Enjoying the outdoors on a beautiful day is something a lot of people, including many of us here at Gym Source, wish we could do on a more regular basis. As our daily schedules bulge with things like work responsibilities and caring for our children, finding time to get outside can be a difficult task. When time allows, though, exercising outdoors can be great compliment to your routine in the gym. Activities such as trail running and cycling can add depth to your workout while providing unique personal challenges.
So, where do you start? Before throwing on your sneakers and running through the mountains, there are a few things to consider that will help you get the most out of your outdoor workout.
Warm Up and Cool Down
As you’ve probably heard before, a thorough warm-up will prepare your body for the physical demands of intense exercise and reduce the risk of injury. This holds true for outdoor workouts as well. Variable wind resistance and uneven terrain are just a couple elements that can add a layer of complexity to the functional movements your body will need to perform.
A short warm up routine (aim for 5-10 minutes) consisting of cardiovascular activity (think jumping jacks, high knees, and running in place), along with dynamic and static stretching, should effectively loosen up your muscles. Feel free to take a few extra minutes to focus on any muscle groups that will be relied on heavily during your workout. For example, extra attention to your hands, forearms and legs might be helpful before rock climbing and bouldering.
After your workout, you may want to spend a few minutes doing some light stretching while your body cools down and your heart rate returns to its normal range.
Wear the Appropriate Attire
Choosing the appropriate gear for your outdoor exercise program can be the difference between an enjoyable day and a miserable one. Naturally, your clothing needs will be dependent on the expected weather for the time period you’ll be outdoors.
Since standard cotton tends to hold a lot of moisture, it has disadvantages in both warm and cool weather. In warmer temperatures, the moisture held by cotton makes it feel as if you’re carrying extra weight and adds to the heat factor. In cooler temperatures, the moisture held by cotton will inevitably chill, potentially causing you to feel colder as well.
So, what’s the best solution? Temperature-specific fabrics. These fabrics use moisture-wicking technology to draw moisture away from the skin, to the outside of the garment, where it can evaporate more quickly and easily. As a result, you’re likely to feel more comfortable. Traditional moisture wicking gear (e.g. Nike’s Dri-Fit) is used in warmer temperatures, while thermal gear (e.g. UnderArmor’s ColdGear) is designed for cooler temperatures.
Listen to Your Body
It’s common for people to feel like they need to push their body past the point of exhaustion in order to have a great workout. The reality for most people is that pushing the body well beyond its reasonable comfort zone can result in serious injury. Muscle soreness may be expected, but all of us would like to avoid injury.
Set reasonable goals when taking on a new outdoor exercise challenge, particularly those that require prolonged periods of running. You’ll still feel a sense of accomplishment and you’ll be shortening the muscle recovery period, which will allow you to get back out there sooner and build toward your long term goal!