Safety Tips for Fall and Winter Outdoor Workouts

The weather outside is not frightful, yet, but if you plan ahead and are well prepared with the proper safety gear, you will be ready when those nasty days hit and you can continue your outdoor workouts in stride.

Taking some essential precautions and having the right gear will keep you safe and also comfortable (sometimes a relative term). This helps to go a long way in fighting the temptation to wait until the weather clears up. Word of warning: threat of lightening is no reason to tough it out and put yourself in danger. Head to the gym or community center on those days.

  • Know your conditions: There are a myriad of great weather apps out there for trail conditions, weather fronts coming in, and temperature changes. Make sure you have the apps that are applicable to the types of outdoor activities you will be doing, such as snow pack levels or tide/water conditions.
  • Make sure you are seen: Reflective clothing and also arm band lights and ankle lights insures that you can be seen in the dark or even low light of the late afternoon.
  • Have ID: one form of ID is essential. Make sure to choose workout gear with small pockets or zips just for this purpose.
  • Dress in layers and moisture-wicking clothing: When you can shed or add layers depending on your body heat and perspiration, you can control your exposure and manage your body temperature.
  • Know your surroundings: this includes not only knowing your route and where you intend to go (this is not the time to explore), but also consider removing the ear buds so you can be more aware of traffic and people around you on those dark nights. Choose paths that are well travelled.
  • Be a Buddy: Having a partner for those cold, dark nights can not only keep you on your plan, but there is safety in numbers and help if something should go wrong. At the very least, make sure someone knows your running plan and start and end times
  • Know the signs of Hypothermia: You don’t have to be back country skiing to risk exposure. Just about any outdoor activity in winter or wet weather can put you at risk. You only need to experience one of the following conditions to be in the early stages of hypothermia
    • Drowsiness
    • Uncontrollable shivering
    • Weakness
    • Confusion
    • Slowed breathing and/or heart rate
    • Pale, cold skin
    • Loss of coordination

Following these safety tips for your fall and winter outdoor adventures will increase your personal safety and also help you to feel more confident to continue with your workout plan into those colder months of the year.

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How to Choose the Right Footwear for Hiking

Let’s face it, getting out on the trail and enjoying the back country, fresh air, and challenging yourself is so much more enjoyable when your feet are happy and comfortable. While it is not necessary to spend top dollar on the most expensive name brand footwear out there, it is equally important not to scrimp and go for the cheapest. You’ll want to choose the right footwear for hiking – whatever the kind you are planning to do.

One of your first considerations is what kind of hiking that you intend to do. Trail running, short, local day hikes, or longer (8 + miles) multi-day backpacking trips over rocky and mountainous terrain? The variety and features to choose from allow you to find just the right shoe or boot for your style of hiking, yet it also can be a bit baffling wading through the information and not getting overwhelmed by all the options. Let us help you narrow things down and if you keep some of these tips in mind and you will get yourself in just the right pair of footwear for you.

Trail runners can be all you need for local day hikes and carrying light loads. They are low cut, usually light weight, and have a flexible midsole. A very experienced backpacker friend of mine is all about ultra-light and even uses his light weight trail runners for long backpacking trips.

Hiking shoes will offer more support than trail runners, will have a bit less flexibility, but

Offer a bit more rugged sole for short to medium hikes than do trail runners. If you are not carrying a huge, heavy pack, a well made hiking shoe can be all you need to get you where you need to go.

Hiking boots can be mid to high cut and comfortable enough for day hikes, yet offer support and protection over longer trips with sturdiness to take you over the most rugged of trails. Hiking boots tend to weigh more than hiking shoes and also a down side to hiking boots can be the need to break them in, depending on the pair.

Backpacking boots are for long, multi-day trips carrying a heavy load. The outsole will be more rugged, able to handle rocky terrain and they will have a higher cut and less flexibility than hiking boots. Of course, insulation and water proofing are some of their features as well as the ability to accommodate crampons for ice and snow.

In addition to the above styles and purposes, you need to consider if you plan to hike in damp or cold weather and may need waterproof shoes. I love my low cut, light weight hiking shoes, but wanted the option to also snowshoe with them, so gaiters and waterproofing were a part of the consideration.

