An adventure challenge kick-starts a whole new approach to life 

Becoming an Outdoorswoman

On a recent Tuesday morning, a dolphin surfaced just behind me as I propelled my kayak through the warm creek waters near Folly Beach. As the sun rose over the marsh to the right, I battled my kayak, attempting to make the craft head straight where the other kayakers were going. The seven of us were enjoying this experience as part of the Outdoor Adventure Challenge, a five-week course offered by The Turning Leaf fitness studio in West Ashley.

Becoming an outdoorswoman has been a goal of mine since I started working behind a computer for hours on end. As a child I grew up on a river in New Jersey where we swam, canoed, fished, waded, and generally made the most of life on the water. I've been trying to get back to that kind of life ever since moving away at the age of 12. It's not been easy. The modern era is all about being stuck inside, sitting on your butt, and generally avoiding the inconveniences of the great outdoors. Or at least my modern era is.

Since moving to Charleston more than a decade ago, I've yearned to kayak the creeks near my neighborhood, considered surf lessons, and kicked around the idea of taking the Department of Natural Resources' Becoming an Outdoors-Woman course, which teaches women to shoot, hunt, and fish. Needless to say, I've done none of those things. But, because of The Turning Leaf, I've been able to start my quest to get back outdoors.

Harriott Parker and Darby Tucker teamed up in March to open their studio, and Parker hit on the idea for an outdoor adventure challenge. "It was a light bulb moment," she says. "It's the kind of course I would want to take. Each activity is fun and exciting. We want to get people pumped up and ready to go."

The five week, 10-class challenge focuses on fitness, but instead of a gym, attendees gather at different locations throughout the area. The first class met in Hampton Park to jog the trail and take the fitness challenge. Two days later, the group met at Folly Beach to ride Carolina Stepper bikes, which look like road-ready elliptical machines, followed by a quick run on the beach and a brisk swim in the ocean. The next week, we headed back to the beach to do some early morning yoga poses followed by another swim. My favorite week was when we kayaked on Tuesday and then on Thursday tackled the climbing wall at James Island County Park. The challenge finished up with a yoga/pilates detox class followed by a Carolina Stepper ride/run/swim final challenge on Folly Beach in the rain. Through it all, Parker was a princess of positivity, cheering us the whole way.

Now that I've finished the challenge, I feel ready to strike out on my own. I picked up a copy of the new Charleston Adventure Guide, a handy and free booklet that maps a variety of adventures for paddlers, hikers, bikers, and runners. It's the perfect companion for my new life as an outdoorswoman. OK, maybe I'm a little too optimistic, but now that I've reached the top of the climbing wall and finally know how to paddle a kayak straight ahead, I'm ready to head outside at a moment's notice.

The next Outdoor Adventure Challenge will begin Nov. 15. The price for the class is $175. For more information, contact The Turning Leaf. 815 Savannah Hwy. (843) 225-7148. theturningleaf.org

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