Cycling: Enjoying your fitness outdoors!

11392894_10153924172762598_3777624427085136122_nOne of the best things about summer is getting a chance to go outdoors. During the weekends, if you don’t have anywhere planned to go, it’s still nice to take a day trip to the mountains, or maybe head to the coast for a few days. It’s nice out, after all- it’s not like it happens every day in the Pacific Northwest.

One of my clients, Jenn, loves to talk about her time on a bike. To her, cycling is the end all of transportation methods. Need to get yourself from point A to B? A bike will do it. Want to burn off some steam or calories? Well it just so happens that a bike does a great job at burning calories. Even if you have cargo to move, you can do it with a cargo bike built for heavy loads. To her, the summer season is bike season, and she embraces it fully.

Now, I don’t necessarily cycle as my main source of transportation like Jenn does, but I do enjoy it from time to time. Especially when I get a chance to do it down at the waterfront in Portland, or on the Banks-Vernonia trail when I get a chance to get out there. And there are definitely some great health benefits to riding a bicycle, other than the cardio you might get on a cycle machine.

Whether you’re a casual cyclist or a hardcore ironman/woman in training, here are a few reasons you might want to jump on a bicycle when you get a chance this summer time:

Cycling conditions your muscles: Unlike a cycle machine, a bicycle is guaranteed to give you varied resistance as you go up and down various hills. You’re going to get a great workout in your legs, thighs, and gluts.

Cycling helps with joint conditions: Believe it or not, cycling is considered a low impact form or exercise, unlike jogging which has an impact with every step you take. This means you’re going to put a lot less pressure on your knees, which will really pay off in the long run.

Cycling increases lifespan: It’s the small things that really help when it comes to your lifespan. The British Medical Association discovered cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by up to 50%.That’s a huge benefit, for just going outdoors for a few hours.

Cycling improves the waistline: When you’re on a bike, you can expect to burn around 300 calories per hour, which roughly translates to losing 11 pounds of unhealthy fat per year on a person. Plus, you get to enjoy the sights going by.

Cycling improves mental health: On the other side of the spectrum, cycling can even improve your brain. Bicycling has been proven to reduce stress and increase hand-eye coordination among those who choose to cycle a mere 30 minutes a day (Maybe stay out of the city  that might add to your stress levels). The Journal of Occupational Health published an article showing cycling significantly improved mental health among those who choose to commute daily to work.

So don’t forget to grab your bike this coming weekend. Your body will thank you!

Taking Fitness Outdoors: Be Prepared!

Photo by Chris Elias
Photo by Chris Elias

This last Tuesday, I wrote a little about places to explore when you get an urge to get outdoors during one of our sunny days. It’s all well and good to talk about exploring in good weather, but the elements have to cooperate if we want to go outside.

If I’ve learned anything about the weather in the Pacific Northwest, its that the only thing certain is rain. Case in point, the beginning of this last Tuesday was beautiful! But by the end of the day, it was gray, wet, and not quite hiking or cycling weather.

But that’s one of the great things about life isn’t it? We can learn from our challenges. Even though we might plan for blue skies and warm weather, there could be anything in the forecast for tomorrow. You never know what life is going to throw your way.

So to make sure we’re ready for whatever weather might be headed our way, we have to prepare for the challenges at hand.

This is especially important when we head outdoors for our fitness. If something happens at the gym, you’re surrounded by fitness professionals who can help you out, and know when you’re pushing yourself too far. But if you run into an issue on a hike to see Multnomah falls? There may be others on the trail. but you’ve got to take care of yourself and know when you’re pushing yourself too far.

Here are a few tips you can remember before headed to the trailhead:

Plan ahead – I like to say “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.” It might sound pessimistic, but think about it this way: When you’re a mile away from your car dressed for a warm day in the sun and it starts to drizzle, it’s going to get cold and wet awfully fast.

So make sure you are prepared for the trail before you set out. I highly recommend you take proper clothing for the occasion when you head out. If you’re going hiking, wear hiking boots, light, breathable clothing, and take some light rain gear in a backpack. Don’t forget to prepare for sun, either, so wear sunscreen and a hat.

Calories and Water – Always, always, always take water with you if you’re going to be spending some time outdoors! As you go hiking or biking, your body is going to be using a lot more fluids, which means you’re going to need more water than you might for a day in the office. The last thing you want to experience when you’re on a trail is dehydration.

Another thing many people tend to overlook while headed outdoors is trail mix. Like water, your body is going to be burning quite a few more calories than normal. Trail mix will provide your body with the energy it needs to keep going, so you don’t burn out halfway through the hike.