Footwear durability and protection for your feet are determined by the materials. Look for full-grain leather for the greatest support and durability as well as weather resistance. Full grain leather also is less breathable and can be a plus or minus, depending on your needs.

Nylon and split rain leather or suede will provide more light weight features and breathability, especially with mesh panels. This is wonderful in the summer and dry months, but not so great if you plan to hike in wet or cold conditions, so consider this.

When you try on your shoes or boots, make sure to also be wearing a thick sock as you would also wear for hiking so that the fit is accurate. The shoe should not allow your foot to slide forward, yet there does need to be a bit of movement so that you have plenty of circulation. Pay attention that your heel doesn’t slip as you walk.

Most well reputed outdoor gear stores have well educated staff in the footwear section, so take advantage of their knowledge. Try on multiple pairs and styles, taking time to squat, lunge, jump to see if there are areas where the shoe may rub or chafe. Also ask about the return policy in the event that once you are out on the trail it becomes quite clear the fit or model is not for you.

You are investing in your feet and comfort, make the decision wisely and enjoy those trails!

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Fun Ways to Get Moving

From what I hear, a lot of people over age 50 don’t get very excited about a daily trip to the gym. Let’s face it, very few people of any age like that picture. But a healthy exercise routine doesn’t have to mean heading to the gym to spend an hour on the treadmill – in fact, that’s a very imbalanced and rather unhealthy routine. It’s better than nothing, but won’t really help you build strength, flexibility, or balance for your whole body.

There are plenty of fun ways to get moving, but here are a few of my favorite stand-out methods…

  • Dancing: What better way to enjoy movement than to exciting music? Dancing requires plenty of movement to work up a sweat, while improving your muscle tone, fine-tuning your motor skills, and engaging your mind to remember the steps. Most cities have dance studios with group classes, which you can take weekly, year round.
  • Video Games: Yes, I said it! Using video game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii for your daily fitness can actually be a good idea, if you use them with fitness (and not couch potato-ing) in mind. The Wii has handheld controls and games for indoor movement, such as tennis and golf and more.
  • Hula Hooping: Looking for a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to trim your tummy? Hula hooping is a great idea! Not only does the movement and combination of moves work your muscles from legs to abs and arms, it is a quick calorie burner and can be done from your own living room.
  • Playing Games: You probably love your grandkids to pieces, and can’t get enough time with them… and you don’t need to sacrifice time with them to work out. A great way to enjoy your grandchildren and exercise is to play active outdoor games, which they already love. Capture the Flag, Tag, Red Rover… there are a bunch of fun games that don’t require any (or just a few) supplies and are fun for you and the kiddos.
  • Tai Chi: Gentler than martial arts, yet movement-rich, Tai Chi is an excellent way for seniors and people of all ages to meditate while moving. It might not be as fun as Capture the Flag, but it is great for reducing stress, keeping muscles limber, improving your balance, and moving constantly for a good workout.

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6 Simple Tricks to Keep You Motivated for Fall Workouts

By Janet Luhrs,

Although fall weather can provide some of the nicest opportunities for outdoor workouts, depending on what part of the country you live in, there can also be some blustery days. Plus, the lack of daylight can sideline even the best of intentions. 

So let’s come up with a plan for fall workouts that gets you past any roadblocks – before you get stuck in a foul weather rut.

  1. First, if you haven’t already – get in the groove now, while the weather is still nice. If you get into a workout schedule now, you’ll be a lot more likely to keep it up when the weather changes. Depending on where you live – time is of the essence because it won’t be long before short days and cold or rainy weather set in, and if you’re not already in a workout groove – it’ll be much harder to get going later.
  2. Get a workout buddy: Promise each other to email or text at the beginning of each week and set a time to meet and workout together. There is strength in numbers and accountability works.
  3. Invest in some good outdoor gear: Modern technology has created some very breathable rain jackets and pants. Also think about a hat with a reflective stripe and even some new running shoes as a promise to yourself that you will put them to good use.
  4. Join a gym: Keep your options open for those absolutely horrid evenings after work. In a gym you can still work out while enjoying light and warmth.
  5. Dance it off: In addition to your other workouts, joining a dance class one night a week through the yucky weather gives you an indoor option and keeps you moving.  If you have not tried salsa or Mambo, you have a workout waiting for you. 
  6. Try circuit training: Nothing busts you out of your rut like a great combination of cardio and strength moves. This combination boosts your calorie burning and gets you fit faster. Check out the details here.

