Getting Great Fitness in the Great Outdoors.
Tips from Jason, a Fitness Coach with Strongwell.org (Seniors Wellness Organization)
We all know exercise is key to a long, healthy life, both physically and mentally. With hundreds of exercising options before us– from cycling to gyms and pools to fitness classes– we sometimes forget that one the best ways to get active is to do one simple thing– open your front door. Studies show that regardless of the activity, people just generally enjoy exercising outdoors more. On top of that, the body bends and moves in vital ways that just can’t be replicated by a treadmill or stationary bike.
Outdoors exercise, like biking, running, hiking and walking, boosts mood and self-esteem, while also creating healthy lifestyle habits. However, mother nature can toss some obstacles your way that you won’t find in a climate-controlled, professionally-monitored gym. That’s why it’s also important that you are prepared for things to go your way…and go the other way.
Ouch: How to handle that mid-exercise injury
You’re running along a trail you’ve jogged a dozen times. You could run this path in your sleep and then, bam, out of nowhere an unexpected rock or root jumps up and you feel your ankle roll over to one side shortly before you hear a pop. After a few moments of swearing and limping, you realize you have 2-3 miles to get back to your car. First thing to do is take a look around and try to find a supportive walking stick about waist high. A walking stick can help you with balance and support your weight as you make the hike back to the starting point. Also, if you can, wrap the ankle to help keep it stiff and straight — immobile. As soon as you can remember to RICE your ankle– rest, ice, compression and elevation.
There are other kinds of injuries that can pop up when exercising outdoors– cuts and scrapes from falls, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, stress fractures and others that can happen once during an outdoor exercise or become chronic injuries. You can reduce your risk of these injuries by taking your time to build up your outdoor activities. No matter how eager you are, try not to jump in with full force. Take your time and build up your stamina, endurance and muscle.
Stay Cool: How to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion
When exercising outdoors, there are three words you should remember at all times– hydration, hydration and hydration. Okay, so that’s one word three times, but that’s just to show how incredibly important it is that you drink water, and lots of it, before, during and after outdoor exercising. Some fitness professionals say drink:
⦁ 17-20 ounces 2-3 hours before exercising
⦁ 8 ounces 15-20 minutes before heading out
⦁ 7-10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes while exercising
⦁ 8 ounces within 30 minutes of finishing up
Why is hydration so important? When you exercise in a gym, while it’s still important to get plenty of water, you’re usually in an air-conditioned, artificially lit room. Outside, the sun’s heat can sap the water right out of your body. You can avoid falling to heat stroke or heat exhaustion by:
⦁ Ending exercise as soon as you notice warning signs like cramping, nausea, dizziness, visual impairment or headache
⦁ Keeping water on you at all times
⦁ Exercising outdoors at the cooler times of the day, usually in the morning or evening
⦁ Choosing outdoor settings that are shaded
⦁ Wear sunscreen, a hat and moisture-wicking materials
Lion and Tigers and Bears: How to handle a wildlife encounter
Whether hiking, biking or running, outdoors exercise can occasionally involve close encounters of the wildlife kind. While it’s really rare in the long run to come across predatory wildlife, like bears and mountain lions, the best defense is a good offense. If you see wildlife in the distance; play it safe. Just turn around and go back the way you came. If a bear notices you and starts to show interest, stand your ground. Get tall, wave your arms around and talk in a loud voice. Whatever you do, do not run.
Some animals that are typically not aggressive risk being more so during certain situations. For example, the usually passive elk can be dangerous when mating, migrating or protecting their young. Like bears, keep your distance. If you come across a calf do not approach. Your best bet is to just avoid the times of day elk are out and about, typically early morning and dusk.
Exercising outdoors has some amazing short-term and long-term benefits, but to have the best experience you must respect mother nature. Taking your phone with you and a GPS is a good way to stay in touch and keep on the path.