, on and under the waves.
Kayak and canoe rentals are available across Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties, and Pacific Coast Surf Lessons is a great place to get started on a lifelong physically challenging hobby. Plus the water is a good place to pursue personal fitness.
Races and Runs
Running isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it should be left out of the comprehensive list of opportunities for fitness in the North Bay. After all, training for a 5k, a 10k, a marathon or a triathlon requires an intense amount of fitness and discipline, and there are plenty of opportunities, including the Napa to Sonoma half-marathon (a popular North Bay race) and the Marin Endurance Festival.
The landscape of the central California coast makes training for and running these races more of a treat than a torment for those who enjoy attaining that lauded “runner’s high.”
Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Rock climbing and bouldering have grown in popularity in recent years and have become a not-so-uncommon hobby for those with an adventurous approach toward personal physical fitness. Scaling rock walls is a great way to work out the entire body, from gripping with fingers and toes to maintaining balance with core strength and building up muscles in the arms and legs. The mental workout of rock climbing should not be ignored either, as it can be quite the conundrum to look at a wall and figure out, one vertical step at a time, where is best to take that next step.
Luckily, the North Bay offers both indoor and outdoor climbing options for the skilled and the newcomers alike. Vent 5 in Stinson Beach is a popular outdoor location, while Gravity Vault in San Rafael, Vertex Climbing Center in Santa Rosa and Rockzilla in Napa are excellent indoor locations.
Fitness doesn’t always have to look like fitness, and sometimes the best way to get a workout is to forget the part where it’s a workout. Instead of spending money on fitness classes or niche hobbies, some may find the most rewarding way to get active is to become active in the community.
Conservation Corps North Bay is always looking for volunteers to help maintain trails, clear debris and service the natural landscape of the North Bay. Volunteering with community gardens, clean-up efforts and philanthropic pursuits in general is a great way to get up, out of the house and moving in a way that rewards not only the body but the community as well.