“When the weather is fine you got fitness on your mind…”
Jun 1st, 2011 | By Andrew Sweet | Category: Fitness
Summer is here! For most of the country it means they’re whipping open the doors to their houses and standing in the threshold stretching their whole body, arms extended above their heads, and letting out a large cry of relief. I can almost imagine the bear doing the same thing as it immerges from its den for the first time of the season. Though I must say in reality, they actually go through a 2-3 week “Walking Hibernation Phase” where they adjust to roaming the woods again, but this is a story for another time.
Even if the bear does not come sprinting out of his den and race right back into the great outdoors, research shows us that we humans should. For most of us it has been a long winter of trying to stay in shape by walking on treadmills, lifting weights, and trying every class the local gym/recreation center offers. By this point we are bored of doing the same thing and being confined to the indoor weight rooms, cardio stations and elevated treadmills. This is not a good thing because when we are bored or unmotivated to workout our results, and often our attendance, is drastically reduced.
The body will follow where the mind takes it. Motivation, enjoyment and satisfaction of a workout depends largely on the mind. Santa Clara University performed a study showing that women who exercised outside demonstrated elevated mood, and enjoyed their workouts more than those women who exercised inside.[i] Along these lines, where you exercise outside plays an impact on the type of mental stimulation the exercise provides. Research from Uppsala University in Sweden indicates that exercising in natural settings leads to greater feelings of mental restoration than urban settings. Their research also indicates that subjects tend to work out for a greater duration and with greater exertion when in a natural setting.[ii]
Getting out of the indoors and into the great outdoors is vital to revitalize your mind and workouts after having been trapped indoors all winter. As indicated by Uppsala University, not only does taking your exercise outside energize the mind on a greater level, but also leads to more exercise being performed. The benefits of exercising outside thus are not just limited to mental rejuvenation, but can lie within the motivation to push the body to new physical heights. In the case of people exercising harder outside, (more exercise is performed with greater intensity) more calories are burned. As science teaches us every day, there is much more to fat loss then simply burn more calories than consumed.[iii] However, utilizing more calories means we are on the right track, and have a far greater chance of losing unwanted body fat.
The question is now, what do we do outside? Yes, everyone knows about walking or running, but what else can we do? Many of us are so stuck in our gym routines and thinking that we have to exercise on the treadmill or weight machines. We forget there is a whole world outside where we can get great cardiovascular/resistance training workout.
Research shows that constant variation of exercise is a great way to enhance your overall health and well-being.[iv] As we already addressed doing the same thing all the time can get old and tedious. Not only does this drain us mentally, but physiological as well. Our bodies adapt to physical stress incredibly well. Once our bodies adapt to a set stimulus, we must continue to raise the bar and push ourselves further. If we do not work to change the workout regimen or reach for new heights, we will often fail to reach accomplishments that we have set out for ourselves. It is thus very important to constantly challenge ourselves and vary the workout as a tool for mental and physical stimulation.
So as you take your quest outside, and maybe even to the great outdoors, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Am I doing some kind of resistance training in my activity? I know it is important to do some kind of resistance training to constantly challenge my muscles so as to keep them healthy and growing.
- Am I getting some kind of cardiovascular training? I know it is important to elevate my heart rate and make my lungs work for me in order to keep my heart and circulatory system healthy.
- Am I challenging my mind with the variation of the exercise? When our minds go stale, our exercise goes stale. I know I need to do different things.
So bringing ourselves back to the question of what we can do outside for exercise… I want to say first, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH WALKING OR RUNNING. However, keep in mind those three questions above and ask yourself Am I doing some kind of resistance training in my walk or Am I challenging my mind with variation of the exercise? Many people end up using walking and running as their sole form of exercise. Doing these nice walks and runs are great a couple of days of the week to keep the exercise casual and mentally relaxing. But if we want to see real growth physically, we need to address the other questions above at least twice per week
Below is a list of different activities you are encouraged to try out at your own pace. Challenge yourself and push yourself, but always stay safe! Work with a partner if you hit the trails of the woods. Don’t jump into advanced leagues if you want to try a sport. I cannot stress enough, push yourself, but go at your own pace and stay safe. Think about the rules you might tell a young child trying something for the first time, and apply them to yourself as you try out new forms of exercise:
- Hiking, Trail Biking, Climbing – Different terrains, climbing over rocks and logs can make you work your balance and provide very simple resistance training.
