Rise and Shine 

A non-runner's guide to early morning outdoor exercise

So there you are, grunting up a hill at the break of dawn, still half asleep and feeling like you're stuck in one of those dreams where no matter how hard you try to run, you never get anywhere. Then one of those truly obnoxious, enthusiastic morning runners passes you with a chipper greeting and is out of sight before you can even muster enough breath to form one word, much less an entire response. A couple days of that routine, and when the half-conscious decision must be made between the snooze button and the running sneakers, you find yourself swearing to exercise even in the heat of the late afternoon if only it means an extra hour of sleep.

Personally, I prefer a balanced morning diet of a well-used snooze button and a giant pot of strong coffee, but I was also, unfortunately, indoctrinated as a teenager into the tortuously gratifying world of early morning exercise (thanks to an overzealous cross-country coach who insisted on 6 a.m. team runs during summer vacation) and the sense of moral accomplishment that permeates the day born from a good sweat. Truly, when my alarm goes off for the first time each morning (yes, the first time), it's a proper fist fight between the wanton steed of my soul and its more virtuous counterpart over how the first hour of my day will begin: in a haze of snoozes or drenched in sweat.

Sometimes even I'm amazed that I manage to drag my sorry self out to pound dirt before the coffee machine has offered its daily blessings because, let's be honest, even for the well-intentioned, running can be boring (and especially disliked when it requires prematurely vacating bed). So I put on my thinking cap—and in some cases, my workout shoes—to suss out several more interesting, outdoor pre-work workouts.

Take a Hike

Boise's foothills are littered with virtually people-free trails. For something relatively easy with plenty of forks in the road, check out the trails behind Camel's Back Park at the end of Ninth Street. They're well trodden paths throughout the day but have minimal traffic in the mornings, and because they do weave a complex web, no one knows exactly how far you've gone before almost passing out. If you're more interested in spiking your heart rate faster than that plate of chicken fried steak and eggs with country can spike your cholesterol, hike Table Rock instead. The in-shape hiker can get up and down in just over an hour, but be prepared for an audience because a crowd of early morning risers tackle Table Rock. For a map of trails in the Boise foothills, visit www.ridgetorivers.org.

Go Green

In taking advantage of Boise's greatest assets in the morning, one must not neglect the Greenbelt. The riverside paths provide numerous scenic, shady places to stop, catch your breath, and, if necessary, hide from passersby as you fend off an attack of near-vomiting induced by physical overexertion experienced during a hangover or after prolonged periods of morning inactivity. Walk it. Bike it. Blade it. Run it, if you must. For a map of the Greenbelt and safety advice, visit www.cityofboise.org/parks.

Skinny Dip

Or don't, actually. How about just take a dip—clothed in appropriate swimming attire—in Quinn's Pond (a.k.a. Clocktower Pond). Not recommended for a beginning swimmer (or anyone harboring doubts that the Loch Ness Monster is just an urban legend), Quinn's is serious business for swimmers. If you're more of a sinker than a swimmer but itching to get in the water for an early morning workout nonetheless, rent a kayak from Idaho River Sports (3100 W. Pleasanton Ave., 208-336-4844). Unlike swimming Quinn's Pond, kayaking the pond is for beginners, and IRS will even send out accompanying safety boaters for the inexperienced. Saturday through Monday, IRS opens at 8 a.m. and Tuesday through Friday at 9 a.m. Kayak rental rates start at $10 for the first hour and $5 each additional hour.

Love It

Find a partner, pick the most ideal location and get your love on. In tennis, that is. Boise Parks and Recreation has 24 parks with tennis courts, all of which are free for public use. Reservations are not needed unless you're planning to host a Sunrise Open, in which case a quick call to Parks and Rec for permission will suffice. But then again, a game of tennis does require two people, and since not everyone is fortunate enough to have an early morning love partner ...

Throw it

Ann Morrison Park has 18 holes of disc golf for your arm workout (not to mention you have to walk the course unlike those proper golf-playing sissies with their carts). Because disc golfers tend to be a social bunch with approved gathering times set much later than dawn, the sunrise disc golfer will most likely be singularly ambitious, and therefore will likely not share the course with anyone at all. For more information on where to find a tennis court, or for a map and etiquette rules of disc golf, visit www.cityofboise.org/parks.

Golf it

And if disc golf is just water to your wine in so far as golf is concerned, get your clubs and get splicing. Or maybe you're just that bad and early morning people-free practice is just what your drive needs in order to get somewhere. Whatever the case, Divotz Discount Golf and Range (11350 W. Franklin Rd., 208-323-1135) offers early bird hitting from sunrise to 10 a.m.

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