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A Walk with Nature

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A Walk with Nature

Monica Cannaley’s Journey On the Trail to Fitness

Most of us have pretty active lives. We are constantly searching for ways to find more time to fit in all we want to accomplish, and that may mean cutting out something we really enjoy. What if there was a way to team up an exercise routine with a bit of nature “along the way?” Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation’s On the Trail to Fitness class was developed to get people moving and enjoying the outdoors in a way that combines walking and fitness exercises.  

Monica Cannaley has been a weekly participant in the class since 2014. She quickly professes she has never enjoyed exercising in a gym setting and was searching for a class or activity that combined the two things she loves most: Walking and the outdoors. When she ran across the On the Trail class description in the Program Guide, she was sold.  

“I love the way we keep things moving and use what is in nature to build upper and lower body strength which is incorporated into every class. Sometimes we are using fences, benches, stones to step up on or we use them for pushups,” shares Cannaley. “I’ve met some great friends during the walks as well and that just completes the mind/body/spirit connection for me.” 

The class, led for the past seven years by personal trainer Kim Ryan, consists of a brief warm-up, a two-and-a-half to three-mile walk with strength exercises along the way, and a cool-down stretch at the end of the hike“I like to change it up and keep it interesting by using resistance tubes that walkers will use to incorporate strength exercises using whatever we can find in nature as support, have them walk in pairs and then shift lanes forward or backward, or even use some memory exercises along the way to see if folks can remember signs or specific landmarks they have passed,” says Ryan.  

Ryan shares that studies have shown as little as 20 minutes outside can elevate a person’s mood significantly. This backs up Cannaley’s feeling that she is strengthening both her mind and her body while nature hiking. ThOn the Trail to Fitness class meets weekly from April to October.  It’s a great workout option and a great way to see the beauty of the parks at the same time. You might even see a deer, a Blue Herron or some noisy frogs along the way.  

“It is amazing to watch the connections that are made during our hikes,” says Ryan. “Not only the connections with nature but with each other. It is really an opportunity to spark all of the senses at one time and I know many of the walkers have continued to connect outside of our hikes.  

That is certainly the case for Cannaley. The class was a jumpingoff point for her to continue walking even through the winter months. “Winter is my absolute favorite time of year and I got a group of us from the class to continue our weekly walks even throughout the winter months. We are out there walking if the temperature is over 20 degrees no matter what. Otherwise, we are walking on the indoor track. But, we are always walking,” shares Cannaley 

She spent over 35 years working in the energy efficiency field and now cares and serves as an advocate and voice for her 90-year-old mother and adult son who has a developmental disability. The time she spends outside walking is a form of personal care for herself which is a must for any caregiver. Cannaley does readily admit that she isn’t very much of a morning person but with her current busy caregiving schedule, she likes to know she has her workout planned. “I need to put something on my calendar and that motivates me to get out there and get going,” says Cannaley.   

For a person who isn’t a big fan of exercise in general, this combo class has given her the opportunity to stay motivated and get moving with the added benefit of being outside in the beauty of nature. “Not only do I get to watch everything growing and blossoming in nature during our weekly journeys — I’ve done some growing myself and brought a friend or two along with me for the long walk.” 


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