Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, walking for fitness has become even more popular than it was before. Walking for even 30 minutes per day can fulfill your average exercise needs, which has encouraged millions of people to take to their neighborhood streets and trails to improve their physical and mental health.
Luckily, Sarasota has plenty of excellent walking destinations. From our beaches to our parks and communities, here are some of the best places to walk, plus tips to up your walking game.
The John Ringling Bridge and Causeway
This walk is about 2.5 miles each way, with the most elevation in town. The scenery never gets old—you can see Sarasota Bay, St. Armands Circle, boats traveling under the bridge and on a clear day, the sparkling Gulf of Mexico in the distance. If you want to spice up your routine, try Nordic walking—a style developed in Finland to train cross-country skiers in which you hold two special walking poles with rubber tips. You'll engage your arms and core muscles while burning 22 percent more calories and consuming 23 percent more oxygen, according to one study.
The Legacy Trail
This 18.5-mile trail connects Sarasota to Venice and is the perfect place to practice your hiking skills. The trail follows a former portion of the Seminole Gulf Railway corridor, from the historic Venice Train Depot to Fruitville Road. There are stops where you can rest, stretch or break out some resistance exercises.
To do that, bring along a weighted backpack or weighted fanny pack to add some intensity to the walk. Try backpacks that weigh up to 15 pounds, with belts that secure around the waist. Bring along a bottle of water, some snacks and some resistance bands to put around your legs for a series of 10 squats two times.
Create a scavenger hunt for yourself by walking in a neighborhood that has a lot to offer. Gillespie Park has a walking trail near a pond where you can spot turtles and ducks, and there's a butterfly garden where you can check seeing beautiful flowers and monarchs off your bucket list. Let your dog join in the scavenger hunt at the fenced dog park or take a walking house tour, where you'll see pretty historic and renovated homes.
White Eagle Boulevard in Lakewood Ranch
This main road runs through several residential neighborhoods in Lakewood Ranch and leads to a few different parks with trails: Bob Gardner Park, Roger Hill Park and James L. Patton Park. The walk is straightforward, allowing you to focus on phone calls while you walk, schedule your day or listen to music or a podcast. If you live in Lakewood Ranch, multi-task by walking to Publix, nearby elementary and middle schools and The Green at Lakewood Ranch, which offers a variety of dining options.
Nathan Benderson Park
Add high intensity interval training to your walking routine at Nathan Benderson Park. The 3.5-mile loop trail around the lake has plenty of open, grassy space on either side to stop and do a series of pushups, squats, jumping jacks and other bursts of exercise.
You can also try what The New York Times has found is called fartlek, which Swedish for "speed play." It is a type of interval training that involves a series of high-intensity bursts with recovery periods in between. No fitness tracker needed—just start with a light jog or brisk walk and slow down when you feel ready.