Nature Called: Why One West Michigan Personal Trainer Took Her Business Outside

As a 15-year personal training veteran, Cari Draft is no stranger to gyms.

Still, a chance continuing education class about outdoor fitness in 2006 took her business to new places: beaches, playgrounds, bleachers, and trails for starters.

“I don’t ever want to knock the gym thing,” Draft said. “It’s just so much fun to explore a trail, breathe fresh air and experience all the sights and sounds that come from working out in nature.”

Draft started incorporating outdoor elements into the workouts of the clients who came to her for personal training. From there, she started leading classes on the Lake Michigan shore and it “exploded from there.”

Cari Draft
Cari Draft

Since forming EcoTrek Fitness in 2006, Draft has hired a small army of workout leaders and now offers outdoor classes in many West Michigan locations including Allendale, Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Traverse City.

Each 75-minute session integrates strength training, cardio and flexibility. Classes run all year long, even through the brutal cold and snow of Michigan winters.

Draft said EcoTrek classes can help people get back in touch with the natural beauty that surrounds them. Even people who don’t consider themselves “outdoorsy” would benefit from a class, she said.

“You don’t have to be an outdoor person to enjoy it and learn,” Draft explained.

The classes attract “really cool people” and Draft said the sessions are appropriate for all fitness levels. There isn’t a lot of running – Draft explains it more as “scampering” from location to location. Being with a group inspires a fun, safe atmosphere to get in a good workout, with the ultimate goal of having a good time and getting on the path to a healthy lifestyle.

“I especially emphasize it’s not about weight loss, it’s about your health,” Draft said.

Whether it’s using the Rosy Mound trail in Grand Haven, the natural features at Johnson Park in Grandville, or hitting a park in a more urban area, Draft said Michigan residents are blessed with an abundance of ways to get outside.

“We’re so lucky to have all this right here,” she said.

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Photos courtesy of Cari Draft

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