Get Out! Get Active!

Summer is here!... the long days, the warm sun, refreshing swims, lemonade stands and kids home from school. We can hardly wait for the family road trips, picnics in the park, body surfing at the beach and roasting marshmallows around the campfire. We’re ready to strap on the boots and hike to the top. We’re ready to hop on the mountain bike and explore our favorite trail…or are we? When was the last time you went hiking or rode your bike? Last summer? Was it on a treadmill or stationary bike at the gym? Maybe you do exercise regularly, lifting weights or taking a yoga class twice a week. Are you ready for (fill in the blank)? If not, what’s the best way to get ready? What if you’re just too busy with work demands and long commutes and too tired at the end of the day to add one more thing? What if you just go for it, ready or not?

You could just go for it, but if you don’t properly prepare, you are an injury waiting to happen. If you spend your weekdays sitting at a computer and your weekends in front of the TV, your hike up the mountain is likely not going to end well. And while doing leg extensions and hamstring curls build strong muscles, doing weights on machines is not the same as hiking on an uneven trail. Blisters, heat stroke, sprained ankles and strained backs happen, leaving you disappointed and in pain.

So, what’s the best way to prepare? Simply by doing the activity you want to do and building up intensity and duration gradually. If you’re goal is to hike Mount Tam, you should know that the Dipsea Trail is 7.5 miles long with difficulty level of “very strenuous.” Is that an attainable goal or might you consider a trail of “moderate” difficulty. To prepare, start with 20-minute week night walks in your neighborhood and add weekend hikes on a local trail. Gradually pick up your pace, lengthen your walking time and go from flat hikes around the bay to steeper and steeper hills. Add trekking poles. Now you’ve got a core work-out as well. And remember to warm up first and cool down after with some easy walking and a little stretching.

What if you don’t have enough time in the day? Put down your cell phone, turn off the TV, and get creative! You can incorporate functional activity into your daily life if you think outside the box. Instead of trying to get to the gym at the end of the day, take your gym outdoors. Do walking lunges across the length of your back yard, dig in your garden, or hang from the monkey bars at the local park with your kids. Take dinner outside and sit cross-legged on the grass (yoga) until your feet fall asleep. Change positions then do it again. Play with your kids. No, not video games. Real games, like tag and hide and seek and just throwing a baseball around.  Park farther away at the grocery store. Bring your own bags and be mindful of how you carry them when full. Think tall, lift your ribs, and feel your core engage. The possibilities are endless.

Summer is here! Get out and enjoy!