I recently attended a Group Aquatics Instructor certification where I was introduced to the five dimensions of wellness:  occupational, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional.  Physical fitness was only one aspect of a wellness routine?  I was doing it all wrong!

Superset your warm up with Spirituality

For the purpose of this post I want to focus on the spiritual dimension.  No, I’m not about to get all religious on you.  Spirituality comes in many different forms, religion being one of them.  The National Wellness Institute states that the spiritual dimension “recognizes our search for meaning and purpose in human existence.”

I find that I am most in touch with my spiritual side when I am in nature.  I also get that spiritual feeling when I’m throwing a 130lb dumbbell into the sky whilst declined on a bench.  So, why not combine the two?  Below are four places within 20 minutes of Select Fitness.  Try warming up with a hike through the woods and then superset biceps and triceps on the way home!

1. House Mountain Natural Area, Knox County, TN

A smoke-filled sunrise greets the Crest Trail at the top of House Mountain.  Photo by Brian G. Hayes

House Mountain is right off of Rutledge Pike and offers an amazing view of the Unaka and Cumberland mountain ranges almost 30 miles away.  The trail starts with a steep 1 mile hike to the crest at 2,100 feet above sea level – the highest point in Knox County.

Once you reach the summit, the Crest Trail gives you the option of going another 0.6 miles to the West End Overlook or 0.7 miles to the East End Overlook.  The West End Overlook presents views of the Cumberland Mountains to the north, the Smoky Mountains to the south, and a glimpse of downtown Knoxville on the horizon. The views from the East End Overlook feature the Clinch Mountain range which runs northeast all the way into Southwest Virginia.

Go ahead and run from one End to the other to knock out your cardio, then practice Parkour during the decent.  There are plenty of boulders and rocks which offer many free running and gap jump opportunities.

2.  River Bluff Wildlife Area and High Ground Park, South Knoxville, TN

Overlooking the campus of the University of Tennessee, the Bluffs offers amazing views of the sunset and the colors of the changing seasons.  Photo by Brian G. Hayes.

I found this little gem while searching for a close place to view the sunset one day.  Park in the gravel lot at 1121 Cherokee Trail near High Ground Park then take the gravel trail that loops around to some of the best views of downtown Knoxville.  Climb a tree and watch miniature joggers run along the Greenway far below.  Then go for a jog yourself around this short loop with a few hills you can use to sprint.

When you’re done, head across the road to see an amazing restoration of a Civil War artillery site where you can still see formations in the earth created over 150 years ago by Union soldiers.  High Ground Park offers a self-guided tour that takes you back in time.  You’ll leave with a completely different respect for the city you just looked out across.

3.  Ijams, South Knoxville, TN

Any list with an outdoor theme wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t have Ijams Nature Center on it.  The number of people I talk to that have never heard of this amazing area still baffles me.  If you haven’t been there yet, stop reading.  Get in your car. Drive the 5 minutes across Henley  Street Bridge, and take the short, 1-mile hike to the top of Mead’s Quarry.  On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the way to Mount LeConte.

Ijams traces its history back to some early residents in the 1910’s.  Harry and Alice Yoe Ijams where popular bird and nature-lovers who were very active in Knoxville’s early outdoor culture.  Since then, the Ijams’ place has been a gathering point for birder and nature-lovers for more than a century.

Here is just a list of the many activities you can enjoy on this 300-acre urban wilderness: biking, paddle-boating, climbing, zip-lining, birding, and more!

4.  Melton Hill Lake Park, Hardin Valley, TN


‍Photo courtesy of www.outdoorknoxville.com

Melton Hill Park is a popular location for holiday events, fishing, boating, or just a day at the park.

Everyone I talk to about this place confuses it with somewhere else.  There are a few different places with Melton Hill in the name.  This one is hidden in the scenic suburbs of Hardin Valley along the Clinch River.  To get there, take the Hardin Valley exit off of the Pellissippi Parkway and head west for about 2 miles.  Right before the Food Lion, turn right onto Steele Road, then take your first left onto Sam Lee Road.  Stay straight onto Couch Mill Road then stay right onto Williams Bend Road which leads right into the park.

Melton Hill Park offers greenways to walk, run or bike through the woods as well as a sandy swimming area.  There’s also a fishing pier where bass like to hang out and wait for the next clumsy boat to drop their lunch.