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Exploring The Great Outdoors

Updated: Sep 6

As a kid in the late 60's and early 70's, life was much different. Without all the fancy technology on the market today, I spent all of my free time doing exactly what the title says. When I wasn't doing homework or preparing for an upcoming competition, you could find me traversing the neighborhood. When I became a mom, cell phones and mainframe computers were just hitting the electronics departments and store shelves and huge monstrosities. Despite these new nifty, semi-convenient non-human brains, I vowed to raise my children the same way I grew up...outside. Guess what? I did.


In reminiscing about days gone by, I have many vivid memories of playing football with the boys across the street and next door, hide and seek or tag (1,2,3 not it) with friends, riding bikes to God knows where, skateboarding down the middle of the road, and swimming at our local community pool. What do all these things have in common? Fresh air (it was the Bay Area) and afternoon sunshine. Today, however, it seems rare, even odd sometimes, to hear youngsters screaming with joy as they express their "freedom" from annoying parents or school. Summer breaks have now become overshadowed by internet, television and video games. Many local parks are hangouts for questionable activities and homes to the less fortunate. But they are also places of adventure, beautiful scenery, comraderie, creativity, exercise/fitness and opportunity. While the idea of parks can elicit many different responses depending on what your past experiences have been and to which ones you frequented, that is not the subject of this post.


A while back, at the beginning of my blog journey, I did a segment on where to exercise. In that article, I briefly touched on taking fitness outside. I talked about how going to a park and walking your dog are all part of this thing called fitness. But doing so outdoors is so much more than that and this article will prove it. Some of my readers know I run an outdoor circuit style fitness class at a city park three days a week in addition to my regular gym job. The purpose of this class is to encourage movement and teach individuals that exercise can literally be done anywhere. Oftentimes, I bring equipment to change things up a bit, but that is not necessary for a great workout. In this installment, you will discover many other ways (most super easy and that don't require fancy tools) exercise can be done in an outdoor setting. I think you've waited long enough so let's get to it, shall we?


Here in California, we average 267 days each year of dry conditions which lend themselves to numerous chances to get up, get out and get moving. Wherever you live in this state or another one, within a relatively short drive there is ample access to lakes, mountains, national parks, oceans, rivers and valleys begging to be explored so it's about time to learn how simple it is to use these available resources as a fitness tool.


Lakes are man made bodies of fresh water that can be found all over the world. They serve as building blocks to support ecosystems vital to both animal and plant life and provide endless entertainment possibilities. While spending a day basking in the sun burns calories (and frequently skin), going for a dip using water as resistance will definitely get (and keep) muscles in shape. Try walking along the beach in knee deep water for 30 minutes and see how challenging it is! Going out a bit further to join friends for a game of football, frisbee, or volleyball is made more difficult and is sure to get the heart pumping! Traveling to where you cannot touch the bottom (good swimmers only please) and swimming or treading water for several minutes involves the entire kinetic chain and is also a fantastic workout. If more adventure is on the menu, try your luck at wakeboarding or water skiing. You will uncover muscles you didn't know you had!


Mountains have existed since the dawn of time. Created by shifting tectonic plates that crashed together, they are raised platforms of varying heights that when scaled, present amazing views of the world below as well as a phenomenal fitness experience! Hiking a trail to the peak can sometimes be an all day trip but worth the soreness you feel the following day or two afterwards. Remember what goes up must come down so don't be surprised if the return descent is tougher! As with all activity, make sure to stay fueled up and hydrated so you can enjoy whatever awaits! Bringing a small backpack or CamelPak is an excellent way to store cameras, keys, snacks and water while keeping hands free. Add the white, fluffy powder that falls from the sky at certain times of the year, and ski to your hearts content! Navigating corners and moguls awakens every muscle, provides an escape from from wicked heat as well as refreshing the spirit. Not to mention expends a ton of calories in just one round!


In 1916, then president Woodrow Wilson established a National Parks Service which requires certain portions of land to remain maintained, preserved, protected and untouched. These specified areas allow wildlife to roam free in their natural habitats and prohibit deforestation and destruction of sacred ground. Over the years, they have become places where family and friends gather to make memories. Camping, fishing and hunting are permit only. Many areas remain off limits to ensure their integrity and longevity. Conversely, though, public spots are open for guided and non guided hiking and/or walking tours and rock climbing. A few have specialized portions set up for rope courses and ziplining. Currently, there are 35 national parks in the system that offer day and multi-day passes.


Oceans contain 97% of the Earth's water and make up 70% of its surface. Like lakes, they can be found almost anywhere and are home to some of the world's most majestic creatures. Unlike their counterpart, they are extremely large and consist primarily of salt water. An FYI in case you didn't know: deep in the Atlantic Ocean is a 379 trillion gallon fresh water aquifer that runs along the coastline from New Jersey to Massachusetts. Imagine what you could do with all that water! Besides what you can do in or on lakes, with few boundaries and touch of creativity get wild! Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue...why not you? He must have been in incredible shape since a sailboat can weigh anywhere from 120 to 3,000 pounds. Can you see yourself propelling one on a windy day?


Rivers are smaller beds of snowpack runoff dispersed between larger bodies of water. They can be tricky because even though most look fairly calm, they present strong undertows during some parts of the year so always wear a lifejacket. While these conditions are dangerous for swimmers, a river rafting trip is both exhilarating and exhausting! Paddling a boat with the weight of three to seven other people in it sure is a lot of work! And you thought cardio day was hard! Maybe I'll stick to kayaking...


Valleys are recessed segments usually with high population densities. With that being said, you are sure to find a like-minded individual up for some excitement who is willing to try new things! My where to exercise post gave some hopefully helpful ideas as to how to include fitness into a daily plan. Climbing up and down a set of bleachers while in support of your local sports team, doing your own grocery shopping rather then using GrubHub or UberEats, gardening, mowing your lawn in lieu of paying a landscaper to do it, riding a bike to work instead of driving and taking a walk with a friend, fur baby, neighbor or relative are all super easy adjustments that instill healthy habits and pave the way to a longer ailment free life.


In wrapping up this chapter of my ongoing series, I hope you see how simple (and fun) it is to insert active, calorie burning movement into a schedule. We have lots of beautiful space all around us so what's your excuse? I challenge you to get up, get out and get moving outdoors for at least 30 minutes two days this week. I'll see you on the trail...



Lets explore a tad more...what was your favorite childhood outdoor activity?

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