With spring just around the corner, most of us are looking forward to getting outside for our exercise. Spring vacation offers us an opportunity to take a break from our usual routine and move outside. Tennis, hiking, walking or jogging bring us into nature. These activities are akin to the play activities that we experienced as children. Remember those days when your mother had to call you back inside for meals and sleep? The mental aspect of play obliterates time concern; this is the reverse of counting down the last few minutes on the treadmill prior to ending your 45 minute work out! Exercise outside benefits both mind and body – its fun!
It has been said that the longest journey begins with the first step; take the first step, literally, by walking daily. You don’t need tons of high tech equipment but you do need a few items:
1. Walking shoes that support your feet. If your sneakers are more than 6 months old, I suggest investing in a new pair.
2. For those at risk for reduced bone mass, I strongly suggest a weighted vest. Start with the lowest weight, distributed evenly front and back. Be aware of your posture: Keep your shoulders back and down. By adding weight you will increase bone mass.
3. To get the most out of your walk, you should aim for moderate exertion. You want to be able to carry on a conversation. A heart rate monitor is useful to keep track of how hard you are working. The new high tech GPS devices will track your route and how many miles you cover.
If you walk for 30 minutes, you will burn about 150 calories. As your fitness increases try interval training. Interval training will benefit your cardiovascular, use more calories and keep you from getting bored. Basically, intervals are periods of higher exertion alternating with lower exertion. You might try brisk walking alternating with easy jogging or walking alternating with faster walking.
When in NYC, don’t forget our Saturday morning walks in Central Park!
There is no better way to truly immerse yourself in a natural setting than by hiking. Your body is challenged by the terrain. Rocky cliffs, hills, and even volcanoes and mountains become your new gym! Hiking uses your muscles in a different way than walking. Your arms, legs and abdominal muscles are recruited.
Give hiking a try with an experienced guide to determine if this sport is for you. An experienced guide knows about regional plants, animals, folklore, and dangers. Chances are, you will enjoy the adventure even more with a guide.
Use sunscreen and buy good hiking boots. I strongly suggest breaking in your new boots before your first hike.
If you loved running but your knees will no longer co-operate, I suggest you give biking a try! Biking is almost like flying: the wind in your face, the scenery flying past. You cover more mileage than with walking. Riding a bicycle is great for your legs.
You do not have to spend lots of money for a good bike; you can get a good one for just a few hundred dollars. Bicycle stores will advise you and let you try models to find one you like.
There are wonderful biking trips in the Rockies or Adirondacks or Europe. If you are just starting out, don’t worry. There are groups for every level and going on a bike trip could be the best thing that you ever do. But if it is your first trip, strengthen your legs first by taking spinning classes before you go. Give it a try!
Other ideas for outdoor excursions are spas with hikes or a real fitness camp. In November, I visited the Miraval spa in Arizona. Miraval emphasizes spiritual renewal with daily sunrise hikes through the dessert. I included a sunset run, with magnificent colors and serenaded by coyotes. The whole point of visiting a spa is to focus on your body, not to simply get massages and facials.
The New York Times recently featured an article about the world famous, Core Performance, an elite athlete fitness camp in Tempe, Arizona. The camp is for opened to everyday athletes periodically. What impressed me about the program is the emphasis on a comprehensive approach to fitness including nutrition, warm-up drills, preparing the body for exercise, and stretching.
What ever your fitness level, taking your work out outside is a boost.