It’s the cruel irony of being a Seattleite: We’re within easy driving distance of some of the best outdoor recreation anywhere, but in the cold, rainy months of the year (oh, November to … May?), the idea of actually attempting a hike can be inertia-inducing at best and outright imprudent at worst. But staying inside confined to a treadmill as the news chyron on a muted TV scrolls past is hardly a worthy substitute.
Here are some ways to bring your favorite outdoor activities inside for those days in winter (and spring-but-not) when the permacloud descends and the gym won’t cut it.
Unless you’re already a committed mountaineer, rock climbing is one outdoor activity that’s actually much easier to do inside, with a wealth of options in Seattle. Stone Gardens, Vertical World and the REI Pinnacle Climbing Wall all offer climbing routes and classes for new and experienced climbers.
If you’re interested in bouldering — climbing without ropes or harnesses, on routes that stay relatively close to the ground — you can try it at Momentum Indoor Climbing in Sodo or Seattle Bouldering Project, which offers bouldering instruction and a number of routes varying in difficulty from beginner-friendly to “really really hard.” Stone Gardens also offers an introductory class on bouldering.
With a surprising number of hot tubs and saunas and a low price of admission ($6 for adults, $4.50 for seniors), Seattle’s public indoor pools are a thing of beauty, and supplementing your usual routine with swimming is a time-honored tradition for injured athletes and anyone seeking a comprehensive yet low-impact cardiovascular workout.
It’s also something you can do inside, and when it’s cold and dark, practicing your crawl in a heated indoor pool can feel like a pleasant mini vacation from real life. I can personally attest that the adult/senior swim from 9 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Evans Pool is a fun, convivial scene, and with adult and lap swims peppered throughout Seattle Parks and Recreation’s citywide pool schedule, you can usually find something that fits into your routine.
(Fair warning: If you’re a proficient swimmer and want to avoid bumping into people, don’t swim in the slow lane. I am not a great swimmer by any stretch and generally do fine in one of the center medium lanes.) For a full list of pools and lap swims, consult Seattle Parks and Rec’s All City Aquatics Schedule.
Running inside is easy — what is a treadmill but a pleasantly precise indoor speed workout waiting to happen? — but if you hit the gym all winter, odds are you’ll be pretty sick of that elliptical or treadmill by March, and bleak weather aside, it can feel good to actually run somewhere off the hamster wheel, even if it’s just in a circle. The indoor track is your friend — if you can manage to find one.
The University of Washington’s Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility isn’t open to the public during the school year, but North Seattle College’s Roy Flores Wellness Center has an indoor track that members of the public can use with the purchase of a $34 monthly membership ($100 per quarter). At only one-thirteenth of a mile long, this won’t be the spot for racking up mileage, but even a short indoor track is perfectly adequate for workouts like high-intensity intervals, where speed — not distance — is the goal.
If you haven’t tried it since Lynnwood Bowl & Skate was still Lynnwood Roll-A-Way, roller-skating is a fun, sweat-inducing, resolutely indoor activity, and there’s no reason you can’t get in your steps on a pair of quads at Southgate Roller Rink. Once the home of Rat City Roller Derby’s bouts before the league moved on to larger venues, the rink hosts both family-friendly and adults-only open skates, some featuring live music, instructions on skating basics and “skate-a-roake.”
Lynnwood Bowl & Skate offers similar programming alongside bowling and arcade games, and for a kid-friendly vibe, Seattle Parks & Recreation hosts a long-running Family Skate Night at Bitter Lake Community Center Annex every Friday evening.
You might think of ice-skating rinks as cute-but-temporary window dressings for erstwhile sports stadiums, but you can ice-skate long after those more seasonal iterations go away, and, in the doldrums of winter, ice rinks simulate an outdoor adventure we don’t much get in the Northwest, without needing any buy-in from the weather.
Shoreline’s Highland Ice Arena and Sno-King Ice Arenas in Kirkland and Renton all offer public skating sessions on a daily basis. If you’d like to do more than just master the art of circumnavigating the rink without the assistance of the wall, they also offer open stick-and-puck sessions for recreational hockey players of all ages, and figure skating lessons for children and adults — including adult beginners. It’s never too late to make your Kristi Yamaguchi-inspired dreams come true.
Just go outside
A huge part of living in Seattle is accepting that you’re going to have to go outside when you don’t want to. But exercising in terrible weather is underrated, and sometimes, cabin fever is a worse fate than getting hit with a few raindrops. Some of my favorite childhood soccer practices and track meets took place in torrential downpours, and nothing makes a runner feel more Rocky-esque than sloshing through puddles on an empty street.
Hiking in the rain is also not that big a deal. In fact, a rainy day might be the best time to visit Discovery Park — the weather will cut down on crowding, and the tree cover will keep you dry. Just wear something water-resistant, and don’t be a hero — a little rain is one thing, but thunder and lightening or dumping snow are quite another. Congratulate yourself on making it out, and enjoy our damp winter while you can. It has a beauty all its own.