Following what was arguably a challenging winter across much of the United States (a polar vortex and minus 50-degree Fahrenheit windchills in Chicago!), spring is finally emerging. After spending a lot of time indoors, within the four walls of the health club or our home gym, many of us are eager for some fresh air. Now you can take some of your workouts outside for fresh motivation and views.
Spring Training with Outdoor Workouts
So, as Major League Baseball teams emerge from spring training to start their official seasons, you can begin your own spring training with outdoor workouts to shake off any remaining winter doldrums and prepare for summer sweat sessions and activities. Research shows many benefits of taking your exercise outdoors, including:
Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
- Longer workouts – let’s face it, taking in the scenery is less monotonous than staring at the treadmill timer
- Lower blood pressure – being outside can lower cortisol
- Feeling calmer – nature reduces stress, increases endorphins and can improve mood and mental health
- Greater energy – fresh air revitalizes the body and mind, and adds a dose of vitamin D
- Stronger immune system – the outdoors gives your body a boost in protecting itself from disease
- Ease of access – no traffic to navigate, no schedules to adhere to, no fees to pay
Enhancing Outdoor Activity
Here are some tips to make the most of spring, despite its somewhat unpredictable weather, so that you can revel in outdoor exercise again.
- Check the weather – In the Midwest, spring temps can fluctuate from 30-75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is obviously quite a broad range. Before heading outside, note the temperature and the wind, and dress appropriately. Although everyone is eager to throw on shorts in the spring, make sure you will be warm enough, especially if you’ll be riding a bike or facing a lot of wind. Layers are always a good choice, because you can remove them as necessary as you heat up.
- Keep an eye on the terrain – With frequent rain in the spring, running trails, bike paths and parks can be wet, slippery and unstable. Pavement also can have puddles or potholes, so be sure to watch where you are going. Outdoor surfaces are much less consistent than exercise equipment or the gym floor. So do your best to keep your footing secure, particularly if you’ll be taking on hills or if you are outdoors during the darker dawn hours.
- Explore new areas – While it’s great to get back to your favorite running path after a winter hiatus, this also can be a good time to check out new paths before they get more crowded in the summer. Ask workout buddies at the gym or your friends or neighbors, or do some quick online research to find new paths, hikes, parks, running clubs and more. Embrace the new beginnings that spring brings!
- Think outside of the box – Again, nothing wrong with being a diehard runner. But perhaps expand your regimen beyond your traditional workouts to add interest and variety to incremental activity. That means inline skating, mountain biking, yoga, softball, kayaking, golfing, tennis, boot camp, basketball and more. Or hit the local high school stadium and run (or walk) the stairs.
- Be flexible – Not every outdoor workout must be an all-out sweat session. All movement and activity count and benefit your body and mind. Take advantage of the milder temperatures to play with your dog (or go to a shelter and volunteer to walk their dogs), clean up the yard, get in the garden, fly a kite, walk on the beach, ride a tandem bike and more. It’s all about being active and enjoying being outside!