Person falling off a paddleboard into the water

Goal setting for 2019: how to make this your most active year yet

Ooooh, a fresh new year. It’s 365 days of pure potential. Judging by the fact that you’re reading this, you’re keen to set a few goals around activity – and you’re not alone. The recent Pulse Report by Participaction says that about 87% of Canadians agree that people know they need to be more physically active.

To get you started, here are 13 creative ways to get outside and be more active in 2019. Can’t decide? Use the random outdoor activity generator at the bottom to let fate determine what you should try next:

1. Play the numbers game

Person checking their phone and wearing a fitness tracker

Apps, activity trackers and smartwatches make it simple and satisfying to crush goals. But according to Stats Canada, only 18% of Canadian adults actually do the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week. Use a tracker to learn your baseline and set realistic goals.

Tracking your progress is thrilling and appeals to your competitive spirit – I’ve walked around the block at 10pm (in my cozy housepants, nonetheless) to knock off the final 400 steps of my daily step goal.

Ways to make it happen:

2. Do a 3 x free challenge

Three people doing yoga outdoors

Free – or very cheap – fitness options are out there. Make it a personal challenge to try out three new budget-friendly options in the first three months of 2019. Many gyms offer a free trial class for newbies, free meet-ups happen in every city, and community centres often have affordable programs.

Ways to make it happen:

  • YouTube is a gold mine for free fitness videos. Tip: If you live in an apartment or have sleeping kids/partners/roommates nearby, search for “quiet workouts,” “low-impact workouts” or “apartment-friendly workouts.”
  • Join one of the free MEC run crews across Canada.
  • Look into groups in your city. For example, Mat Collective does yoga classes by donation in Vancouver, and the November Project is a whole movement built around free fitness.

3. Start your year outside

Kids snowshoeing

Create a new tradition and spend the first day of the year outside. Go snowshoeing, head out on a winter run, throw snowballs for the dog – anything goes, as long as it’s in fresh air. It’s a nice way to shake off any of the midnight celebrations from the night before, too.

Ways to make it happen:

  • If you’re in Toronto, join Parkbus for ActiveDays on January 1. Check out their First Day Hike in Ontario.
  • Gear rentals are a great option if you don’t have gear but want to try something new.

4. Start le Tour de Living Room

Four-foot-deep snowbanks aren’t the best weather for cycling – unless you’re on an indoor bike trainer. Today’s trainers let you sweat through winter, simulate different terrain and integrate with Zwift to let you virtually ride with friends.

Ways to make it happen:

5. Treat yo’ self

Person melting brie cheese over a campstove

Whether you’re into chocolate fondue or pad thai, a treat at the end of an outdoor activity is an excellent motivator. Plan a walking, hiking, snowshoeing or biking day that ends with a fancy picnic. Get a little decadent and leave the PB&J behind.

Ways to make it happen:

6. Sign up for a year of start lines

People running in an MEC race series

You could sign up for a race… or you could sign up for a whole race series. The MEC Race Series value pack is guaranteed to keep your motivation going all year, and it’s a deal you can only snag until the end of January 2019. Choose from beginner-friendly 5K routes, gnarly trail runs and lots of distance options, all for as little as $15 a race.

Ways to make it happen:

7. Go on a microadventure

Microadventures are genius. The premise is a mini-adventure close to home, often with an overnight element. They can be as simple as finding a new spot to pick blackberries, or they can involve a bit more planning, like a mid-week campout.

Ways to make it happen:

  • Find a new place on Google Maps that you’ve never explored, then go there.
  • No car? Parkbus is your ticket to visiting parks from cities across Canada.
  • Need help? Research meet-ups or clubs near you to find groups like Camping with Strangers (Ontario) or Plein Air Intercultural (Quebec).

8. Go on a mega-adventure

Hiker sitting at the view at Machu Picchu

Make 2019 the year to tick something big off your bucket list. Active vacations are way more memorable than lounging on a beach for a week. If you don’t like dealing with logistics, then look into organized trips and let experts deal with the details.

Ways to make it happen:

  • Get inspired by Azzah’s story in Facing Sunrise, part of the MEC documentary series.
  • Sign up for a small group adventure tour to somewhere new. They’re fantastic for solo travellers.
  • Check out trips organized by groups like The Lady Alliance or Les Chèvres de Montagne (Quebec).

9. Learn a new outdoor skill

Always wanted to know how to use a compass? How about fixing a flat tire or tying cool knots? Make 2019 the year you learn a new outdoor skill.