Ready to go? Get moving now and you’ll have a great foundation ready when you hit a roadblock. These plans are simple and they work! Try them and let us know how you are doing.

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The Perfect Science of Layering for Fall Outdoor Workouts

For outdoor enthusiasts, a key component to success and sticking with a new outdoor pursuit is comfort. In the cooler fall and winter months, that means considering types of fabric and construction for garments and also smart layering. More important than even comfort is safety. Hiking or snow sports can be deadly when proper caution is not taken to stay warm and dry whether you are actively participating or at rest in between runs. Even if you are not hitting the mountains but prefer walking in the winter, smart layers should be considered.

When you layer your clothing you are able to stay warm when you are resting, yet also prevent overheating for outdoor workouts. Layers allow you to flex and adjust your insulation as you fluctuate between the two.

The three basic layers for all winter sports are your base layer next to your skin, your middle insulating layer, and your outer layer. For certain sports such as mountain climbing, people may opt for two insulating layers for greater flexibility and options.

  • Base Layer: The most important function of this layer is to wick sweat away from your body. When you sweat and moisture is insulated next to your skin, you chill faster. Wicking ability in the bas layer keeps your skin dry and therefore avoid cotton at all costs. Look for fabrics such as Thinsulate, Thermax, and Thermion, silk and polypropylene. Even your under-skivvies should not be cotton, so consider investing in undergarments just for your fall and winter sports.
  • Insulating layer: This is important to keep you warm when at rest or when you are not going really hard at it. Wicking ability is also important for this layer since some people will sweat all the way through their base layer. Vests or shirts that are easy to peel off are extremely helpful. Zip vents and even zip off sleeves and legs such as seen in convertible clothing articles are a good option. Fabrics to shoot for are fleece, wool, down. What you choose for this layer depends on the elements you will be facing. Wool and down are highly suggested for more extreme elements. Make sure to size this layer for fitting over your base layer and not constricting movement.
  • Outer Layer: This is your protection against direct contact with the elements such as rain, snow, and wind. Invest is a good quality water proof, windproof and breathable jacket or shell. Zipper options for ventilation when you get hot, offer that much more customization for your comfort. Zippered ankles make it faster to adjust and take off clothing over boots or shoes.
  • Head, Face, and Hands: Wicking for sweaty heads and hands is also a consideration for hats and gloves. Fleece is a good option, but with gloves, making sure to have a weather proof outer-mitt is essential. For extreme conditions, a full hood face mask offers face and neck coverage and flexibility to pull it down around your neck when not needed.

It is not necessary to spend top dollar on the most expensive gear. You can find amazing choices at thrift stores if you know what to look for. Just be sure to choose quality and flexibility for your greatest comfort and you will be enjoying those outdoor pursuits even in the most extreme of conditions!

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Cycling Form: Getting Started on the Right Track

If you are new to cycling, it’s important to get started with good form so to avoid bad habits that lead to injuries or chronic strain. If you have been cycling a while, now is the time to clean up your act and check your form.

Cycling puts extra strain on the back, shoulders, neck and arms. It is important to create good habits with your cycling form, right from the start, so you can keep in the saddle in comfort.

  • First and foremost, keep your hips rotated forward and don’t allow them to rock in the saddle.
  • No locked elbows. This can be an indicator of your bike stem too long, which can be fixed with a simple adjustment. Locked elbows will transfer that tension up your arms and shoulders and make for a very stiff day the next day.
  • Long torso! Pull your stomach in toward your low back as you lengthen your torso. At the same down, bring your shoulder blades down and chest lifted.
  • Keep your eye on our line. Look further down than the front of your wheel. While this may sound like a no-brainer, but keeping your sight of vision down the road not only helps you to watch out for potholes, debris, etc., but it keeps your back and shoulders in correct position, as well.
  • Shift in advance: Plan ahead before you hit the hill and anticipate an easier gear a bit before you really need it. This will result in smoother transitions and help your shift to occur during a single crank revolution and not lose momentum. When your shifts are smoother, your back and shoulders can stay in good position and your leg power will be more efficient
  • Keep your knees in good pedal line, not moving in or out at the top of the pedal stroke. Excessive movement like this is usually the result of a tight inner thigh or IT band as well as a weak glute. When you keep your range of motion in the legs in a clean line you will be more efficient and less prone to knee injuries.

