By The FIRM Master Instructor Kelly Branning
When I lived in Alaska, I went from my heated house to my heated car to my heated exercise room. Now, in South Carolina, there are days that I go from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned exercise room. If you find yourself gazing out the window mid-workout, lingering just a little longer when you retrieve your morning paper or volunteering to walk the dog … don’t fight it! It’s time to get outside.
1. Doing something different boosts workout results
If you follow a routine that incorporates a broad variety of workout styles, you already experience the benefits of “muscle confusion” — the training technique of using the same muscle groups in different ways to boost results. If you don’t already do this, or you want to take your results to a new level, add outdoor exercise. Try something you haven’t done before. Rent a kayak. Hike that nature trail you have been thinking about. Walk or run a 5K for charity.
2. Vitamin D is a good thing
We are all very aware of the connection between sun and skin cancer. While caution with exposure is important, you do not want to avoid the sun altogether. There is widespread Vitamin D deficiency in the United States, particularly in northern climates that get less sunlight during winter months. Vitamin D works to regulate your hormones and your mood and is essential in the absorption of calcium.
Along with resistance training, the body needs to properly absorb calcium in order to prevent the weak and brittle bones that can come with osteopenia and osteoporosis. In addition, studies are under way to determine if Vitamin D can help prevent cancer as well. About 15 to 20 minutes per day of sunshine, with the proper sunscreen of course, can provide your daily requirement.
3. Anything you can do inside, you can do outside
If you’re not all that interested in trying something new just yet, take your favorite sculpting moves outside. Grab your weights, medicine ball or resistance band and get some sunshine while you sculpt. You can lunge, squat and lift in the yard, the park or the driveway. Use the front steps for push-ups. Use a jump rope to get your heart rate moving in between sets. Use your band for upper body moves like shoulder work and biceps.
4. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect non-digitally
Combine outdoor exercise with social time. Invite a friend to join you on your hike. Take your kids for a bike ride. Get out the leash and take Rover with you. Walking with your significant other can provide a great opportunity to talk and spend one-on-one time.
In my family, the TV, computers and cell phones are a constant distraction. My kids think the people who text them are more interesting than I am. My husband feels he must respond immediately to every “pinging” sound of incoming e-mail. Getting this crew out walking the dog (so they can’t hold cell phones) or riding bikes is an opportunity to connect with them and with the outdoors at the same time. If you get some resistance from them initially, push just a little. It’s worth it. I always (and I do mean always) get resistance at my suggestions to walk the dogs or bike. But they inevitably return from it saying, “That was great,” or “We should do that every day.”
Your body is an amazing and fantastic tool. If you dedicate yourself to regular exercise, it can become stronger and more balanced. Take that out into the world and see how much more you can accomplish!