Ways to make it happen:

10. Make an outdoor calendar

Take an outdoor photo once a month, then use those photos to make a custom calendar at the end of the year. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget all the stuff you managed to pack into 12 months.

Ways to make it happen:

  • Sketch out rough ideas for each month’s photo activity now. You don’t need to have it all figured out, unless you’re a major planner (guilty as charged), but you’ll want to make sure you have something queued up for January at least.
  • Invite friends or family along for your monthly photo opp. If you have kids, get them involved to see where they want to go (and you’ll have photos of how much they change over the year).

11.  Have an active birthday party

People having fun on a rock climbing wall indoors

At some point this year, it’s going to be your day. Start the tradition of having an active birthday in 2019. Add party hats to bike helmets for a group ride, go snowshoeing with lights on your backpack, or get everyone to meet up at the indoor climbing gym.

Ways to make it happen:

  • Choose what you want to do, then tell your friends or family. Hey – it’s your day, so they kind of have to go along with it.
  • Battery-powered twinkly lights and sparklers make everything more festive.
  • Plan a Leave No Trace clean-up strategy for any outdoor celebration.

11. Combine fresh air with warm fuzzies

Think about what you could do for someone else to make the outdoors a better place. Community groups are always looking for volunteers, often for projects where you’ll be physically active outside.

Ways to make it happen:

  • Invite a friend along for a hike or walk, and pick up any trash you see along the way (a.k.a. “plogging”).
  • Help at a stream clean-up day, volunteer at a local race, or dig into a local trail maintenance day. Check with groups like the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (North Vancouver), Spin Sisters (Calgary) or DirtGirls Mountain Bike Club (Edmonton) for trail days.
  • Sign up to walk dogs at the local shelter.

13. Be bad at something (it’s fun)

Person in the water near a paddleboard

Try out a brand-new activity with a friend. Yes, you’ll likely be nervous, but it’s a glorious life moment where you have full permission to be horrible at something.

That’s right: you don’t have to be good at something to have fun. “I recently tried paddleboarding,” said MEC staffer Sonia, “and I loved it, even though I ended up in the water half the time.”

Ways to make it happen:

  • Don’t think too hard about what to try. You might love it, you might not – but this isn’t about finding your next big passion, it’s about experimenting.
  • Ask friends or co-workers for some of their favourite activities, or pop some ideas into hat and draw one out.

Stumped? Use this random outdoor activity generator

Ugh. Sometimes making decisions is hard. Use the two-step chart below to figure out what activity to try next:

1. Find the first letter of your name for the activity to do:

  • A: Go indoor climbing
  • B: Check out a park you’ve never been to before
  • C: Go for a walk and don’t stop until you meet 5 friendly dogs
  • D: Hike on a new trail
  • E: Reserve a campsite now (or mark your calendar to do it when reservation dates open)
  • F: Try cross-country skiing
  • G: Commit to a year of races and save a few bucks along the way
  • H: Go for a walk under the Supermoon on January 21
  • I: Sign up for an activity you’ve never, ever tried before
  • J: Toss around a flying disc
  • K: Sign up for a bike workshop
  • L: Find the closest water and dunk in it
  • M: Go snowshoeing
  • N: Go plogging
  • O: Stop what you’re doing and stretch right now, then sign up for a yoga class
  • P: Volunteer at a race
  • Q: Spell out your name on a map using Strava
  • R: Plan an active vacation
  • S: Walk to an ice cream shop (your freezer doesn’t count)
  • T: Plan an overnight trip
  • U: Make a campfire
  • V: Have a picnic this month, even if there’s snow on the ground (pro tip: hut booties)
  • W: Make a date to go paddleboarding on the first day of summer
  • X: Go canoeing or kayaking
  • Y: Have a car-free microadventure
  • Z: Go for a trek to find the ultimate hammock set-up spot

2. Then, find your birth month to see how to jazz it up:

  • January: … and toast with champagne at sunset outside
  • February: … with your favourite person
  • March: … and take a selfie (okay, a few selfies)
  • Apr: … and brainstorm your next activity
  • May: … then make coffee outside
  • Jun: … and look for a geocache
  • Jul: … and bring 3 kinds of snacks you’ve never tried before (I recommend vegan jerky)
  • Aug: … then learn a new knot
  • Sep: … with a co-worker
  • Oct: … with someone younger than you
  • Nov: … with someone older than you
  • Dec: For real. Do it.

Cheers to 2019 and a fresh start!

Karen Benson

Editor, trail runner, nature nerd. Lauded for leading cheer squads everywhere, she’s also an outspoken advocate for eating burritos daily.