Now that the milder temperatures are upon us across the country, Canadians are flocking to the great outdoors for physical and mental soundness. For those of you who’ve been chomping at the bit to take a break from the elliptical trainer, Stairmaster or treadmill and take things outside, there are likely many more options than simply running or walking that you may be neglecting.
Here’s a motivating and timely exploration of some of the other modes of exercise you can perform for the sake of your fitness. Note that this list only scratches the surface of outdoor fitness activities and does not even include team or individual sports, which of course are numerous and fantastic endeavours too.
C’mon, this should be no surprise – we’re Canadians, after all! Who among us didn’t learn to ice skate at a very young age, especially in those corners of the nation where winter runs lengthier than the warm weather? In-line skating provides a magnificently efficient and fun variation to skating, and performing it is remarkably easy. In one way, it’s even more accessible than ice skating since all you need is a road or flat area of asphalt or concrete; it’s not necessary to drive all the way to an arena or find a frozen body of water. You can also go fast or slow – as intensely as you like – for a sound workout.
This cardio exercise is also great fun and can take you to distances far greater than running or walking. At a steady pace of about 25 km/h you can enjoy plenty of natural surroundings for mental variety. Bicycling naturally hits your legs more than your upper body, but the metabolic effects are very real. Again, you can perform this exercise with low- or high-intensity, or use a mix of the two. Want to give yourself an extra challenge? Find a nice steady incline and test your level of endurance. If you make it to the top, you’ll reap the reward of getting to coast back to the start.
Hiking and walking are not the same thing, although they do have a lot in common. In order to hike, you basically have to walk – but not on a flat surface or small incline. Hiking takes you off the beaten path over rough terrain, through wooded areas, near shorelines and up and down hills and valleys. The most enjoyable hikes are ones that not only provide a good workout, but also offer you the splendour of nature. In many cases, you’ll need to wear a specific type of hiking boot (preferably waterproof) with a tougher construction than sneakers in order to help you make your way over jagged, rocky trails.
Now before you start thinking you’ve got to be in elite-level shape to rock climb, let’s dispel this myth. You’ve got to start somewhere. A little bit of planning and finding a good coach to help get you off the mark can go a long way. Plus, the fact that during the winter (in normal times), many fitness facilities have small practice walls goes a long way to get started. In fact, dedicated rock-climbing facilities have begun to spring up everywhere. As an exercise, it provides a unique outlook as both challenging and rewarding; it will literally take you to new heights (pun intended). It will also not only provide you with cardio development, but also strength and motor skill improvement and greater flexibility.
Yes, this is Canada – and yes, there are many, many places where you can swim outdoors and not freeze your ass off. As a non-impact exercise, swimming provides a great calorie burn and shapes certain muscle groups better than just about any other cardio movement. Take advantage of the tens of thousands of lakes and rivers across this great country – not to mention the thousands of kilometres of coastline – and get yourself fit in the water. After all, we’ve only got about five months of every year where the weather is tolerable enough to allow you to swim outdoors, so make the most of it while you’ve got it!
CROSS-COUNTRY GRASS SKIING
Huh? What the heck is “cross-country grass skiing”? Well, it’s a super-cool warm-weather variation of cross-country skiing, except you employ equipment designed for movement across grassy trails and fields. The concept is completely similar to the more-popular winter exercise, but allows you to take advantage of beautiful, verdant natural surroundings. Make no mistake – this is no easy exercise either, when it comes to endurance. You’ve got to be fit to rack up the kilometres, and you can also vary the intensity to such things as HIIT and tabatas to exponentiate your effort – and your results!