Showing posts with label outdoor exercise activities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label outdoor exercise activities. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Get Physical!

And yes, you can do it to an Olivia Newton John song! But more importantly, you can get physical in your life. Winter is finally past – the weather is turning balmy. No more hibernating!

The time has come to get out there and move your body. And before you doubt whether or not you have the time or money to invest, I have awesome news: exercise requires much less time than you think, and it doesn’t need to break your budget.

It’s natural to become less active in winter: between the cold and the lack of sun, we often hide out. But as spring brings us fragrant showers and extended daylight, the desire to get out and move increases. So take advantage of this energy, and let’s talk about movement!


Too tired to exercise? If you are feeling low on energy, investigate some meditative practices, like yoga or Tai Chi. Exercise isn’t only about getting your heart rate up. It’s about moving your body, stretching your limbs, and feeling lighter in spirit. There are many different kinds of yoga, countless brands of meditation, so consider what might work best for you. And if the price seems prohibitive, check out your local YMCA, recreational center, and even your local yoga loft. Many of them offer discounts; some offer free or low-fee classes with new teachers. Online options abound, so you can enjoy your practice at home for a fraction of the cost.

Ready to get muscled up? The new craze in fitness is Crossfit. While it’s a company name, Crossfit is also a culture of people looking to get strong while enjoying a social environment. It’s not for those who don’t want to work hard: every workout will push you harder than anything you’ve ever experienced before.  But workouts are done in a group, with a leader. And the end results are amazing. Crossfit gyms are located all over the United States, and you might be surprised to find one very close to you. They are not traditional gyms, so I suggest visiting one before signing up. Crossfit-like gyms are popping up as well, and they have similar workouts, but are often less expensive.

Prefer to tighten, tone, and have fun doing it? Group fitness may be the ticket! If you like to dance, there’s Zumba. If self-defense has been your passion, check out kickboxing. If you like to try something new every week, investigate the many classes that are on the schedule at your local gym. And if getting out to the gym isn’t a possibility for you right now, videos are available online for a small fee. And if the quality of the video isn’t a big deal, YouTube has many free videos that you can browse.

Wanna go it old-school? Bodyweight exercises, walking, and running are great ways to move the body. Walking can be just as valuable as running for your heart health and body movement. And using only your bodyweight to train your muscles can be surprisingly effective. Skip the gym – you can keep your body in top shape at home! Check out Zuzka Light and You Are Your Own Gym author Mark Lauren for ideas on what might work best for you.


Belonging to a gym is not a requirement for health, but moving your body and maintaining your flexibility is. You don’t have to spend hours every day working out – short, effective routines can be just as valuable. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s fun! When we enjoy exercise, we’re more likely to do it. So try some different classes, discover what works best for you, and come back and let us know what you love!

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Five Tips for Winter Weather Exercise Outdoors

It's winter – time to give up on your favorite outdoor exercise activities, right? Maybe not.  If you are an avid bicyclist, hiker, or runner, repulsed by the idea of cross training indoors because of the cold or snow, here’s good news; thanks to fascinating new technology and new sporting equipment options, there's just about no weather condition that can force you indoors.  Combine this with some good old-fashioned survivalist winter wisdom, and you can happily continue your outdoor routine in the cold and snow.

In this first of two articles on winter weather exercising, we'll focus on tried-and-true techniques for enjoying many of your favorite outdoor sports even the worst of winter weather. In the follow-up article, will introduce you to the latest equipment and gear – new technology to help you stay warm and safe even when the weather outside is frightful.


Common sense first

With or without the right winter wear and winter gear, you will need to work a little harder at keeping yourself safe when the weather is wicked. Here’s some common sense advice from experienced cold-weather fitness folk.
Tip #1 – Layer up!
Active cyclist and runner Heather Connan of  Southern River in Western Australia likes to continue her favorite outdoor pursuits even if it's cold or wet. Step one, she says, is “a moisture-wicking base layer. Good thermal wear doesn't make you cold when it is wet.”
Heather Conan enjoying her favorite sport in good weather

Note that she speaks of layers. This is one of the most important tricks to exercising in the cold. You may be tempted to throw on a big heavy winter coat, but your body temperature varies greatly as you work out. Dressing in layers lets you unzip or even remove layers as you warm up or as the weather changes.

