It’s no secret that moms crave and deserve time for themselves which might mean curling up with a good book or having lunch with your bestie, but what about trying something different. What if you spent some of that precious me time with other women learning a new skill, finding a new hobby or improving on what you already know. REI’s newest campaign focuses on women which means no more excuses that you don’t know how to do something or you don’t have anyone to go with. It’s time to get outside, Seattle mamas!

Force of Nature
The outdoor recreation company recently launched its Force of Nature campaign nationwide, offering thousands of classes over the summer months to get women into the elements. REI touts this new campaign as wanting to make outside the largest level playing field on earth. According to this REI blog post, six in ten women say men’s interest in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s; and seven in ten women say the barriers to getting outside include not having enough time, or anyone to go with. And guess what? REI wants to fix that!

From rock climbing to kayaking, wilderness skills to compass navigation and backpacking to biking, REI has you covered. The best part? These classes are for women only! And not all of them require huge physical exertion, so if you want to start with something low-key there are classes on traveling abroad, sunset photography and even bicycle maintenance.

Hitting the Trails
To get a feel for what these classes are like, we checked out the Intro to Mountain Biking class. On a Saturday morning a group of 10 women gathered in an Issaquah parking lot to load up their bikes, put on protective gear (which included helmets and kneepads) and hopped aboard a bus headed for Duthie Hill Park. (Psst… to the inexperienced rider, Duthie Hill Park can be an intimidating place. Trails with jumps and bumps and tree roots that can be a hazard if you don’t know how to handle your mountain bike properly.) And that’s where instructors, Julia Trippel and Kelsey Wenger came in. These mountain biking mavens made sure helmets fitted properly, reviewed the A, B, C’s of prepping your mountain bike (think: air, brakes, chain) and demonstrated all the right mountain biking moves.

Mountain Bike Maneuvers
The instructors of these classes are patient and accommodating, sharing their knowledge and expertise about how to get in the “ready position” and the “neutral position” and from there maneuver the bike as you turn on the trails. Perhaps more importantly, they demonstrate how to stop without getting hurt which involves moving your body off the bicycle backwards away from the seat before putting your foot down (which takes a bit of practice). As with any new situation there are always a few nerves, but after plenty of demonstrations, a few questions and a good amount of time to practice new skills, this group of ten tightened their helmets, checked their fears and hit the trails. The best part? This class was all about getting used to the bike and the trails and not about showboating or in this case, show biking. And while the initial descent might put a few butterflies in your stomach, by the end of the trail we guarantee you will be full of smiles and bravado at tackling a new challenge, learning some new skills and ultimately making some like-minded new friends.

Look Where You Want to Go
Perhaps the best piece of advice Julia gave this class about riding the trails was to look towards where you want to go, not where you are going. Applicable to so many things in life, not just mountain biking. Instructors and students agree there is certainly a different kind of energy in the group when it’s all women, perhaps a bit more camaraderie, a bit more sharing of experiences, a bit more willingness to be open about being nervous or not knowing how to do something. So why not try something a little different or something a little more daring? You might surprise yourself. If you want a little inspiration watch this video, then put on your bike shorts, strap on your backpack and get outside to ride.

How to Find a Class
Costs for these classes vary, but many are offered for free. To find classes nearest you, check REI’s website. It’s as simple as putting in your zip code and finding what’s available. To learn more about classes or find gear for your next outdoor adventure, visit a REI location.

Seattle Flagship Store
222 Yale Ave. N.
Seattle, Wa 98109
206-223-1944

Southcenter/Tukwila
240 Andover Park W.
Tukwila, Wa 98188
206-248-1938

Bellevue
410 116th Ave. N.E.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
425-455-1938

Issaquah
735 N.W. Gilman Blvd.
Issaquah, Wa 98027
425-313-1660

Olympia
625 Black Lake Blvd. S.W., Ste 410
Olympia, Wa 98502
360-786-1938

Bellingham
400 36th St.
Bellingham, Wa 98225
360-647-8955

Tacoma
3825 S. Steele St.
Tacoma, Wa 98409
253-671-1938

Online: rei.com/h/force-of-nature

How do you plan to get outside this summer? Already signed up for a Force of Nature class? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Natalia Dotto (all photos courtesy of Natalia Dotto Photography)