5 Outdoor Activities To Help You Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

5 Outdoor Activities To Help You Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Written by: Shannon Mahre. Shannon is a professional photographer, writer, coach, athlete mom and wife based in Washington state. She enjoys running ultra-trail marathons. Shannon, along with her husband Andy, own MADE (Mahre Athletic Development Experience) and teach adventure clinics, retreats, classes and events for the entire family.  Find Shannon on Instagram: @shannonmahre.


The lack of sunlight during these shorter winter days, combined with some pretty intimidating weather, can make it pretty easy to stay indoors.  Whether you are feeling stuck or in a rut, I'm here to encourage you to step outside the norm, dress for the weather and get outside.  Here are five outdoor activities that can help you say goodbye to your comfort zone and break free of the winter blahs.  

Train for a 1/2 Marathon

Okay, so maybe you’ve done a plethora of 5K races, and maybe you’ve even dabbled in some 10K races. But, if13.1 miles seems out of your reach, I’m here to tell you: it’s not.

As in almost every other aspect of our lives, 90% of what we do is mental, which means 10% is physical.  While it does take a good amount of training and proper nutrition to not only finish a 1/2 marathon, but get through finish line feeling great, your mind is what will get you through those 13.1 miles successfully. 

When I am training my clients to do their first 1/2 marathon, we first figure out where they are physically.  Are they walking or jogging most of their workouts or can they keep a steady jog or run going during longer distance runs on flat surfaces? Some of my clients walk/jog their first 1/2 marathon, with the goal to run as much as they possibly can, whereas other clients are focused on their speed and finishing times. Wherever you are within that mix, remember that we ALL have room for improvement, and we ALL are beginners at some point in our life. And, most importantly, we ALL are far more capable than we know.

My added advice? Sign up for a 1/2 marathon that’s in a fun town, where you can go shopping afterwards or maybe go on another adventure the day before — or even a race that is set on a trail you’ve always wanted to explore. Come race day, you’ll be stoked for a day of fun, and for putting your best into accomplishing your goal that you worked so hard for. It’s a win-win!

Smiling trail runner on an old pedestrain bridgeSmiling trail runner on an old pedestrain bridge
Image credit: @shannonmahre

One word: Ski

If you are one of many people that gets super bummed when winter arrives, I’m here to talk you off the ledge. Because whether you decide to learn to downhill ski or nordic ski this winter, you are guaranteed to have a great time.

As a ski coach, I am going to be honest when I tell you that it is more difficult to learn to downhill ski as an adult than it is to learn to nordic ski. But, if you are willing to put in the time to learn how to do it, I can promise you a lifetime of fun and adventure high up in the mountains with your friends and family. One major perk of downhill skiing is that you can take a chairlift to the top of the mountain and hills and then explore the ski area’s terrain and lodges. The amount of distance you can cover in a day downhill is quite amazing — especially after you get your ski legs under you.

Nordic skiing is done on trails that are usually groomed and/or maintained by a ski area or other organization. Most trails are fairly flat but there are usually some steeper sections that may give beginners a big of trouble.  Just like downhill skiing, nordic skiing is a killer workout and can take you to some beautiful locales. One other great thing about this type of skiing is
that many people can excel and improve quite quickly on the trails with practice and with some guidance from more advanced nordic skiers.

Mountain Biking as an Adult

I remember the first time that I road a real mountain bike on a trail that was actually made for mountain bikes. Not only was I completely floored by how much sheer and utter fun it was, but I also couldn’t get over how much the bikes had changed since the Huffy I rode as a kid. Mountain biking as an adult not only is a great way to get or stay fit, but it can also take you on some pretty amazing adventures — locally and even when you are on your next road trip.

Mountain biking can be quite intimidating to get into as an adult — the comment I hear most from my clients in my women’s clinics and lessons is that they are afraid of getting hurt. And what’s the best way to not get hurt? Learn the skills you need to improve mentally and physically in unison. Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps… that’s my motto. There’s no reason to go big or super fast right away.

Take the time to learn the skills to be mentally and physically ready to try new trails and to go improve your speed. Find a great coach in your area and try it out — you may just find your newest, greatest outdoor passion.

Two female mountain bikers on a ridge overlooking a desert landscapeTwo female mountain bikers on a ridge overlooking a desert landscape
Image credit: @shannonmahre

Set a Vert Goal… and Crush it!

Haven’t heard of this? It’s a fun one!

Whether you are a hiker, a runner, a biker or all three, you can get after this fun activity. Set a goal for yourself to see how many vertical feet you can walk, run and/or bike over a span of one, two or even six months. I promise that you’ll not only find yourself getting stoked about your workouts, but you’ll  find yourself on top of more mountains than ever — and on new trails that you may have never explored if you hadn’t started this goal.

Not sure you want to do it alone? Grab a friend or your partner (or even your kiddo) to get them to set and crush this goal with you. Added bonus? Add in your ski touring vertical as well!

Snowshoeing — for the hiker OR the runner

Some of you may know that snowshoeing is a great winter activity for hikers, but it can also be a great winter activity for runners too! Snow consistency and snow amount both also play a role in whether your snowshoeing adventure is going to be easy on the muscles or a real bum burner. 

When the snow starts to fall and hiking is your jam, check out what trails near you are groomed and/or are open for hiking in the winter. You can also add some intensity to your adventure by taking a route through untracked snow or snow that isn’t groomed. And if you are a runner that wants to up your game in the winter, I recommend grabbing some snowshoes that are designed for running. In the beginning, they may seem a little bit honky, but once you get used to it, I promise it will become second nature. There are even snowshoe running races out there that you can join. Pretty cool, huh?

Snowshoeing in a winter snowscape with a dogSnowshoeing in a winter snowscape with a dog
Image credit: @shannonmahre


No matter where you are at in your health and fitness journey, make sure that you keep it fun!

I love ALL the activities that I do as an athlete and coach, and they’ve become not only an outlet for me as a mom of two littles and a business owner, but also a huge part of our lives WITH our boys. We bike, ski, SUP, ride motos and hike together as a family… and my 5 year old even loves to trail run with me!

I strive to step out of my comfort zone by pushing myself and new goals for myself regularly — and my husband and I teach our boys the same way of life. Growth in these outdoor aspects of our lives help us grow in every other aspect of our lives as well — and the more we all continue to grow, to work together, to strive to be better, the more we will make our families and our communities even stronger.

About the Author: Shannon MahreAbout the Author: Shannon Mahre
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December 8, 2021