Southwest Metro's Best Places to Bike, Run and Swim
Before you commit yourself to some kind of grueling endurance regimen lets step back and remember: we repeat what we enjoy, so for your first foray into summer fitness pick an endurance option that you'll actually enjoy. Below are a few fitness venues in the southwest metro at various levels—hard, medium, and easy—to get you started.
Open Water Swimming (OWS) is difficult to find in the metro area. Generally, it’s illegal (and not the safest) to swim across a lake. However, there are several southwest area metro lakes that provide relatively long (100 yards-plus) venues within beach boundaries. Lake Ann in Chanhassen, Lake Riley in Eden Prairie, Christmas Lake in Excelsior are worth checking out. Most OWS'ers prefer lakes with minimal boat traffic, so “low wake” lakes are good options.
Okay, swimming in an area lake may not be much more difficult than a serious Master Class, but these kinds of categories are necessarily subjective. Let’s just say a swim in an area lake when the wind is blowing up waves makes a 4000-yard swim in a lake harder than the same total yardage doing 50-meter lap repeats in a pool. Lap swimming at the local beach, community center, private enterprise pool or a master’s class in a 50-meter venue. Many master classes are listed here.
Local recreation centers with swimming pools are a great place to start for children and adults. Check out the Chaska Community Center (chaskacommunitycenter.com) or Eden Prairie Community Center (edenprairie.org) for lessons and open swimming times.
Try Engler Blvd. W. in Chaska during the early summer season when the roads have dried out earlier than some of the trails and metro roads.
The county roads with smooth asphalt and wide shoulders and stop points 10 or so miles apart make for an interesting tour of the west metro, as well. The Belle Plaine Run from Miller Park in Eden Prairie to Emma Krumbees in Belle Plaine along County Road 40 is a 50-mile ride over rolling country roads, and a gooey treat from Emma Krumbees at the midway point can be good inspiration.
Also, the path circling Lake Minnetonka, the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail makes for a smooth trail ride and about a 30-mile circuit.
Shorter, but no less difficult, are the mile hill repeats of the Eden Prairie Road 2.5 mile loop (near Lions Tap) where the road flows down from the top of the Minnesota River bluff at a up to a 14 percent grade, which forces riders to get up out of the seat to actually get up the hill. It is recommended for riders to do this in a group, or at least in pairs, in order to enhance biker visibility to traffic. The reward? Hitting 40-plus miles per hour on the way back downhill and a post-ride burger and beer at Lions Tap restaurant.
Three Rivers Park District’s Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail winds like a dragon’s tail from the eastern edge of Chanhassen to Eden Prairie through Hopkins and off to the vast connecting network of the Twin Cities trail systems. A round trip from Eden Prairie’s Miller Park to the trail-side Depot Coffee House in Hopkins and back is approximatetly 16-miles of relatively flat trail.
Your neighborhood. Bring your bike in for a tune-up at one of the local bike shops, slap a helmet on your head and spend a minimum of 15-minutes pedaling around your local area a couple of times a week. You may find that that 15-minutes quickly expands into 30-plus minutes as you find your fitness and comfort level growing.
The “difficult” trail signs marking the steep hills at the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie are the first clue as to why this small area is a favorite of endurance athletes training for ultra marathons and snowshoe races. Nestled into the bluffs along the Minnesota River, providing beautiful vista views, this 2.5 loop includes several steep climbs and a surprising variety of pine and hardwood forests, as well as bluff fields. While steep, the paths are well marked and clear of ankle-twisting roots and rocks.
Longer distance training is available on the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail. Try the 10-mile round-trip of the out and back from Miller Park in Eden Prairie to the western end of the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT on the edge of Chaska.
The 2.3 mile loop around Staring Lake in Eden Prairie has a few slight hills, and at the southwest side of the lake there’s the opportunity to test your fitness on the winter slide hill to build strength.
The fact is that for any level of fitness both the most difficult and also easiest part of a run or fitness walk is the 10 feet out the door. After that, the first mile gets your body accustomed to movement, and by then you’re already pretty much committed to a 2-miles of cardio fitness. Not bad to start. Make it easy for yourself. Lay out your fitness kit the night before. And find a goal midpoint of the walk, a coffee shop or vista you want to take a look at, and get there. Enjoy yourself.
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