We’ve all heard about the benefits of exercise since middle school gym class. But let’s be real: it can be hard to drag yourself to the gym after a busy day of classes, work and every other daily obligation. Not to mention, gym memberships can be expensive, and the idea of getting sweaty in a cramped room with a bunch of strangers doesn’t appeal to everyone. But even if you skip the gym, getting any form of physical activity can be a much-needed reprieve from spending hours hunched over your computer (especially if it gets you outside). The good news is that there are lots of creative and free ways to be active around East Lansing.
1. Lansing River Trail
We’ve sung the lyrics “on the banks of the Red Cedar” and passed it on the way to class so many times that we often forget to appreciate the beauty of the river and all of the benefits that come with it. One of the best parts of living by the Red Cedar is the river trail, which runs along the water for over 20 miles—perfect for a long bike ride on a crisp fall day. Bonus: take the trail all the way to downtown Lansing and fuel up at a local restaurant before heading back.
2. MSU Tennis Courts
It’s no secret that MSU is a big sports school. But while the football team may be the main focus this time of year, it’s not the only sport that students can get involved with. The MSU outdoor tennis courts, located south of campus, off of Wilson Road, are open to the public whenever they’re not in use by the MSU tennis teams. Your tennis skills may not be D1 material, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fun afternoon on one of the 20 outdoor courts.
3. IM Centers
It’s an unfortunate fact that the IM gyms require a paid membership. However, there are options within the buildings that are open to students and are arguably more fun than just running on a treadmill. The indoor pools are free to use, as are the basketball courts. Whether you bring a group of friends for a game of 3 on 3 or a pair of goggles to swim some laps, the IM centers are a good option for indoor exercise that’s still fun. Bonus: head to IM Circle, and relax in the locker room sauna after your workout.
4. Volleyball Courts
You know those volleyball nets that are literally all over campus, but hardly ever being used? It’s time to take advantage of them. Grab a group of friends and a volleyball, or check one out from the front desk of a residence hall, and who knows? Maybe you’ll even inspire your neighbors to join in on the fun.
5. Residence Hall Exercise Classes
This was one of my favorite options for working out when I lived on campus, and I wish I’d taken advantage of it more. Each of the neighborhoods on campus offer different, free exercise classes in the dorms themselves. There’s a variety of fun options, like yoga and Zumba, that are perfect to shake up any boring workout routine. If you live on campus, it’s a super convenient way to exercise without even leaving the building.
6. Sanford Natural Area
Though East Lansing is lucky to have lots of trees and grassy courtyards, it’s still a city, so enjoying even a little more nature can be refreshing. Tucked away on the east side of campus, Sanford Natural Area is a small wooded reserve surrounding a short section of the river trail. It’s perfect for an afternoon walk with a friend, or as a nice change of scenery on a run through campus.
7. Off-Campus Parks
If you’re feeling more adventurous, take a trip to one of the many parks around East Lansing that boast beautiful woods and well-kept trails. For those who want a little distance from campus, Lake Lansing Park North and Fenner Nature Center are both great options within easy driving distance. For a closer choice, my personal favorite is Abbott Road Park, only a couple miles north of campus. The trails are perfect for running, biking or even, for a real throwback to childhood, rollerblading. Bonus: pick a sunny day, and you’ll definitely pass lots of cute dogs that will make even running bearable.
Katherine Stark is a senior studying Professional Writing and Spanish. Outside of class, she’s usually busy managing the Red Cedar Review or writing things for other assorted campus departments. In her free time, she enjoys both cooking and running, hobbies which she finds complement each other very well. Follow her on Instagram @stark.katherine and it will definitely not spam your feed, as she rarely remembers to post.