If you have continued strain or stiffness, you may need a better fit on your bike. Sometimes just a seat stem adjustment will do the trick. Stop by your local bike shop and get some advice, it can make all the difference in your comfort during and after rides.

Additionally, good pre and post-ride stretching sessions will help alleviate stiffness and prevent injuries.

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SUP is up! Stand-Up Paddle-Boarding for Fitness

SUP or stand up paddle boarding has been all the rage for the last few summers now. We are seeing SUP rental vans at most beaches, lakes, and vacation resorts. SUP yoga and SUP race events are taking off like crazy around the world. Costco is selling more and more SUP boards each season and carrying more variety. That sure tells you something!

There are some good reasons why SUP is so popular and why people are seeing results.

  • It’s fun! Who doesn’t like to get out on the water and play? You will be having so much fun you may not realize at first what a great workout it can be. And when you have fun working out, you are going to see results in your fitness levels since you will stick with it.
  • SUP works your core and balance. Both are critical for us to work on as we have more and more birthdays beyond the big 5-0
  • Unlike kayaks and canoes, SUP gives you a great vantage point and freedom and flexibility. Surprisingly, you are able to see more underwater life when a bit higher up on the board than right down at water level
  • SUP works your core, shoulders, and serratus anterior, lats, and triceps.
  • You can do SUP yoga and take your yoga experience to a whole new level.
  • You face your fears. The risk of falling and pushing yourself to the limit teaches you to take on challenges in life.
  • The SUP community is pretty cool and you will meet people who will encourage you, make you laugh, and teach you things you have never tried before.

Check out this site for some great tips on building a solid SIP foundation and doing it right. You will be glad you did and feel more stable. Let us know some of your SUP experiences and successes…and even some of your fabulous falls, as well!

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Open Water Swimming

Triathlons and mini tri’s have been growing in popularity for quite a few years, now. This means more and more people are turning to open water swimming in the warmer months, some die-hards even keep it up year round in some climates. You don’t have to train for a tri to like open water swimming, in fact many of the dedicated swimmers you will encounter are in it just for the swim!

What do you need to consider before starting? Here are the basics on the gear:

  • A well fitted wet suit. Many people prefer a “shortie”, but it is all about personal preference and where you live. If you are in more northern climates and hope to swim as far as possible into the fall, then a full wet suit is likely a better choice for you
  • Invest in a good pair (or two) and although it may seem obvious, but they shouldn’t leak. Buy an extra strap to keep in your workout bag for that guaranteed day when your strap breaks as you are all suited up and ready to hit the waves.
  • Consider wearing two swim caps if you tend to lose your heat through your head and also if you live in northern climates.

Things to keep in mind for your first open water swim race:

  • It will feel a bit scary. All those people certainly LOOK more confident than you feel and they will all be racing against YOU! And they are also feeling a bit scared just like you so dive in and go for it!
  • That said…stay calm. Panicking while surrounded by tons of arms and legs thrashing for the same finish line is not in your best interests. Take some deep breaths (duhhh) and do some self-talking to keep yourself focused.
  • If you feel really anxious consider starting at the back of the pack and get a feel for it.
  • Know your course and stay aware of where you are so that you only need to look up to verify your location as often as really needed.

Most of all, have fun and give yourself some well-deserved pats on the back for stepping up to the challenge and conquering those waves!

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7 Tips for Success for Outdoor Fitness

We have been focusing a lot on outdoor exercise and various options and tips to keep you fit, training strong, and trying new things. But when you make a change from the traditional gym-focused workout to the outdoors, it is important to keep some things in mind for safety and injury prevention, as well as insuring your ultimate success and long term enjoyment.

