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Staying Active in Winter: Indoor & Outdoor Fitness Options at UIUC

Posted November 28, 2023
Girls playing volleyball in gym

UIUC is as bustling in the winter as in the spring and summer, with tons of indoor and outdoor activities to keep you fit, healthy, and exercised before and after all that holiday food. From intramural sports to state parks and trails close to campus, there is no excuse to stay in your dorm room all winter!  

Check out this list of the best activities, classes, and clubs to join at UIUC to keep yourself entertained and active in the winter. 

Intramurals and Athletic Opportunities 

 UIUC has a vibrant athletic community – The Fighting Illini are the university’s athletic teams, competing in the NCAA Division I in 21 different sports. The Fighting Illini have a long and proud history of athletic excellence, with numerous conference and national championships to their name. Students can attend games and matches for free or at a discounted rate if they enjoy being a spectator. There are numerous opportunities to get involved with the athletic community as a fan or participant – 

Intramural Sports At UIUC

One of the most popular athletic opportunities at UIUC is intramural sports. Intramural sports are recreational sports leagues that are open to all students, regardless of their skill level. There are over 40 different intramural sports leagues at UIUC, including basketball, volleyball, flag football, and ultimate frisbee. Intramural sports are a great way for students to stay active, meet new people, and have fun.

Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP) At UIUC

Another exciting athletic opportunity at UIUC is the Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP). The OAP offers various outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking, and skiing. The OAP provides equipment, guides, and instruction for all activities, so students don’t need any prior experience to participate. The OAP is a great way for students to explore the natural beauty of Illinois and develop their outdoor skills. There are fewer classes in the winter due to the weather, but there are still many that you can take to hone your outdoor skills and stay active during the colder months. 

U of I Ice Arena 

Right on your own turf, the U of I ice rink is an awesome spot to spend any night of the week and get some exercise while having fun. They host a plethora of events like open- skating time and hockey games! The area is a “55,000-square-foot facility and is the only one in Champaign-Urbana. The rink dimensions are 192′ by 115′ with a 1,200-seat arena surrounding. There are four public locker rooms, four party areas, and two Zambonis in the facility”. Get yourself out of the house and trade in your sneakers or boots for some skates. You don’t even have to go out in the cold! Check out the event calendar here

Crystal Lake Park 

Crystal Lake Park is just a short drive from campus and offers a much-welcomed distraction with its dense forests and scenic views. The park also hosts many fitness classes and activities, including adult volleyball leagues, fishing, yoga, golf, tennis, and pickleball. If that’s not your speed, stop by Crystal Lake just to walk the grounds, breathe in some fresh air, and enjoy what nature offers.  

This park is full of wonders, and says that there are also “playgrounds, picnic areas, and a unique landscaped brick labyrinth that is a challenge to work your way through. Interpretive information about the surrounding landscapes is scattered throughout the entire park.” 

Homer Lake Forest

If you’re looking for a scenic walk or hike with a waterfront view, Homer Lake Forest is the place for you. They have trails to walk and hike but there are so much more. Some of their many activities that can entertain all day are: 

  • “Approximately 10 miles of trails. There’s a little something for everyone!
  • Lake to fish
  • Picnic tables, grills, and rentable pavilions
  • Playground and other recreational areas
  • Educational Homer Lake Interpretive Center, free admission.”

With all these activities, Busey Woods is a popular place to spend some time in the great outdoors. 

Busey Woods

If you’re looking for a nice leisurely walk and not an intense hike, look no further than Busey Woods. With lots of different trails, they are known for their mild walking trails and their forestry scenery. It is an incredibly peaceful place for all skill levels to come and enjoy nature, even during the colder months. 

The woods are described as a “59-acre bottomland Oak-Hickory forest. It is located at the north end of Crystal Lake Park with an entrance just west of the Anita Purves Nature Center. […] This natural area is notable for its spring wildflower display, bird-watching opportunities, and a 1/3-mile elevated boardwalk.” Although the flowers might not be in bloom, it was a scenic and peaceful day in store. Busey Woods is a great option to get away from campus and enjoy a day to yourself getting in some fitness outdoors. 

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