- Road Biking – Hills provide great resistance training for the legs and cardiovascular training for the lungs and heart. Not to mention the arms are performing resistance exercise by constantly working to steer the bike and provide balance.
- Family Sports Night – Gather the family up and head outside for a game of volleyball, soccer, or basketball. Something different that gets you moving in different ways other than a straight line walk or jog.
- Recreational Leagues – These days there are all levels and age groups of recreational leagues. These leagues include all sports from soccer, softball, volleyball, hockey, and lacrosse. There are so many choices out there.
- Bootcamps – Just about every gym or recreation center runs Bootcamp groups for both men and women. Look into joining one. With the weather turning many of these will take their workouts outside to local parks or other areas nearby. Many of these groups will focus on all areas of the workout. Shop around and find the one that fits your personality and goals. Each gym is different on how they approach it, with their level of commitment, and how they run it. Defiantly ask to do a free class.
- Hit Up the Local Track – Grab a dumbbell, some resistance bands, medicine ball, Swiss ball and whatever else you might want and head to your local track. Thanks to YouTube, or even my site http://www.spawntraining.com/, you can look up hundreds of workout routines. Simply type in “bodyweight routines” or “dumbbell routines” etc. Watch the clip and pick out the ones that interest you. Then write it down, jump in your car, go grab a friend and head to the track or park to do the workout routine right there. Many people find they like the track as compared to the park. Often times the people they find at tracks are walking or jogging and doing their own workouts as well. Also many times there are bleachers for you to use for a wide range of exercises.
Summer is here. Use this time to get outside and do different things for your exercise. Don’t just constrain yourself to the gym and treadmill walking. Find other activities to do outside; just keep those three questions in mind in order to get the most out of your exercise, helping you to achieve well rounded fitness level.
Andrew Sweet is a former member of The Ohio State University Football Performance Staff and the former Strength and Conditioning Coach for Hobart College in Geneva, NY. He currently is the Head Strength and Conditioning Advisor for the Polish National Women’s Lacrosse Team and Developmental Program. He also serves in the same capacity for The Onondaga Nation RedHawks of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). In addition he manages a website devoted to helping athletes and the general population implement Sports Performance Based Training into their own daily exercise. He also works for Strength In Motion, a private Athletic Performance Facility located in Syracuse, NY.
[i] Plante, Thomas G., Carissa Gores, Carrie Brecht, Jessica Carrow, Anne Imbs, and Eleanor Willemsen. “Does Exercise Environment Enhance the Psychological Benefits of Exercise for Women?” International Journal of Stress Management. 14.1 (2007): 88-98
[ii] Bodin, Maria, Terry Hartig. “Does the outdoor environment matter for psychological restoration gained through running?” Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 4 (2003): 141-153
[iii] Taubes, G. (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. Knobf Publishing. New York, New York.
[iv] Fahey, T.D. (1998). Adaptation to exercise: progressive resistance exercise. In: Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, T.D.Fahey (Editor). Internet Society for Sport Science: http://sportsci.org. 7 March 1998.
 Plante, Thomas G., Carissa Gores, Carrie Brecht, Jessica Carrow, Anne Imbs, and Eleanor Willemsen. “Does Exercise Environment Enhance the Psychological Benefits of Exercise for Women?” International Journal of Stress Management. 14.1 (2007): 88-98
 Bodin, Maria, Terry Hartig. “Does the outdoor environment matter for psychological restoration gained through running?” Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 4 (2003): 141-153
 Taubes, G. (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. Knobf Publishing. New York, New York.
 Fahey, T.D. (1998). Adaptation to exercise: progressive resistance exercise. In: Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, T.D.Fahey (Editor). Internet Society for Sport Science: http://sportsci.org. 7 March 1998.