We are a lazy, flabby nation, and global warming makes spending summer near an air conditioner more tempting than ever. But Cleveland boasts plenty of ways to fight couch-potato tendencies. And this list of ways to enjoy nature will jog your memory . . . Wait, jogging? Now there's an idea.
Running: You can hit the treadmill like a gerbil anytime. But it's summer, which means time to get outdoors, test your limits, and enjoy a little friendly competition. Consider entering one of the dozens of 5K, 10K, and marathon races held in various locations throughout Northeastern Ohio. Look for details at www.ohiorunner.com and www.hermescleveland.com.
Hiking: Your taxes help pay for the Cleveland Metroparks, so use them. The park system's 20,000 acres encompass hundreds of miles of hiking paths, each with unique views and terrain. Five physical-fitness trails feature workout stations along the way. To guide your steps, stop by one of the Metroparks' six nature centers or visit www.clemetparks.com. In addition to the Metroparks ring, outlying counties in Northern Ohio offer park systems, many of which include trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. Lorain County has Cascade and Elywood parks, while Summit County boasts 2.5 miles of trails around Adell Durbin Park and Arboretum. For maps and phone numbers, visit www.hikingohioparks.com.
Biking: When you visit the Metroparks, don't forget to bring your bike. The system includes more than 60 miles of paved pathways for biking and rollerblading. It's free, and it's impossible to get lost. Bring a picnic and make a day of it. For something a little more rugged, ride the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Plan your visit at 216-524-1497 or www.nps.gov/cuva.
Geocaching: Don't forget your GPS (global positioning system) unit, either. Geocaching -- the game/art of tracking down hidden items in remote locations using satellite directions -- is the perfect exercise for techies. Several caches are located within the Metroparks, with many more scattered throughout the remainder of Northeast Ohio. A list of treasures and clues can be found at www.geocaching.com. But be neighborly, and leave nature and the caches the way you found them.
Kayaking: Believe it or not, it's possible to kayak in our urban-suburban wilderness. Just contact the folks at 41 Degrees North (5305 Bridge Avenue), the region's preeminent kayaking program. Whether you're an expert or a beginner, they'll hook you up with the right equipment and lead you to all the best local waterways. Call 866-KAYAK-41 or go to www.kayak41north.com.
Scuba Diving: You might be surprised to learn that Cleveland also offers scuba diving. Now there's one way to beat the heat. If you're new to the sport, enroll in accelerated weekend or monthlong dive courses at one of the many area diving schools, including Adventures in Diving (14397 Pearl Road in Strongsville, 440-572-2005, www.adventuresindiving.com), Aqua Specialists (3359 Edgecliff Terrace, Cleveland, 216-252-4885, www.aquaspecialists.com), Buckeye Diving School (46 Warrensville Center Road, Bedford, 440-439-3677, www.buckeyedive.com), or Cleveland Scuba West (17025 Lorain Avenue, 216-476-3483).
Rowing: This is one of the most physically demanding water sports. It's not an activity for the fainthearted or weak-muscled -- or empty-pocketed. But it is a good way to make friends. If it interests you, talk to the folks at the Western Reserve Rowing Association, 1948 Carter Road in the Flats. They'll get you started in a summer rowing league. If you already have experience, they'll introduce you to longer, more demanding journeys. (216-621-WRRA, www.wrra.cc.)
Intramural Sports: No matter whether -- or how well -- you play football, soccer, softball, kickball, or beach volleyball, somewhere out there an amateur league has a spot with your name on it. Spring-season leagues typically end in June, so you're just in time to join one of the many summer teams. The resource is the same for all sports: Cleveland Plays, 216-632-0623 or www.clevelandplays.com.
Baseball: Everyone knows about the Indians, but Northeast Ohio is also home to two minor-league teams that play all summer: the Akron Aeros and the Lake County Captains. Just as many people prefer alternative music to pop, some find the minor-league experience, with its cheaper admission and concession prices and smaller crowds, more satisfying. Visit www.akronaeros.com or www.captainsbaseball.com and judge for yourself.
Indy-car racing: Watching an Indy-car race is not exactly active, but sitting in the bleachers is probably the most effective way to soak up the sun. Besides, this is a historic year; June 23-25, the Cleveland Grand Prix celebrates its 25th anniversary. The event takes place at Burke Lakefront Airport as usual, but this anniversary edition will feature special amenities and festival-oriented activities. Learn more and buy tickets at www.grandprixofcleveland.com.
R/C flight: Burn a few calories moving your thumbs as you learn to fly a remote-controlled plane. But before you run out and buy an aircraft, consider joining one of the many area R/C clubs. A list can be found at http://rcsource.hobbypeople.net. They'll give you the advice you need to take to the skies and tip you off to where you'll find the open spaces. The Cleveland Radio Control Club (www.clevelandrcclub.com) is a good place to begin, and it offers flight training every Tuesday night.