Recharge, rejuvenate and refresh

Run a 15K or rule the stage: Jacksonville is ready for the new you!

By Kieran O’Brien Kern

The season of renewal is fast upon us. But before you go ahead and abandon your goals and resolutions, step back and fully take in your surroundings. Jacksonville’s ideal climate, bright blue skies and always cool, fresh air wafting off the Atlantic allow you to be outdoors year round—when it’s always a good time to work on the new you.

It’s time to whip into shape, emotionally recharge and connect yourself with Jacksonville’s inspiring natural beauty. Here are just a few activities to get those rejuvenating juices flowing and that mind, body and soul going.

Run, Forest, Run

Don't give up your new year's resolution until the Spring, get in shape for an amazing cause while immersing yourself in the active Jacksonville community. Since its inaugural race in 2008, the 26.2 With Donna has raised more than $4 million in the fight against breast cancer, bringing runners from all over the country together in the River City for a truly amazing race.

The 26.2 With Donna makes running worth it, because with options to run a full, half or relay marathon, it’s the perfect opportunity to get outdoors, lace up your sneakers and throw out the excuses. Teams of up to five runners can cover the whole 26.2 miles with individual legs from 3.5 to 6.75 miles.

If you’re not quite ready to hit the ground running just yet, the GATE River Run on March 12 can be your fall back. As the United States’ largest 15K, the race serves as the official 15K Championship for the USA Olympic Team. Runners have a chance to compete with America’s top Olympic athletes for $85,000 in prize money, along with more than 24,000 runners (and walkers) of all ages and abilities. Choose to participate in one or more featured events alongside the 15K, such as the Florida Times-Union 5K for Charity, Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile, Junior River Run, and Diaper Dash.

There are medals for all 15k finishers, 12 live bands along the course, and a post-race party once you’ve crossed the finish line.

Stretch it out and about

We could all use a little balance in our lives.

Kayak Amelia offers a unique experience that brings nature and yoga together. By connecting your chakras to your surroundings, Kayak Yoga and Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga (SUPY) classes provide a balance between the mind, body and environment while combining physical and spiritual healing with the natural temperament of the outdoors.

With SUPY, the paddleboard is your yoga mat. Relax into a yoga pose while floating across the water with chirping birds as your soundtrack and the ever-changing blue sky as your ceiling.

Kayak Yoga focuses on the natural connection between the rhythms of nature and your own, enhancing your awareness of your surroundings through a guided kayak eco-tour that doubles as an uplifting yoga class.

Take in the tranquility while you practice on the beach and then peacefully paddle your way back through the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The tour offers an in-depth appreciation for Jacksonville’s abundant natural beauty, as all Kayak Amelia guides are Florida Master Naturalist Program certified.

Get out of your comfort zone

There’s no therapy quite like singing in the shower or dancing in the mirror. But if you find yourself tearing up that rug at the foot of the bed, or bringing a sellout crowd to its feet in the bathroom, maybe it’s time you took your talents on the road.

Forget The Voice, refreshing your mojo means puttin’ on the Ritz at the historic Ritz Theatre and Museum—officially your new guilty pleasure. Jacksonville’s premier African American arts venue in the historical LaVilla area of downtown literally just gave Amateur Night a new name. The newly staged Puttin’ on the Ritz amateur talent show will empower you like nothing you’ve ever experienced—and will leave you inspired and feeling anything but guilt.

Emcee Octavius Davis and DJ Chill Will put on an incredibly uplifting show that sees contestants compete for prizes. So you may win or you may lose, but one thing is for sure: Nothing will compare to the thrill of getting on stage and shedding the old you.

So you think you can dance? Prove it. Bust a move to The Dance Shack where the party lights are always on and the music is always up. Come out of your shell and learn how to dance—for real. From salsa and swing to country western and ballroom, it’s all happening.

No partner? No problem. Singles are encouraged to meet new people at one of the classes, organized parties or during one of the group nights out on the town. Sample a newbie class each Friday at 7 p.m. for free.

If the gift of gab is more your forte, test your tongue with some improv at Jessie Shternshus’ The Improv Effect, where Fortune 500 companies like Johnson & Johnson go to ignite team camaraderie. Perfect your presentation skills and public speaking, but have a blast while you do it.

Use playful improvisation and effective communication techniques to breakdown insecurities and build up confidence. Classes and workshops are available for all comfort levels, but the real leap of faith happens out of your comfort zone.

Whether you’re reinventing the old you or shedding your inhibitions in front of a bunch of strangers, Jacksonville is bursting with new opportunities for you to bring your best and brightest self to the surface in 2016.

Get outside and see what else Jacksonville has in store this time of year. Go to for an entire slate of new beginnings you can find #OnlyInJax.

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