Regardless of which sport or activity you take up, there are some good tips to keep in mind for all new outdoor pursuits.

  • Research your sport: If you are completely new to this pending adventure, go online and check out various blogs’ evaluations and recommendations to be sure that you really know what you are getting into. YouTube is a great visual resource to get a true low-down on what to expect.
  • Professionals are good! If it is a sport that requires a certain amount of skill and experience, or if there is a safety issue, consider hiring a pro to walk you through it your first time or two until you are comfortable. This is especially true for sports such as rock climbing or downhill snow sports.
  • Do a Gear Check: We caution you about diving right in to that cool new sport without evaluating your gear. Make sure to do a little back ground re-con on the basic gear and footwear needed for your sport. Some gear you can rent or borrow before you decide to jump in, but other basic pieces you should purchase for yourself such as shoes or clothing.
  • Find a buddy: Someone to not only keep you safe, but help motivate you on your down days and keep you on track to a successful outcome is a very good thing!
  • Ease into it: Too many times we have all been guilty of diving into something new and exciting with a bit too much gusto the first week! That is a recipe not only for injuries, but so much pain and sore muscles that we get put off from continuing. Give yourself that first week to adjust and see where your body is in relationship to this new sport or activity.
  • Be aware and safe: Especially when it comes to earbuds and music, be sure you know what is going on around you and any changing terrain or conditions.
  • Be fueled and energized! Proper hydration as well as nutrition along the way are important. This is especially true when on the trail or road for long distances. Plan for your energy needs for the duration.

By all means, don’t hold back and get out there and try something new, but do it with these tips in mind and you will have success in your new adventures into the world of outdoor fitness!

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Mountain Biking for Beginners

One of the coolest and fastest growing outdoor sports is Mountain Biking. The first thing that comes to people’s minds is rugged, devil-may-care young 20-somethings who have no life insurance or family to mourn their death when they take a wrong turn off a mountainside. The truth is that mountain biking is for people of all ages. With the right gear, a bit of practice and prep, you can be on that trail in no time, testing your skills and pushing your limits.

Start with some off road trails, abandoned rail beds, or local hiking trails (check first to be sure you are allowed to share the trail with pedestrians). Mountain biking is a different beast than road biking.

Some basics before you start riding are to be sure your bike and all systems are in good working order.

  • Be sure your seat height is right for you. Better yet, get fitted properly at a reputable bike shop
  • When mounting your bike, lean it low to swing your leg over to avoid getting tripped up on the frame.
  • Make sure your brakes are depressed before starting and position one pedal at the top of the rotation.
  • Start in a stand up position, leaning forward as you release the brakes and start pedaling as you sit back on the seat.
  • Practice good shifting as you anticipate turns and quickly changing grades. Learn to shift early to muscle yourself up the hills. You don’t want to be shifting after hitting the steep incline.
  • Avoid dangerous cross chaining the can cause your chain to pop off in the middle of the hill and cause an accident.
  • Continue to pedal as you shift for smoothness and safety
  • Place your feet at thee 3 and 9 o’clock positions when riding downhill
  • Tuck in your arms close to your body
  • Your thighs should be pressed tightly (without over squeezing) to the sides of your bike seat to help maintain contact and ideal control
  • Keep your chest close to the handlebars
  • For the steepest downhills, your center of gravity needs to be back and down to prevent flipping over the handlebars. Your butt goes behind the seat for optimal safety.
  • When on bumpy terrain, your arms and legs should absorb the shocks a you raise your butt off the seat slightly.


Notes on Falling well:

  • When you do fall (and you will), check your body for breaks, strains, or tears, then check over your bike for possible mechanical issues
  • Make sure the seat and handlebars have not twisted
  • Check the chain, brakes, and gears (a multi-tool and a first aid kit are essential)
  • Get back on and enjoy the rest of your ride.

As with all sports, be sure to warm up well, do some light stretching before your ride, and some stretching afterwards to prevent still muscles the next day. Pay close attention to your shoulders, back and legs, as they take of most of the impact. Start out easy as you build your confidence and balance.

This post covers more details on essential gear, comfortable clothing and detailed descriptions of riding techniques, check it out!

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