SWEAT IT OUT:Use the summer to get fit and healthy, without sacrificing your fun in the sun

It’s official, Lakers — summer is here.

The temperature is spiking, the humidity is rising and the beach is beckoning you away from your other responsibilities. Between the picturesque weather and (relative) abundance of free time, summer presents the perfect opportunity to start sweating it out and slimming down. Use our tips to help you get into your best summer shape, without it feeling like a chore.
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Embrace your inner child

Whether you don’t like to exercise or just don’t think you have the time, stepping away from the treadmill might be the key to success.

Tying your workout to traditional exercises like running or spinning can be intimidating for people who are new to working out. Instead, channel your inner kid and go play outside. Running around with friends or playing a pickup game of baseball can still burn plenty of calories and get your heart rate raised, but instead of feeling like an obligation, it’s just fun with friends.

For a low-impact workout, hit the pool or the beach with friends — just make sure to take a break from tanning to jump in the water. To add extra oomph to your fun in the sun, pack a volleyball — the uneven sand will help tone the muscles in your legs while your upper body works to get the ball over the net.

Approaching exercise like a game can also help alleviate the boredom that can come with repeating the same routine day in and day out, and playing with friends can help keep you accountable

Sign up for a fun run

Walk/runs are abundant across the state in the summer, and plenty of them are friendly to those who are beginning their fitness journeys.

If a traditional 5k doesn’t interest you, try one with a little something extra, like the Grand Rapids Color Run. Participants in the walk/run, which is scheduled for August 5, start out in white t-shirts and end the three-mile “color extravaganza” around the city looking like they’ve been doused with a rainbow.

Many 5ks also raise money for various diseases or local causes, which can be a great way to raise money and awareness for a cause dear to you while still getting your blood pumping. These charity runs are typically family-friendly and encourage walkers and even children to join in.

For the thrill-seekers (and physically fit), try out the newest trend in athletics with an adventure run. These courses tend to be longer and are definitely not for the weak, but those who cross the finish line can earn serious bragging rights! For the uninitiated, try the Rock the World 5k Obstacle Race in Grand Ledge, Mich. — about an hour outside of Allendale — on June 30. The race features obstacles fashioned after famous world landmarks on a course filled with dirt, grass, mud and water. After the race ends, there will be a live music festival to celebrate crossing the finish line.

For information on more adventure runs, visit www.trifind.com.

Eat local

Summer offers the perfect opportunity to eat fresh, local fruits and vegetables picked from area farms.

In addition to the abundance of farmers markets in the area — view the May 7 issue of the Lanthorn at www.lanthorn.com for information on the Fulton Street Farmers Market and others — take advantage of Grand Valley State University’s location in Michigan’s agricultural hub and visit a U-Pick farm.

Strawberries are currently in season and can be plucked straight from the plant at Cook’s Strawberries, located at 13353 60th Ave. in Coopersville. Days and picking hours may vary, so call 616-837-8764 before planning your trip.

Blueberry season is beginning as well, and there is no shortage of U-Pick blueberry farms throughout Kent and Ottawa counties. Want to preserve that fresh-out-of-the-ground goodness to use year-round? Rinse and freeze the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet for about an hour (or until frozen) before transferring to a freezer bag — if they last that long!

To view a directory of U-Pick farms in West Michigan, visit www.pickyourown.org/mimp.htm.