It’s the moment your foot hits the water and splashes through your shoe to your toes. When water sprays up your legs from your heels and your feet start to dance a little. When your hair sticks to your head and water splays off your nose.
These are the moments when you feel alive, and free from the already-forgotten stresses of the indoor world.
The rainy season is upon us, and it can be hard to muster the motivation to get outside. But you should: A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom shows that compared to indoor exercise, getting active outdoors reduces stress and is more revitalizing. Inside our homes and offices, heaters are cranking, noses are sniffling and vitamin D is lacking.
But as El Niño pummels the region with lots of water, we need extra enticement to head outside. Running can help push away those extra holiday pounds, but it also helps beat the blues. Endorphins, which are released in the body through exercise, act as a natural “drug” that make a person more energetic, awake and even happier. Because it takes more effort to work out in the rain, you consume more oxygen and burn more calories. And if that’s not enough incentive, rain brings out the smell of the pine trees, turns the hills green and smooths out the sand on the beach.
You’re probably wondering, how do you keep dry? A lightweight, waterproof jacket is key, then add in a thin pair of gloves and your favorite running shoes (don’t worry, they will dry good as new). A little water will feel good as your body temperature heats up mid-run.
Here’s a list of some of the area’s scenic places to stomp in the puddles. Lace up your kicks, zip up your jacket and let the mud fly as you take in some of the best scenery in Monterey County. Your newly freed self will thank you for it.
Jacks Peak Loop (Rhus, Madrone, and Earl Moser Trails) | 4.6 miles, 870-foot elevation gain
Park at the vista point on Jacks Peak Road and head up the road. At the entrance station, head right on Pine Trail to Jacks Peak parking area. Run down the Rhus Trail until it intersects with Madrone Trail. Head right on Madrone and meander through the woods to Earl Moser Trail. Breathe in the fresh pine scent as you run through a beautiful section of forest. Don’t miss the big view spot toward Carmel. When you reach the east parking area, you’ll want to run the Sage Trail for sweeping Carmel Valley vistas and continue your loop back to the road. Spend some time post-run stretching and enjoying the expansive views of the Monterey Bay.
Pacific Grove Rec Trail (Lovers Point to Asilomar and back) | 6 miles, 0 elevation gain
This is the time of year, when the fog is typically gone, to head to Pacific Grove for an exhilarating run along the ocean. (You might be tempted to save this one for a sunny day, but rain or shine, the scenery is awesome.) Park anywhere near Lovers Point and run along the trail toward Asilomar. There are options along the way for the ocean-hugging dirt trail, or you can choose to stay on the road to enjoy the flatter surface. However you proceed, the vast ocean scenery is enough to make you forget you’re even running. Never mind the typical headwind; it’ll be a tailwind and push you along as you make your return.
Monterey Beach (Monterey Tides Hotel to Wharf 2 and back) | 4 miles, 0 elevation gain
Take in the Bay scenery and some dolphin sightings with this out-and-back run. With the sand flattened by the rain, the footing is easier and the winter swell provides a nice soundtrack. Be sure to check the tides first, because this time of year has some beach-clearing high tides.
Laguna Seca Loop (Trail 47/48) | 4.1 miles, 607-foot elevation gain
You can find parking at the Bureau of Land Management trailhead at the Grand Prix Campground at Laguna Seca. This run starts by heading down trail 47 on rolling green hills with plenty of ups and downs. Trail 47 and 48 loop onto a piece of Skyline and Guidotti roads, where the top of the hill awards 360-degree views toward Salinas, Mount Toro and west toward the ocean.
Frog Pond Wetland Preserve (Frog Pond to behind Ryan Ranch and back) | 4.6 miles, 370-foot elevation gain
Look for the Frog Pond pullout on Canyon Del Rey Boulevard in Del Rey Oaks. There’s a tiny redwood grove, pond views and – yes! – the sound of frogs thanks to recent rains. The Frog Pond loop is three-quarters of a mile, so you might want to extend your run across General Jim Moore Boulevard to the trail that heads uphill and joins the fire road behind Ryan Ranch. Enjoy your puddle stomping next to coastal chaparral and some bay views on your return.