Bikewinter.org advises handling the winter with a threefold approach to layers, starting with the innermost layer – also known as the base layer – making it a wicking material(often a synthetic fabric, designed to move moisture away from your skin), with a middle layer of clothing comprised of an insulating material (wool or fleece clothing works well for this), and topping it off with an outer layer designed for wind, rain, or snow protection when the weather requires it.


Tip #2 – Cover up!

The colder or windier it is outside, the more you need to consider protecting your skin. Canadian outdoor enthusiast Jodi Kalman of Waterloo, Ontario agrees: “Living here in the ‘great white north’ in Canada, winters can be extremely harsh! It's not just the biting cold, but also the wind chill factor.”

Ontario's Jodi Kalman demo's layering technique

How does Kalman fight that skin exposure risk? “I layer up and make sure that I have no exposed skin, including my face; I wear a balaclava to keep my face protected from wind and sunburn. And I wear lip balm and Vaseline to keep my skin from chapping,” she advises. Anther good skin chap prevention solution that even has health benefits for your skin and lips is to coat your exposed skin with coconut oil.

Tip #3 – Don't fight the rain – work with it

Many people make the mistake of trying to stay completely dry when exercising in sleet or cold rain conditions. But the majority of experienced runners and cyclists advise against trying to waterproof yourself when exercising outdoors.  “A wind jacket is a very wise investment, even more so than a waterproof rain jacket," Connan recommends. “With a rain jacket, you will still end up wet on the inside of the jacket due to sweat.”

An overload of perspiration brought on by the sauna-like affect of a rain proof coat will make you uncomfortable at best, or even more susceptible to chill.  But with a wind-breaking jacket, “You stay warm because of the wind protection factor,” adds Connan. 

With the right base layers, getting wet doesn't mean getting cold. The trick then is to think in terms of body temperature management as your top priority, which may prevent you from becoming dripping wet from sweat while trying to stay bone dry from rain.

Tip #4 – protect your feet
Unless you wear thigh-high waterproof boots – nearly impossible and even dangerous to try while running or cycling – it's best to assume that snow or slush will result in your feet getting wet. With the right protection for your feet and ankles, you'll be fine even if your feet get wet.
  • Consider investing in a pair of trail running shoes or light hiking boots that have a reputation for good drainage and for drying quickly. You'll also benefit from the extra traction that most trail shoes/boots provide.
  • Avoid cotton socks, which will stay damp and will make your feet even colder.
  • Better choices are athletic socks made of "technical fabrics," wool sport socks, or a pair of socks that combines these two materials.
If you are dealing with less than five or six inches of snow, you may want to invest in a pair of gaiters to help keep your feet warmer and drier.  Gaiters, available from any wilderness outfitter store (check online if there isn't one near you), are a kind of fabric that holds snug to your shins/calves and drapes down over the top of your shoes. Gaiters are not only a good winter wear solution for running, walking, or hiking in snow, but useful year-round on slippery, dusty, or rocky trails to keep debris from getting inside your shoes or boots.
Tip #5 – Be more cautious!
If your favorite form of outdoor exercise involves navigating through streets or around traffic, stay aware at all times. Winter often causes conditions that hamper drivers' visibility, such as any kind of precipitation or darkness – the shorter days of winter may require you to exercise at dusk or night.
Do not assume that drivers can see you. To be safe:
  • Wear bright colored or even reflective clothing.
  • Leave the MP3 player at home; let your ears listen for approaching traffic.
  • Consider alternative routes to avoid heavy traffic or roads with no sidewalks.
Winter weather may also increase your risk of slipping and falling. To stay safe, tread lightly and move with the assumption that the ground ahead may be slippery. Take smaller steps to keep your feet under your center of gravity, and take extra precaution when turning corners.


Exercising year-round

 
To exercise outdoors in winter safely, and to keep it enjoyable, requires a little more forethought and preparation.  But with a little education and the right attitude, winter weather exercising is not only possible but fun.

For more tips on how to dress for successful winter fitness, check out Bike Winter's how-to page.  Most of their tips are useful for doing any outdoor sport, such as treating your lenses of your glasses with gel toothpaste to prevent fogging.  And to get the scoop on the latest gear for winter fitness, key an eye out for Part Two of this article.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer