Few things are more rejuvenating than taking a break from the screen and venturing into the great outdoors. Simple activities like taking a long walk can revive our stiff bodies and reawaken our strength. Common outdoor sports can also work wonders in building fitness, but since team activities don’t seem to be in the cards this season, here are a few other ways to stay fit outdoors.
There is a reason why most army training regimes include regular long marches. Hiking, which is little more than long-distance walking, is one of the most effective ways to get in shape. This practical motion is what humans evolved to do. Once you start, you’ll often realize that it’s easier than sitting still.
Usually, hiking takes place in nature. Besides the benefit of enjoying the forest, walking on rooty trails awakens foot, hip, and core stability muscles that flat sidewalks and roads never engage. Luckily, you don’t need to leave the Chicagoland area to get a good hike in. You can start your long-distance explorations from the moment you leave your doorstep. You’ll be surprised at the new perspectives gained from experiencing your area on foot, and just how inviting and invigorating urban hiking can be.
As the weather warms up, why not take your yoga practice outside? This is where the first yogis got their inspiration. They learned tree pose from real trees and mountain pose from real mountains. Of course, you don’t need to be a yogi to begin your outdoor yoga practice. A few sun salutations will get you on your way, and any routine that includes at least one forward bend, backbend, twist, and lunge will serve you well. Stretching is only one of the many benefits of yoga. Increased balance, core strength, and body awareness are others, and like hiking on a rooty trail, yoga can awaken muscles that you never knew you had. Even half an hour of focused practice per day will improve your wellbeing in countless ways.
The Outdoor Workout
Humans have been working out beneath blue skies since the times of the ancient Greeks, who trained for Olympic sports in their outdoor gymnasiums. Nowadays, the word gym refers to an indoor room, but there is no reason why we can’t bring our workouts outside.
The push-up, chin-up, squat, and lunge are four tried-and-true exercises that will strengthen your chest, back, and legs in any location. To reap their benefits, you don’t need any dumbbells or spandex clothing. The added challenges of wind, rain, or sun will only strengthen your body. Before you know it, you’ll be in shape for the gardening season.
Okay, as your local garden center, we’re a little biased on this one, but research shows that gardening really does keep you fit. The key is that it engages your whole body in practical movements. Shoveling, pruning, and even houseplant repotting force you to stretch, lift, and move your muscles together and overcome routine repetitions. In other words, gardening keeps your body guessing, and new challenges are the surest way to enhance your fitness.
You can start all of these activities at any level of fitness. You don’t need a gym membership or special equipment, except for a sturdy pair of shoes—and even that, in the case of yoga, is not required. While you may be intimidated to work out beneath the elements, you’ll likely find that the fresh air and sunlight are a major benefit for building your strength—making you feel even more alive.
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.