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Ahh, the great outdoors.
Nothing soothes the soul like being in nature. And there is nothing like a good nature activity to help remind you of all the muscles you forgot you had.
There is good reason for this — outdoor adventures are an effective way to cross-train the body and get the heart pumping. But, one thing needs to be kept in mind…
When the body is not ready for the muscle upgrade, the body may tighten up and rebel. In other words, you may just hurt yourself. This happens if the body is too tight or too weak or unbalanced. It can happen if you have achy joints or a lot of inflammation in the body. It can happen if you are out of shape or are a weekend fitness warrior.
Like that time I hadn’t prepared before giving an outdoor bootcamp class and I severely pulled my hamstring and could hardly walk for 3 days — it was painful. And it happens to all of us.
But, don’t let that stop you from exploring the great outdoors and finding yourself stuck in the middle of an exciting adventure. Get yourself prepared!
It is all about setting yourself up with the right mobility for the right exercises. Check out these 5 exercises below to help get you started in training your body with versatility for many activities or for getting strong in a specific activity. They are also great if you just want an awesome workout!
The plank row helps to build your stroke power and gives you a super strong core. Make sure that you are hitting this right and paying attention to your form and body position. If you can only do two reps with perfect form, take a 20–30-second break, then try two more.
- The How: Grab a dumbbell in each hand in a plank position. Keep knees or feet hip-width apart for balance and stability. Lean body weight onto left arm and lift the right dumbbell off the floor. Use a “row” motion to pull dumbbell up to the side of your body. Do not rotate torso; keep chest facing the floor. Slowly lower dumbbell, transfer body weight, and repeat with the left arm.
- Beginner: Legs bent, balance on knees
- Advanced: Legs straight, balance on toes
- Reps: 10 rows each arm for 2-3 sets. Adjust weights as necessary to complete set with proper form
Training the back and the legs are key to powering through safely and with more ease while cycling. Regardless if you are cycling more competitively or out for a leisurely ride in the countryside, keeping your core and lower body functionally strong will keep you riding longer and with less pain.
- The How: Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar or dumbbells using an overhand grip. Slightly arch your lower back while keeping your arms straight. Make sure that your abdominals and core muscles are tight throughout the entire movement. Without allowing your lower back to round, stand up very slowly with the weight. Hold for a second, then lower the weight, again slowly (using a controlled motion), to the floor.
- Reps: 20 times for 2-3 sets.
Weighted Glute Bridge
Strong hikers aren’t born, they do exercises to get that way! By focusing on exercises that strengthen the legs (especially the hamstrings and the glutes), core muscles, and balance, you will be able to push through some of the more challenging terrain and be able to have more energy and endurance to complete the hike. The weighted glute bridge strengthens your butt and hamstrings, the two big leg muscles that put power into a hiker’s stride.
- The How: Position yourself so that your shoulder blades and neck are supported on the bench and your feet are on the floor. Keep your feet flat on the floor at shoulder width and with knees in line with toes throughout this exercise. Place the weight onto your hip bones. Slowly lift your hips towards the ceiling. Squeeze your buttocks at the top of the motion, holding for a few seconds before you lower your hips between reps. Keep the weight light and focus on having an explosive hip thrust on the way up, the squeeze in the middle, and then an easy release.
- Reps: 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets
- Modify: If you don’t have a barbell or dumbbells, you can get the same benefit using a medicine ball or a bag of flour as long as you hold them in the same position at the top of your legs
Seated Weighted Paddle Figure 8’s
Kayaking is all about the core and the upper body, particularly the shoulders. Develop them and you will be leading the kayaking pack- or at least able to paddle up the creek without cramping up!
The core is the key link between the upper and lower body. When paddling, it is critical for the transfer of power and stability. It is even more critical to strengthen and develop the deep abdominal muscles to develop strength and stability. Here is a perfect functional exercise that will strengthen the smaller muscles in the shoulders, your entire trunk, and your forearms.
- The How: Sit on a box or bench with legs together or extended out in front of you. Hold onto a Bodybar (5-10 pounds) or very light barbell for a little added resistance. Sit up tall, pull your belly button towards your spine, and lean back to approximately 45-60 degrees (without rounding the upper back and shoulders). Begin “rowing” or drawing a figure 8 pattern alternating from side to side. Keep core tight throughout the entire motion.
- Reps: Build up to being able to “air row” for 2-3 minutes per set
- Modify: Use a medicine ball or light dumbbell if you do not have a barbell or Bodybar.
Half-Scorpion With Leg Extensions
Runners need a different strength-training program than your standard gym rat. Any runner newbie who is already active can attest to that. Instead of pushing weight away from the body with bicep curls, leg extensions, and bench presses, runners should focus on targeting the muscles that will keep them balanced and their hips, core, and lower body strong. Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles all need some love when it comes to running.
- The How: Get into a pushup position. Raise your right knee toward your left shoulder as you rotate your hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then reverse directions, rotating your hips up and to the right, and doing a straight leg extension (a straight leg raise to the ceiling). That’s one repetition.
- Modifications: To make it easier, do step one of the exercise, twisting in just one direction. To make it harder, put your feet on a bench or a stability ball.
- Reps: As many as you can in 30 seconds. Then switch to the other leg. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.
Strength-train two or three times a week. Pick one or many of these exercises and add them into your weekly strength training routine. But don’t stop there! Stretching is super important to create length in the muscle fibers and to take pressure off the joints. Start by doing 10-15 minutes of full body stretches 3-4 times a week and working, ideally, up to daily stretch and mobility work.
Being active and committed to one activity for the majority of the year can create muscle imbalances or accentuate ones you already have. Weak calf muscles, for example, can put too much stress on the Achilles tendon and break down the fibers that make up the tendon, causes foot and ankle problems. Or, unstable hip and core muscles hurt your biomechanics and overload your shins, which can lead to shin splints and stress fractures and knee pain.
Remember, it is all about mobility — keeping our bodies strong and flexible will give us a lifetime of enjoying outdoor adventures with less pain and less days of recovery!
I love inspiration through story-telling! If you liked this article, then you will love my other blogs.
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