Getting off the couch to go hiking, running or biking can be daunting in the drizzly, cold winter.
One sprightly Ashland group called the Trinity Trekkers has found a foolproof regimen built around the pleasures of conversation, nature and friendship.
Ambling energetically along Ashland Creek on a Lithia Park trail, a dozen of the trekkers laugh, chat and break a mild sweat as they cover two miles. Exercise is a big part of the reason they're out here, but it's not the main reason.
"Camaraderie is the main motivation," says Becky Snow. "We all love to be outside, and the group is very important. We walk at our own pace, and the talk is always very interesting — about poetry, birds, wildflowers or how we found Ashland."
The trekkers add spice to their jaunts by finding beautiful and interesting spots. They hike every Wednesday at 9 a.m., and Maggie McCarthy, the group's "commando" and hike coordinator, emails the destination to group members every Tuesday evening, so it's always a pleasant surprise.
"We hike at Emigrant Lake, the Bear Creek Greenway, the Grizzly Peak trail, Mount Ashland and even out in Jacksonville," says McCarthy.
The group was created by members of Trinity Episcopal Church, but they welcome people of any age and from any church or no church at all, they say.
"It's a fun and healthy way to meet people," says Kori Calvert, a new resident of Ashland. "It's a lot of laughs — and laughing is good for the endorphins."
"It's not hard to get people out here on any given day," says McCarthy. "Unless it's pouring buckets, everyone shows up. The group itself is a strong motivator, definitely some positive peer pressure."
Group member Allan Miles agrees. "It's a pleasure. It's automatic. I don't have to agonize over it," says Miles. "It's one of the few parts of my life that is a positive routine, and it keeps me in shape ...
"And she always throws in some of this!" laughs Miles, as McCarthy, up at the front of the pack, cuts from the main trail and darts up a steep incline into the woods.
But do they groan? Not this group.
"As I age, I appreciate anything that gets me to exercise," says Allen Johnson.
"At this age, everyone is worried about their joints," agrees Lynn Brandy. "Moving them around makes me feel stronger, more alive. It gives me a physical sense of well-being; it's a great cardiovascular workout."