A roundup of the best outdoor fitness excursions the city has to offer.
By Misa Kobayashi
EASY WAY TO INNER PEACE
Yoga lovers will adore the mega sessions that take place on Parliament Hill during summer. Led by instructors from the athletic apparel store lululemon athletica, these fabulously fun (and free!) classes attract all fitness levels and are a great way to get some much-needed sunshine while enjoying the historic scenery on Parliament Hill. Gather your friends or family, or go it solo, and join the more than 200 people who participate each week. Try it out for yourself on Wednesdays from noon to 1pm (regular classes begin in June, though may start earlier depending on the weather, see www.lululemon.com/ottawa/rideaucentre for details).
REMARKABLE RUNNING ROUTES
One of the most popular places for walking, jogging, and biking is along the Rideau Canal. This man-made waterway is centrally located, offering up a route in the middle of the city that’s bordered by plenty of greenery. Check out the Rideau Canal Western Pathway and the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway. Both offer 8 kilometres of flat paved terrain that go into the downtown core. The former offers views of Queen Elizabeth Driveway and access to the National Arts Centre, while the latter runs along Colonel By Drive with access to Hartwell Locks and Mooney’s Bay Park and Beach. For more information see www.canadascapital.gc.ca/biking.
LIKE TO BIKE
Starting May 22, tons of people will hop on their bikes or strap on their rollerblades for Alcatel-Lucent Sunday Bikedays. This annual event takes place every Sunday until September and allows people to run, walk, blade, and bike without worrying about traffic, as more than 50 kilometres of scenic parkways are closed to cars for the morning. Popular routes include the Ottawa River Parkway (5.5 kilometres) and Rockcliffe Parkway (8.4 kilometres). This is just one way to experience Ottawa on wheels, but throughout the year you can also enjoy more than 220 kilometres of recreational pathways, as Ottawa is home to one of North America’s largest networks of cycling paths that link parks, gardens, museums, and other local attractions. If you didn’t bring your bike with you, check out RentABike (www.rentabike.ca) for downtown rentals.
TAKE A HIKE
Imagine this: sunlight drifting through tree branches, the crunch of brush underfoot, and a brook quietly babbling in the distance. This is the natural oasis awaiting you at Gatineau Park, located about 15 minutes from Parliament Hill. There are hundreds of kilometres of trails to explore here, complete with a clear blue lake and lookouts for snapping pictures. The park contains several trails of varying degrees of difficulty and lengths for everyone from the avid hiker to those looking for a more leisurely outing. For more information see www.gatineaupark.ca.
ROCK THE BOAT
Kayaking and canoeing are great workouts that can be a lot of fun when done in pairs. If the water calls to you, head out to Dows Lake when the season opens in late May. The pavilion offers hourly rentals at a reasonable cost for canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and more (www.dowslake.com). You can also enjoy the thrilling adventure (and challenging workout) of whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River. When the season kicks off in late May, check out OWL Rafting (www.owlrafting.com), which is located about two hours outside of the city.