Know where you’re going – Even if you’re headed to a well defined path, it’s very important that you know exactly where you’re starting, where you’re headed, and how long the trail is. On a map, trails may look very easy to navigate, but sometimes maps don’t always include forks in the road, or unmarked trails. Know where you’re going, so you at least have a fair idea of what to expect on the trail.

Stretch – I cannot stress this enough for anyone who is planning on travelling outdoors. Unlike spending some time on a treadmill or an elliptical, outdoor trails are going to vary in exertion with every step. Some portions will be level, others will be fairly steep, and some might shift both uphill and downhill.

Make sure you’re doing your stretches for your legs, so your body is prepared for a little extra exertion than normal. The last place you want a cramp is on the trail.

Don’t overexert yourself – If this is one of the first times you’ve gone on a trek, remember to take it easy, and don’t feel compelled to go too far. Just because there’s something to see at the end of the path doesn’t mean you have to get there in record time. Pushing yourself at the gym is one thing, but remember that you still have to make it back to the trailhead once you get to your destination.

Grab a camera – Maybe not an essential, but you’re going outdoors to enjoy the view in addition to your fitness. So grab a camera and take some shots so you can share! I love to hear about where everyone is going on the weekends, and would love to see pictures of your latest experience!

When you do get a great shot, be sure to share it with Boomer Fitness on Facebook, and tell us about what you’re doing outdoors!

Taking Your Fitness Outdoors

Senior Couple In Fitness Clothing Running Along BeachI love spending time in the gym, and my hope is you enjoy your time coming to the gym as well. But that doesn’t mean our fitness is restricted to weights and machines. One of the key success factors of a fitness plan is enjoying yourself as you do it.

To me, good weather is the perfect opportunity to take your fitness outdoors. It gives us a chance to go out and soak up some vitamin D, breath the fresh air, get some great pictures, and get some real-life fitness in at the same time.

But March is always a grab bag when it comes to good weather, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s in like a lion, out like a lamb. Other times the lion seems to stick around for a while. But when the forecast is good, It’s a great chance to enjoy our first taste of spring and summer, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

On the rare day we get a nice day outside, I want to make sure you can enjoy the great outdoors and get some fitness in at the same time. Here are a few ideas so you can enjoy the great outdoors to its fullest:

Cycling

If you know me, you know I have some very strong feelings about spin class. You end up burning some calories, but you’re doing the same action over and over again. And at the end of the day, you haven’t travelled anywhere, have you?

Real world cycling is a little different. You’re going to encounter some more variation in resistance and, best of all, you’re going to see a lot more scenery! The best part is the Portland/Vancouver area is a great place to cycle, no matter your skill level. So whether you’re an avid cyclist or just jumping on the bike for the first time, you will have plenty to do on the next beautiful day.

If you’re looking for something to ease into, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail is a part of a non-profit effort to repurpose unused railways called “Rails to Trails.” The path used to be a part of a railway system from Portland to Seattle, and is now a 21 mile trail. Cross waterways like Beaver Creek and the Nehalem River, and view the massive trestles used during the heyday of the railroad. Take a look at the trail here.

If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, consider enjoying the wonderful sights of the Gorge by taking a ride paralleling the Columbia Historic Highway. One of my clients, Chris, took this trail by starting at the Eagle Creek Trailhead. She took the trip about 2 years ago, and still talks about it!

Taking this trail will give a great view of Bonneville Dam and passes by a fish hatchery. Stop by the Bridge of the Gods to see the Mural, or support the locals selling smoked salmon. You can find a detailed map of the route here.

Remember – before going out on bike, make sure you bring water and trailmix, plan the trip ahead of time, and always wear a helmet!

Hiking

If you’re looking for a whole-body workout, there is nothing that caters to the human form more than hiking. While you get the work-out in your legs, you’re also going to be working on your core and your balance. You’re also going to be building bone density, lowering blood pressure, and enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest! What’s not to love?

One of my favorite places to go hiking in the Pacific Northwest is the gorge. There are tons of hiking trails that range from easy-going to seriously steep, and all provide a great view.

If you’re starting out, think about going to the Elowah Falls trail, near Dodson. The trail is fairly short, but offers some great viewing opportunities for those looking for a vista.

If you’re looking for something unique, take a look at Beacon Rock on highway 14. The hike is a little steep, but the many switch backs give a beautiful view the entire way up the summit. And when you’re at the top, what a view!

Another one of my favorites is the Multnomah Falls trail. It gives a great opportunity to view the beautiful falls while enduring some moderate steepness on the switchbacks.

Like I said for bikes, remember to bring water and trailmix and plan your trip ahead of time. Remember there’s no shame in turning around if the trail just seems to difficult. It just gives you a reason to come back when your more prepared for the trail!

When you’re out on the trail, be sure to take some pictures and share with Boomer Fitness! We love to stay updated on how you’re getting fit in the outdoors.