Many of us have started to associate fitness and exercise with time spent at the gym.
We measure our goals in terms of time, reps, or weight. For much of human history however, fitness was an organic aspect of living in nature and undergoing daily activities.
While modern life doesn’t include as much of the natural world as it once did, we can still find ways to stay healthy and get fit outdoors, using what nature provides to help us improve and get stronger. Taking your workout into nature also offers the benefit of variety and unpredictability that is essential for whole-body fitness and exercising your mind as well as your body.
And remember: getting ‘to’ nature can be a part of your workout, so next time you’re thinking of heading to Niendofer Gehege for a run, think about cycling there and back 😉
How ‘nature’ can help you get in shape:
Hit the water. Swimming is a fantastic, low-impact, full body workout. While it’s more of a workout to swim in rivers and oceans, be mindful of risks from rocks and currents. Lakes are often a better place to start, until you become more confident.
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Get off the pavement.
Running and jogging in a forest or in the sand increases the intensity of your workout and exercises your stabilizing muscles. It’s also a lot more foregiving on your joints than trampling around the concrete jungle!
Head fot the trees.
Trees offer a lot of ways to augment your workout. Climb a tree, do some pull-ups, or practice a wall-sit against the trunk. Use different trees and different branches for different heights and intensity of the exertion.
Run to the hills.
Hills are ideal for high-intensity intervals. Sprint up and walk down. Run uphill backwards. Find different hills of different steepness for variety.
Do some ‘natural’ lifting.
If you live in a rocky area, practice lifting and carrying different stones. Throwing heavy rocks works different muscle groups than simply lifting weights, and improves hand-eye coordination as well. If you’ve got a garden, re–landscaping is a great way to build strength.
THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND:
While these activities generally don’t require additional gear or equipment, there are a few things to keep in mind to protect yourself during a nature workout.
Wear sunscreen. Always wear sweat-through, sweat-proof sunscreen to protect your skin, even on cloudy days. Re-apply sunscreen if you are out for more than a couple hours, or are swimming or sweating heavily. Not only do you lower your long-term risk of skin cancer, but you should spare yourself a painful and annoying sunburn.
Hydrate. Hydrate thoroughly before and after a nature workout, and carry fluids with you. Dehydration is a real risk, and you don’t want to run out of steam a long way from home.
Shoes. Shoes are essential for protecting your health and preventing injury, particularly if you are in un-paved, natural areas. Choose the right shoes for the activity, make sure they fit well, and are broken in before you venture into the wild.
Go in stages. If you overdo it and exhaust yourself, it can be demoralizing to face a long walk or ride back to civilization. Early in your fitness journey, try to go in loops so you aren’t too far away from home or your car, in case you develop a blister, an injury, or just can’t go any more. Keep a phone with you.
Smaller, family-run gyms are seldom crowded, generally much cleaner than big boxes, and they also offer a very special sense of community. Fun and good movement are generally the focus-points, so you’re much more lokely to train regularly and achieve your fitness goals safely and more efficiently. A lot of the time, you probably won’t even feel like you’re working out, as you’ll just love being there.
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